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Judy Garland Database

Film Review: Babes on Broadway


Babes on Broadway

MGM, 1941 (BW, 121 minutes, Production No. 1204)

A group of talented youngsters looking for their first Broadway break decide to produce their own show, staging a benefit for an orphanage. First they give a block party to raise money for theater rental, but just as they are about to give their big show, fate throws them a curve - the theater is condemned.

[MGM press release]


Produced by: Arthur Freed
Directed by: Busby Berkeley
Screen Play by: Fred Finklehoffe and Elaine Ryan
Original Story by: Fred Finklehoffe
Songs by: E. Y. Harburg, Burton Lane, Ralph Freed, Roger Edens, Harold J. Rome
Musical Adaptation: Roger Edens
Musical Direction: Georgie Stoll
Vocals and Orchestrations: Leo Arnaud, George Bassman, Conrad Salinger
Art Director: Cedric Gibbons
Associate: Malcolm Brown
Set Decorations: Edwin B. Willis
Musical Presentation: Merrill Pye
Gowns by: Kalloch
Men's Wardrobe by: Gile Steele
Make-Up Created by: Jack Dawn
Recording Director: Douglas Shearer
Director of Photography: Lester White
Film Editor: Fredrick Y. Smith

Cost: $940,068
Grossed: $3,859,000
Filmed: June 1941 - October 1941 (Judy turned 19 during filming)
Released: December 1941


Mickey Rooney ... Tommy Williams
Judy Garland ... Penny Morris
Fay Bainter ... Miss Jones ("Jonesy")
Virginia Weidler ... Barbara Jo Conway
Ray McDonald ... Ray Lambert
Richard Quine ... Morton Hammond ("Hammy")
Donald Meek ... Mr. Stone
Alexander Woollcott ... Himself
Luis Alberni ... Nick
James Gleason ... Thornton Reed
Emma Dunn ... Mrs. Williams
Frederick Burton ... Mr. Morris
Cliff Clark ... Inspector Moriarity
William Post, Jr. ... Announcer
Anne Rooney ... third girl opposite Hammy - uncredited!
Donna Reed ... (debut) Jonesy's Secretary
Joe Yule ... (Mickey Rooney's real-life father) Mason, Reed's Aid
Margaret O'Brien ... (debut) Child Auditioner
Carl Stockdale ... Man
Dick Baron ... Butch
Will Lee ... Waiter
Stop, Look and Listen Trio ... Themselves
Tom Hanlon ... Radio Man
Renee Austin ... Elinor
Roger Steele ... Boy
Bryant Washburn ... Director
Charles Wagenheim ... Composer
Arthur Hoyt ... Little Man Customer
Jack Lipson ... Fat Man Customer
Dorothy Morris, Maxine Flores and Anne Rooney ... Pit Astor Girls
Sidney Miller ... Pianist
King Baggott ... Man in Audience
Barbara Bedford ... Matron
Shimen Ruskin ... Excited Russian
Jean Porter ... "Hoe Down" Dancer
Leslie Brooks ... Actress-Committee Extra
Roger Moore ... Bit (unconfirmed)
Ava Gardner ... Bit (unconfirmed)]
Six Hits and a Miss ... vocals
The Five Musical Maids ... vocals
St. Luke's Episcopal Church Choristers ... vocals
The Stafford Quartet ... vocals
The Debutantes ... vocals
The Notables ... vocals
The Uptowners ... vocals

Musical Program

[0:00] Babes on Broadway (sung by Chorus behind titles)
[0:02] Anything Can Happen in New York (sung and danced by Mickey Rooney, Ray McDonald and Richard Quine)
[0:23] How About You? [AAN] (sung and danced by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney)
[0:32] Margaret O'Brien Audition (her first screen appearance)
[0:44] Little boy playing piano (Who is he? What is he playing?)
[0:45] Hoe Down (sung and danced by Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Six Hits and a Miss, The Five Musical Maids, MGM Studio Chorus)
[1:00] Chin Up! Cheerio! Carry On! (sung by Judy Garland, St. Luke's Episcopal Church Choristers, MGM Studio Chorus)

[1:18] Ghost Theater Sequence: (background vocals by The Stafford Quartet, The Debutantes, The Notables and The Uptowners)

Ghost Theater Prelude (MGM Studio Orchestra)
"Cyrano de Bergerac" (performed by Mickey Rooney)
Mary's a Grand Old Name (sung by Judy Garland)
She Is Ma Daisy (sung and danced by Mickey Rooney)
I've Got Rings on My Fingers (sung and danced by Judy Garland)
Bernhardt (La Marseillaise) (spoken by Judy Garland)
Yankee Doodle Boy (sung and danced by Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland)

[1:32] Bombshell from Brazil (sung by Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Richard Quine, Ray McDonald, Virginia Weidler, Annie Rooney, Robert Bradford, and the MGM Studio Chorus)
[1:33] Mama, Yo Quiero (sung and danced by Mickey Rooney and the MGM Studio Chorus)

[1:42] Minstrel Show Sequence:

Minstrel Show, Part 1 (performed by Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Ray McDonald, Virginia Weidler, Richard Quine, Annie Rooney)
Blackout over Broadway (Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Ray McDonald, Virginia Weidler, Richard Quine, Annie Rooney and the MGM Studio Chorus)
Minstrel Show, Part 2 (performed by Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Richard Quine, Ray McDonald, Virginia Weidler, Annie Rooney)
By the Light of the Silvery Moon (sung by The Uptowners, The Dick Davis Quartet and the MGM Studio Chorus, danced by Ray McDonald)
Minstrel Show, Part 3 (performed by Richard Quine and the MGM Studio Chorus)
Franklin D. Roosevelt Jones (sung and danced by Judy Garland and the MGM Studio Chorus)
Old Folks at Home (played by Eddie Peabody on banjo dubbing for Mickey Rooney on-screen, with MGM Studio Orchestra)
Alabamy Bound (played by Eddie Peabody on banjo dubbing for Mickey Rooney on-screen, with MGM Sturio Orchestra)
Minstrel Show, Part 5: Waiting for the Robert E. Lee (sung and danced by Virginia Weidler, Annie Rooney, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney and the MGM Studio Chorus)
Babes on Broadway (reprised by Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Ray McDonald, Virginia Weidler, Richard Quine, Annie Rooney and the MGM Studio Chorus)

See soundtrack CD review


Judy turned 19 as she began work on this film, which followed close on the heels of Life Begins for Andy Hardy.

Judy had two hit songs from this film. "How About You," performed with Mickey Rooney, was nominated for the Best Song Academy Award for 1942. "F.D.R. Jones," performed solo, was also a hit. She recorded both songs for Decca, and performed them numerous times on radio.

This was the third of the four Mickey/Judy "backyard musicals" directed by Busby Berkeley. Previously released were Babes in Arms (1939) and Strike Up the Band (1940), and still to come was Girl Crazy (1943).

Shirley Temple - having just come to MGM from Fox - was to have been in the film, but declined when her mother cautioned her against it. Shirley's part was given to Virginia Weidler.

This film features the screen debut of Margaret O'Brien, who was to become the "Shirley Temple of the forties".

Donna Reed made her screen debut in this film as Jonesy's secretary.

Vincente Minnelli scripted the "Ghost Theater" segment in which Mickey and Judy offer impressions of legendary stage favorites Richard Mansfield, Sir Harry Lauder, George M. Cohan, Fay Templeton, Blanche Ring and Sarah Bernhardt.

Veteran vaudevillian Elsie Janis was employed to coach Mickey and Judy in the Ghost Theatre sequence. She was especially appreciative of Judy and later wrote, "She can be anything she wants to be, and it will be very interesting to watch her heart and head battle it out. The former is enormous - the latter is surprisingly small, considering the crowns and laurels it has to hold up. Judy has gone farther, faster than anyone I know - and she has not yet started."

The finale was a flop in the original preview. Roger Edens later said, "We tried to figure out why. As it turned out we realized there was no shot of Mickey and Judy making up in blackface, so the audience didn't know it was Judy and Mickey. And it was a very good lesson: if you ever are going to show someone in disguise, you better show them putting it on. So we did a retake showing Mickey and Judy getting into blackface so that the audience could tell it was them. And then the number went like a house on fire."

Some of the outtakes were used in a 1942 musical called Born to Sing, starring Virginia Weidler, Ray McDonald and Doug McPhail.

The soundtrack was released by Rhino Records as part of a 4-CD set entitled "Mickey and Judy," R2 71921 (1995).

See Judy Garland Movies on Video for information about the latest releases of home video and sountrack.

See Class Act for more information on this and other classic films.


Nominated for Best Song Academy Award ("How About You?")

Critical Response

"As great a job as has ever been put into one picture. The audience wore themselves out applauding."

- Hollywood Reporter

"Blurbs could never measure up to the performance of that ever-surprising Judy. The shivers go up and down your spine in admiration."

- editor Billy Wilkerson

"Mickey Rooney, who would rather be caught dead than underplaying, has his hands full when he encounters bright-eyed Judy Garland ... Miss Garland, now 19 and wise to her co-star's propensity for stealing scenes, neatly takes the picture away from him."

- Time, January 19, 1942

Memorable Lines

Tommy (leaving his apartment): "I'm going to get a little air. I'm a little flat."

Tommy (to Penny): "Oh, isn't it wonderful, the things you can find these days in drugstores!"

Tommy: "Oh, well I was a failure yesterday, now look at me today!"
Penny: "You mean you even looked worse yesterday? [pause] I'm sorry, I didn't mean that. But, I was a success yesterday..."
Tommy: "You mean you even looked better yesterday?"

Supplemental Material

Supplement 1: Hoe Down publicity photos
Supplement 2: Rehearsal Photos
Supplement 3: "Screen Guide" Magazine review
Supplement 4: Assorted movie stills
Supplement 5: Assorted publicity photos

Mick 'n' Joots Album

Mickey & Judy DVD Box Set
Buy DVD Box Set

Babes on Broadway VHS

Mickey & Judy Soundtrack CD Box Set
Buy Soundtrack

Babes on Broadway Posters
Buy Posters

Original publicity still, Mickey and Judy

Richard Quine, Annie Rooney, Mickey and Judy, Virginia Weidler, Ray McDonald

Original Judy Garland publicity still

Original UK music sheet

Original UK music sheet

Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland: original publicity still

Judy in the drug store

Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland: original movie still

Judy in costume for Sarah Bernhardt number

Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland: original publicity still

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