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Little Nellie Kelly (1940)

Passed | | Comedy, Family, Musical | 22 November 1940 (USA)
Irish colleen Nellie is in love with handsome Jerry Kelly, even though her father objects. Nellie and Jerry soon marry and announce plans to move to New York, which again angers Nellie's ... See full summary »



(screen play), (based upon: the musical comedy written by)
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Complete credited cast:
Douglas McPhail ...
Timothy Fogarty
Rita Page ...
Sergeant McGowan
George Watts ...


Irish colleen Nellie is in love with handsome Jerry Kelly, even though her father objects. Nellie and Jerry soon marry and announce plans to move to New York, which again angers Nellie's father. Still, fear of never seeing his daughter again convinces the old man to also head to the States. In New York, Jerry becomes a policeman, although fighting crime seems to be easier than fighting with his father-in-law. Tragedy strikes when Nellie dies in childbirth. Jerry and the meddling old man continue to live together and have constant battles over how to raise young Nellie, who grows up to look exactly like her mother. Written by Daniel Bubbeo <dbubbeo@cmp.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Judy Sings! See more »


Comedy | Family | Musical


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

22 November 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Flickan hela da'n  »


Box Office


$665,300 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Some viewers struggled to adapt to Judy Garland in a darker role. One review stated "Don't let her play [another] married woman for a long time yet!" See more »


Michael 'Mike' Noonan: A clay pipe is a great blessing to a man. When you drop it you don't have pick it up.
See more »


Referenced in Arena: The Orson Welles Story (1982) See more »


It's a Great Day for the Irish
(1940) (uncredited)
Music and lyrics by Roger Edens
Sung by Judy Garland and Douglas McPhail in the St. Patrick's Day parade
Reprised as background music during the end credits
See more »

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User Reviews

It's a not so great day for the Irish
19 February 2017 | by See all my reviews

Not one of Judy Garland's finest hours. In fact, while none of the film's faults lie with her (she is the reason to see it) 'Little Nellie Kelly' is one of her worst films and one of the few films of hers that is a one-or-two-time watch only.

There are good things about 'Little Nellie Kelly'. It is a very competently made film visually, immaculately photographed and the costume and production design are attractive enough. While a couple of them are inconsequential to the story (in a film that is more a comedy drama than a musical), the songs are still very pleasant with a real sense of whimsy, energy and pathos. Coming off best are "Singing in the Rain", "It's a Great Day for the Irish" and "A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow" (which Garland would send up later on in her life frequently).

Best of all is Garland, who is a sheer delight in a sometimes playful but always touchingly sincere performance that shows a lot of maturity compared to her earlier roles. Regarding her singing, as always, praises are endless, beautiful tone, sincere phrasing and musicality, a playful energy and poignant emotion. Douglas McPhail also sings beautifully.

Of the cast however, Garland is the only one who either really registers or halfway impresses. McPhail sounds great but lacks charisma as an actor. George Murphy is both bland and stiff, while Charles Winninger has the single most obnoxious character (a type that he played frequently in and specialised in, except all were far more likable than here) of his entire career and he fails to bring any positive attributes whatsoever to it so much so that it jars with everything else and unbalances everything too.

'Little Nellie Kelly's' script is also weak, too much excessive corn and cutesiness and the mawkish sentimentality also gets too much. The characters, with the sole exception of Garland (which is testament to how good a performer she was) are stereotypes that are either passive in accepting the grandfather's mistreatment of everybody or annoying to an unbearable degree with the grandfather coming out on top. Story-wise, it shines with Garland on screen but falls flat everywhere else, the first portion also drags with a real unsettled feel to almost everything but Garland. The direction is undistinguished.

Overall, worth seeing for Garland, the production values and the songs (Garland being the best thing about it) but with everything else not coming off well 'Little Nellie Kelly' is a near-miss. 4/10 Bethany Cox

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