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Babes on Broadway (1941)

 -  Comedy | Musical | Romance  -  January 1942 (USA)
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Tommy Williams desperately wants to get to Broadway, but as he is only singing in a spaghetti house for tips he is a long way off. He meets Penny Morris, herself no mean singer, and through... See full summary »



(story), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Title: Babes on Broadway (1941)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Tommy Williams
Penny Morris
Fay Bainter ...
Miss Jones
Barbara Jo
Ray McDonald ...
Ray Lambert
Richard Quine ...
Morton Hammond
Mr. Stone
Alexander Woollcott ...
Alexander Woollcott
Luis Alberni ...
Thornton Reed
Emma Dunn ...
Mrs. Williams
Frederick Burton ...
Mr. Morris
Cliff Clark ...
Inspector Moriarity
William Post Jr. ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Carl Stockdale ...
Man (scenes deleted)


Tommy Williams desperately wants to get to Broadway, but as he is only singing in a spaghetti house for tips he is a long way off. He meets Penny Morris, herself no mean singer, and through her gets the idea to promote a show to send orphaned children on a country holiday. But he is only using the kids to get on himself, which Penny soon realises. With his romance off, an engagement in Philadelphia he can't get to, and, indeed, war in Europe, life can be difficult. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Youth Has It's Fling ! See more »


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Release Date:

January 1942 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Débuts à Broadway  »

Box Office


$940,068 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


A third "Babes" picture for Garland and Rooney, director Busby Berkeley, and producer Arthur Freed entitled 'Babes in Hollywood' was shelved after Freed decided to produce the long awaited Girl Crazy (1943) instead and give Garland a leading lady role in For Me and My Gal (1942). 'Babes in Hollywood' was intended to be an update of "Merton of the Movies", filmed in Technicolor with cameo appearances by MGM's stable of stars. 'Harry Warren' and Leo Robin were hired to compose the score (which then included "A Journey to a Star", "Polka Dot Polka", and "No Love No Nothin") with additional songs by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. Sid Silvers was hired to write the script, which never got past the outline stage. After the project was shelved, 20th Century Fox hired Berkeley, Warren, and Robin for The Gang's All Here (1943). The songwriters used their songs written for the scrapped film at MGM and Berkeley's elaborate "Polka Dot Polka" finale with neon hula-hoops (originally meant for 'Babes in Hollywood') was staged with all-out abandon. See more »


When Alexander Woollcott is introducing the story, at one point his bow tie disappears and his collar is open. See more »


Morton 'Hammy' Hammond: Looks like somebody's been reading our mail.
See more »


Featured in We Must Have Music (1942) See more »


Babes on Broadway
Music by Burton Lane
Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg
Played and sung by a chorus during the opening credits
Reprised as a production number with the principal cast near the end
Sung and danced to by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in blackface
Danced to by Ray McDonald in blackface
See more »

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User Reviews

Treacle by the gallon
23 April 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The best part of this movie is the debut of Margaret O'Brien at age 4, standing on a table:

"Please, wait, don't send my brother to the chair! Don't let him burn! Please. Please, warden, please!"

That was probably the only moment in this film with anything close to real emotion. (She is so full of life, she puts other actors in the shade.) It was also the only moment of real humor.

I say "probably" because I quit at about 50 minutes. Normally, if a movie doesn't grab me by 10 minutes, I'm out. But this is Judy Garland and and Mickey Rooney, RIP. How bad can it be?

Well, if I were locked in a movie theater in 1942 with a bucket of popcorn, I guess I would have seen it through to the end -- if I were a teenager. If I weren't, I doubt I would have bought a ticket. But today, when we watch a movie, we have the pause and eject buttons.

It's funny, but as you get older, time seems to move faster, generally. But the first 20 minutes of Babes on Broadway seemed to last two hours; 50 minutes seemed like two years. At this rate, I'm not sure I will live long enough to finish it.

The movie seems so lifeless, so devoid of emotion, so flat. I really don't care about the characters or the story. If I were a teenager back then ... or even a teenager watching this on an old black and white TV set. Except I don't even recall doing that, and I would watch just about any old movie back in the Sixties with many NYC stations to choose from. If I did see it, it left ZERO impression.

The premise of the movie is contrived, and despite the time taken to set it up, not very interesting. Then we switch gears about 50 minutes into a string of song and dance numbers. The music is not very good, and bears no relation to the storyline, aside from the story being they are putting on a musical revue block party.

If there's one thing that turns me off, it is a musical with music that is not integrated to the story. Who cares? Well, I guess some people like musicals with dancing and big production numbers, regardless.

The music, right from the beginning, is cloying, mechanical tunes turned out by the MGM production team, dressed up with fancy orchestration. The exception is "How About You?"

Busby Berkeley knew how to put on big dance numbers, and he should have stuck to that. He seems to lack feeling, heart, soul. Here, it is all glitter and hyperactivity. I like Fred Astaire tap dancing, but I'm not going to sit through a sort of talent show amateur hour, no matter how skillful. I think the studio gave Berkeley the second rate stuff to direct, figuring he could keep them afloat with the dance numbers.

Maybe I am being unfair -- without sitting through the last hour, I will never know. But the problem with these reviews is that too often we only hear from the ones who liked it enough to sit through it. Babes on Broadway is treacle by the gallon. So, if you like treacle, you'll love it. As for me, Babes on Broadway makes me nauseous.

It also makes me sad. As I looked at all the young men in the movie, I couldn't help wondering how soon they would be drafted, how many would be killed or maimed in battle over the next four years. It was odd timing for such a story about young people wanting to make it on Broadway. I wonder how this went over with audiences at the time. Unless they were under 14, it was just a matter of time before they would be in uniform, as the war progressed. Was this on their minds?

Hollywood is about escape, so perhaps Babes provided some relief from the impending doom of WWII. But, unlike so many wonderful old Hollywood movies, it doesn't work as escape now. One reason, perhaps, is that Babes on Broadway violates the basic principle of musicals: it tries to be realistic. Musicals need an element of fantasy and unreality: it makes you suspend the disbelief that people can break into song and dance in their daily lives.

But Babes is stuck in the old formula, of having actors play actors and perform musical numbers as part of the story. The Wizard of Oz and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs had demonstrated an alternative mode for musicals. This is the route of enduring escapist fantasy. But in Babes, the plot exists only as a pretext for performing song and dance numbers.

This is not for me. I'm outta here.

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