A group of vaudevillians struggling to compete with talkies hits the road hoping for a comeback. Frustrated to be left behind, all of their kids put on a show themselves to raise money for the families and to prove they've got talent, too.
Mickey Moran, a talented singer and musician, is son of a veteran from show business. Mickey has a partner, Patsy Barton, a pretty girl and also a very talented singer. One day, a big opportunity arrives for Mickey, a big contract to set up his own show. However, things don't go well, and in order to avoid being sent to a work farm, he'll improvise a show in the country, despite the awful weather conditions. Patsy's in love with Mickey, he loves her, too, but for him the show must go on, and his big dream maybe will come true: to formally stage his play in a big scenario, with a huge production.Written by
Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the 400 movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies. See more »
When Judy Garland & Betty Jaynes are singing their duet, there is part of one line where Judy's lips aren't moving but you can hear her singing. You can see her singing "We're really..." and then the view changes and there's a close-up of the two girls. As they sing the words "...just like...." Judy's lips aren't moving and she's just staring straight at the camera. Then she continues lip-syncing "...two peas in a pod..." See more »
Play day is done, we've a place in the sun we must fight for / So, babes in arms, to arms!
To arms, to arms, babes in arms!
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Some older television prints delete the minstrel show sequence. See more »
Auld Lang Syne
Traditional Scottish ballad
Played on Christmas Eve See more »
Bought An Idea
For Mickey and Judy fans, Babes in Arms is an absolute must. It's the only one of their films in which one of the two got an Oscar nomination. Mickey Rooney was nominated for Best Actor, personally I think as an afterthought because his competition was Clark Gable for Gone With the Wind, Laurence Olivier for Wuthering Heights, James Stewart for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and the winner Robert Donat for Goodbue Mr. Chips. Not that Mickey's bad, but he really didn't belong with this field.
What he and Judy do, they do better than anyone else, put on a show. In fact in this case the 'put on a show' gambit did originate in the original Broadway Musical. Babes in Arms was one of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's best shows it ran for 289 performances in the 1937 season and boasted such Rodgers&Hart classics as Johnny One Note, Way Out West, My Funny Valentine, I Wish I Were in Love Again all of which were discarded for the film. The Lady is a Tramp is only heard instrumentally, my guess is the Code frowned on that lyric. The title song and Where or When are retained. In fact when you come right down to it, only the basic idea the songs mentioned and a couple characters names came over from Broadway.
Still Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed wrote Good Morning which is better known from Singin' in the Rain, but it was Judy and Mickey who introduced it here. And a whole lot of other Brown&Freed songs from MGM musicals got interpolated into the score.
Douglas MacPhail and Betty Jaynes who were introduced in Sweethearts also are here and sing beautifully. They married, but the marriage and MacPhail's career fell apart and he committed suicide a few years later. He had a great baritone voice, what a shame. The following year he introduced my favorite Cole Porter song, I Concentrate On You in The Broadway Melody of 1940.
This was the film Judy Garland did right after The Wizard of Oz and coming along right with her is Margaret Hamilton playing another Miss Gulch like character. One of those spinster ladies who forever pry into other people's business.
Believe it or not there was still a lot of prejudice against theatrical people even in 1937. A lot of old vaudeville types like Charles Winninger, Rooney's father in the film, settle in the town of Seaport on Long Island and their presence apparently upsets the ruling families like Hamilton's. When times go bad and vaudeville goes to seed, things get kind of rough for them. The old timers try to take a last tour to raise some money, but instead it's the kids who are up to the latest trends in pop music who save the day.
Guy Kibbee is in this also, playing against type as a wise and sympathetic judge, usually the parts MGM reserved for Lewis Stone or Lionel Barrymore. A more typical Kibbee type would be the oafish tycoon in 42nd Street, but he's fine here.
Possibly director Busby Berkeley wanted Kibbee, maybe as a good luck charm from that other breakthrough musical of his from his days at Warner Brothers. Of course the musical numbers in the show are set with the usual Berkeley surrealism, a little tempered though from his high flying days at Warner Brothers. That same year Berkeley had done a surreal type number in the Jeanette MacDonald-Lew Ayres film Broadway Serenade and it laid an egg. Someone at MGM must have reined him in.
Babes In Arms retains all its charms from 1939 mainly because Mickey Rooney is infectious and Judy Garland's singing is eternal.
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