Big City (1948) Poster


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Apropo for out times
Ishallwearpurple9 December 2002
A 1948 film on religious tolerance. A rabbi(Danny Thomas), a Protestant clergyman(Robert Preston), and a Irish Catholic policeman(George Murphy), discover an abandoned baby and decide to bring her up equally between them. Of course, conflict arises and they are about to break the ties that bind them, but with darling Margaret O'Brien and a wise judge, they bring them all together by the end.

A film that was evidently not well thought of, but seeing it today with all the conflict caused by religion around the world, you realize if we can't get along in our own little corner or the world, and these characters were not, how can the greater conflicts ever be solved. Really made me stop and think. And should have been better received in 1948. 8/10

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A well done Social Drama applicable to 1948 and to today...
thesommers26 January 2005

As the film opens, three men, all of whom live in the same neighborhood but have differing religious and social circles, come across an abandoned infant in a basket at the steps to one of the men's apartment building...

This film, whose alternate title could have been 'Three Men and a Baby', deals with the commonalities of the Jew, the Catholic and the Protestant as they work for the common good of this baby girl. The cast is rounded out by a sweet, if not stereotypical, Jewish 'grandmother', a benevolent judge and a couple of 'love interests'.

After the initial introduction of the characters, we are left to assume that all goes well for some 10-12 years where the film picks up on the co-mingled lives of the odd family and some of the challenges faced by Midge, the infant now turned lady-beyond-her-years, in the classroom, and by her adoptive fathers in their courtships. It includes many of the aspects of today's 'reality television' shows, including 'alliances', differing moral values, and competition among participants.

Social Impact:

The movie deals nicely, if not superficially and somewhat predictably, with the issues of finding common ground to base friendships on, rather than differences upon which to build enmity.


This film is timely for 1948 and for today in a world where religious differences seem to be playing a vital role in public opinion.

I recommend this film for its cinematography (B&W) and for its ability to remind the viewer that there are things worth working together for, especially the future we build for our children.
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three guys come find a baby and become her dads.
nlathy24 May 2011
Big City is one of the later movies Margaret OBrien made during her time as a child star with MGM in the 1940s. It's an entertaining film, which isn't quite up to the level of some other movies she made with the studio. It's an unusual situation especially for the time to have three foster fathers and no mother. A reality which isn't lost in the film. It's good to see Margaret in movies with Butch Jenkins. This one seems a little long. Robert Preston, George Murphy and Danny Thomas play the parents. I'd never seen Thomas in a movie before, and he used his singing and acting talents well. The movie explains its designed for people who like people, and it makes the case for the importance of family well. There's also the message of redemption after past mistakes in Betty Garrett's character. This message is also displayed in Norman Taurog's Boys Town movies. The people involved have done better work elsewhere, but a family film with God Bless America in it is well worth any viewer's time.
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Hear Marni Nixon sing for Margaret O'Brien...
keithharmon30 August 2004
In the filmography of Stanley Donen's biography "Dancing on the Ceiling" Marni Nixon is listed as the singing voice of young Margaret O'Brien. That tidbit alone made we want to see/hear this movie with the early work of filmdom's greatest vocal dubber ever. I saw a sweet performance by Margaret O'Brien in Baltimore in the autumn of 1963 in "A Thousand Clowns". On stage as in film the unique, sympathetic colors of her voice stayed with you. Elements of compassion, anxiety and sweetness in a soft thickish can a young clarion voiced soprano duplicate those complex textures? I haven't heard her yet, but I'll bet Marni pulled it off! Margaret, Deborah Kerr, Natalie Wood and Audrey Hepburn owe Marni a big kiss from Heaven or Earth.
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Margaret O'Brien at her best.
soccrstr68 November 2000
I watched this movie on television for the first time, and have to say that it was a great movie. Margaret O'Brien at age 11, was a great actress, acting better than many other famous adults of her times. Danny Thomas and Robert Preston add talent to the movie. One of the best parts of the movie was when Margaret sang the Shu-Shu song. A great family film.
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Some advice from King Solomon
bkoganbing12 June 2014
MGM's contribution to ecumenism and universal brotherhood post World War II came with this film Big City. The idea that a Protestant, Catholic, and a Jew combine to raise a child was certainly an intriguing one.

On his way home Cantor Danny Thomas finds an abandoned baby on the basement steps of his home. As it turns out Reverend Robert Preston and policeman George Murphy are on the scene as well and they're all friends. Thomas lives with his mother Lotte Lehmann. In one fell swoop with the blessing of Judge Edward Arnold the baby who grows up to be Margaret O'Brien gets three fathers and a grandmother.

But Judge Arnold made an interesting provision in deciding custody. Which ever of the men marries first there's a provision that he and his wife get sole custody. So Margaret who is now about 11 becomes the object of a legal battle when George Murphy decides to marry lounge singer Betty Garrett. Complicating things more is Preston and Thomas are both interested in Margaret's teacher Karin Booth.

Big City holds up well as a nice family film. I'm still not sure what the fuss was, despite the fact she sings in bars Garrett was a perfectly nice person. Still Arnold must have wished he could get some advice from King Solomon.

Big City is also a fine opportunity to see concert singer Lotte Lehman in one of her few film appearances. It's a good film for a family afternoon viewing.
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3 Men and a Baby
HotToastyRag30 March 2019
The opening dedication, "for people who like people," warns audiences that Big City is going to be corny, unrealistic, and way too family-friendly to please most people. But if you like those types of movie, you'll love this one. Police officer George Murphy, Jewish cantor Danny Thomas, and Catholic reverend Robert Preston, stumble upon an abandoned baby. Together, the three friends move in together, along with Danny's mother Lotte Lehmann, and a very friendly and sympathetic judge, Edward Arnold, allows them legal custody of the little girl. The child has three fathers and a grandmother, until one of the bachelors marry. The first to marry gains full custody, and even though that makes no sense and isn't fair, the audience has to accept it and become immersed in the story.

As you might expect, since she provides the opening narration, the little baby grows up to be Margaret O'Brien. And as you might also expect, two men fall in love with the same woman, Margaret's schoolteacher Karin Booth. Meanwhile, the third man falls in love with a coarse showgirl, played by Betty Garrett in her first film. She's given quite a few irritating numbers, making you wonder if you're supposed to be rooting against her for her bad influence on Margaret or her lack of talent.

Keep in mind that you've been warned. If you sit through Big City, you will more than likely develop a cavity. In this movie's world, three virtual strangers of different faiths can all move into the same apartment and raise a child with no fundamental arguments or conflicting opinions, and the entire legal system makes no sense. But if you like stories like 3 Men and a Baby, rent this black-and-white precursor.
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A cantor, a minister and an Irish cop walk down the street....
mark.waltz15 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Yes, that summary does sound like one of those oh so silly jokes where race is used to create a pun-filled tag-line. But in this case, it is true. Danny Thomas is the cantor, Robert Preston the minister, and George Murphy the cop. The three of their lives are forever tied when Thomas finds an abandoned baby (who grows up to be Margaret O'Brien), and passers-by Preston and Murphy offer their advice as to what they should do. But Thomas's kindly mother (Lotte Lehmann) won't hear of them taking the toddler to the police station, insisting that "She'll never become a police officer", and the three men decide to try and raise her on their own. Judge Edward Arnold hears their case and decides to allow them to collaboratively raise the baby together until the first man gets married. So the race is on....

Yes, this is from the Louis B. Mayer/Andy Hardy way of thinking, but in today's world with children having two fathers or two mothers (a different situation of course), it's rather ironic. Of course, Thomas, Preston and Murphy are all searching for wives, and when they meet O'Brien's pretty school teacher (Karin Booth), both Preston and Thomas are instantly smitten. Booth doesn't like the untraditional manner in which O'Brien is being raised, so it's up to the three fathers and Lehmann to show her how wrong she is. Murphy stumbles across a fight in a bar, and after meeting its old-style saloon singer (Betty Garrett in a fabulous film debut), he too is smitten. Will the entrance of a possible mother into their lives spoil their friendship and end this family structure? That's for me to know, you to find out, and judge Arnold to decide.

A semi-musical with both comic and dramatic elements, this will both tickle the funny bone and tug at the heart, even get your toe tapping. The over usage of "God Bless America" gets frustrating after a while, but Thomas does get to sing a touching version of "What'll I Do", the Irving Berlin song which Bea Arthur later brought out of the woodwork on an episode of "Golden Girls". Of course, the fact that Thomas sang that also brought out ironic laughs from me in the fact that on another episode of "Golden Girls", dim-witted Rue McLanahan confused Danny Thomas's being Lebanese with him being lesbian. To further the "Golden Girls" connection, Betty Garrett had a memorable guest starring role on that show, and although they didn't share any scenes together, both Bea Arthur and Robert Preston had major roles in the movie version of "Mame".

While overly sentimental and ultimately silly at times, this does have its moments. Garret's outwardly tough bar singer escorts both Murphy and O'Brien to Coney Island, and thanks to Garrett's indulgence of O'Brien's sweet tooth, the young girl gets sick off an overabundance of hot dogs, cotton candy, various other sweets and sodas, even smelling like she's on fire because of the perfume she's wearing thanks to Garrett's generosity. Another irony is to see the notoriously liberal Garrett (a victim of the Communist scare just a few years later) paired with notoriously conservative Murphy. Her five films at MGM showcased her musical and comedy talents, and audiences would have to wait more than 20 years to see her rise again in supporting roles on T.V. sitcoms and in a late career return to the Broadway stage in "Meet Me in St. Louis" and the 2001 revival of "Follies" where she was indeed one memorable "Broadway Baby".

One thing that gets me too is that it is obvious from the start that the ethnic looking Thomas will be the one to end up alone, Hollywood's obsession with glamor not allowing him to get the girl in the end, only the laughs. "Always an uncle, never a dad", seems to be his sad quiet realization here, but of the three men, he is the one with the biggest heart. Of course, he doesn't get any help from his mama either, with her taking his bouquet of flowers and making three of them with each of the men's names so they'll each have an equal chance of winning Booth. While the MGM New York street sets might look realistic, their vision of the "big city" is about as realistic as the Hardys were as representing the all-American family.
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Cute idea drowned by sentimentality
jimjo121619 July 2011
BIG CITY (1948) has a cute set-up, about three men agreeing to raise a foundling as co-fathers. The movie is well-made, but it's just too sentimental for me to stomach. Child-star Margaret O'Brien is comfortable as always in front of the camera, but seems like she might be trying too hard to act, now that she's a few years older.

Everything is hunky dory until the fathers start competing for the same woman, and ultimately fighting for sole custody of their girl. Betty Garrett (in her screen debut) is a kind-hearted bar singer who inadvertently corrupts sweet little O'Brien with her cabaret act and big city lingo. Garrett weds George Murphy, seemingly the lesser of the three fathers (as a cop he's always on a beat), who decides they're more entitled to the girl than the others.

When everybody gets together to sing "God Bless America", it becomes clear what the message is. The judge speaks about The Great Experiment of uniting three men of different faiths to raise a child together. (Robert Preston is a reverend at a city mission, Danny Thomas is a cantor at the Jewish temple, George Murphy is an Irish policeman, and thereby assumed to be Roman Catholic.) Men of different faiths united together in a Great Experiment. It becomes some sort of patriotic metaphor for the good ol' United States. "God Bless America."

The movie is alright and has its fun moments, but there's too much of a "love thy neighbor", innocent-children-singing-in-one-voice, sugary- sweet, high moral sentimentality coating the proceedings. Men of *three faiths* raising a daughter together, then playing gentle music together in the parlor after dinner. What a wholesome family.

Not my cup of tea, I suppose. But it could be a winner for those less cynical than I. It has a sort of wholesome message for "people who like people". Betty Garrett does a fine job and fans of Margaret O'Brien would want to check this out.

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Vehicle for new talent
Lamia760921 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I have to admit I was disappointed in this movie. I love Margaret O'Brien and think she was one of the most talented child stars ever. If you expect to see another great O'Brien performance don't hold your breath. The scene where she is pretending to be an old lady was just god awful. Mannerisms that were endearing in her early work were kind of annoying and embarrassing in this one. This story was nothing more than a vehicle to showcase new talent. I hate when Hollywood does that. When I watch a movie I expect to be drawn into a world of the writer's imagining, not treated to a variety hour. If you love Irving Berlin and music from the 40s you will love this movie. My aunt bought this movie along with several other O'Brien movies. I think she should get her money back on this one.
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Big City is A Big Deal ****
edwagreen25 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Heartwarming tale which embodies the best in people. Three men of different faiths take charge of a baby they found left at the door step.

The 3 work together to provide harmony in the neighborhood. How wonderful to view a film without bias, where the love of people and community are stressed no matter what one's faith is. In fact, faith of all religions sustains us in providing a terrific film.

The baby grows up in the presence of Margaret O'Brien. Her 3 dads are beautifully realized by Danny Thomas, as the Cantor, who sings Kol Nidre. He would do this 5 years later in a memorable remake of "The Jazz Singer." Thomas is joined by a police officer-George Murphy and Minister Robert Preston.

Of course, things change between the guy with Murphy's marriage to Betty Garrett, in her film debut.

Naturally, a court battle ensues over the child, and Judge Edward Arnold's decision is a little bit too much to take until the 3 are forced to admit that they haven't exactly practiced what they're preaching.

Wonderful film in the tradition of a "Going My Way." Truly memorable.
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A rabbi, a minister, and a cop walk into a bar
pensman23 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Schmaltz. Three men from different religious and ethic backgrounds discover a foundling and decide to raise her under the somewhat loose aegis of a judge. Things go along fine until a conflict arises. One the men, a cop played by George Murphy, falls for a slightly soiled chanteuse by the name of Shoo Shoo Grady played by a surprising attractive Betty Garrett. The rabbi (cantor), Danny Thomas and the minister, Robert Preston, believe Shoo Shoo is having a negative influence on their daughter and want her to promise not to ever see Shoo Shoo again. To gain sole custody of the child, Murphy marries Garrett and they petition the court for sole custody. Of course this places Midge, Margret O'Brien, in the middle of a three way tussle for her affections, a situation she feels can only be resolved if the judge, Edward Arnold, removes her from her aggregate family and will arrange to place her in an institution effectively removing her from the equation and allowing her three fathers to remain friends. Will the judge agree? Will the three fathers see their errors? Can there possibly be a happy ending? Hey, schmaltz is sometimes a good thing.
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"Your song was super-duper...and I think you're super-duper, too!"
moonspinner559 September 2011
Five writers worked on this unrelieved hokum about an abandoned baby girl on New York's East Side taken in by a Jewish cantor and his mama, watched over throughout her young life by the cantor and his buddies, a Catholic Reverend and a Protestant policeman (no atheist derelicts for this kid!). When the boys suffer a falling-out and go to court to decide who should raise the child, the decision should be overwhelmingly obvious but isn't (not even to the judge!). Margaret O'Brien plays the girl at grade-school age, but she seems too old to be getting her first tummy-ache and playing matchmaker for her bachelor fathers. The exceedingly thin story is padded with inappropriate song interludes, narration from O'Brien (as if she were reading from the Junior Miss section of the Sears & Roebuck catalogue), and a schoolroom full of annoying children who shoot mischievous looks at each other when Danny Thomas sings "Am I Blue?" to their teacher. The end card makes a claim that the film is meant for 'people who like people,' yet there's nobody on-screen who merits much interest. The adults act like teenagers in the throes of puppy love, while O'Brien appears ready to burst out of her training bra. *1/2 from ****
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Dat would be an ecumenical matter!
anniemarshallster13 October 2014
This film makes me thrill to be an atheist.

Spare a thought for poor Lotte Lehmann having to appear in this tosh and for little Margaret O'Brian who can't ACT although apparently she can cry to order (without the director offscreen threatening to kill her puppy ).

The schoolteacher supposed to be the love object of two of the "fathers" has a manner that would curdle milk and her face is harder than polished oak.

Danny Thomas does his thing and then does it some more and whoa does it again (maybe this is the only Hollywood musical ever set in a synagogue?)and so do all the other MGM contract players but this film has NOTHING going for it - at all - da nada! No - hang on - it does have Betty Garrett being funny and charming.

So the one star I am giving this is for Betty....
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Thought the movie was great, but never saw the end. Help!
md3320 January 2005
I was watching Big City and really enjoying it. I need somebody's help because I got to the part where Edward Arnold and Midge decide that Midge should be sent away. Then I got a phone call, and never saw the end. I assume that the family got back together again, but I can't figure out how. I thought that if they all lived together, that would solve the problem. Doubt that happened! But I especially liked the way the 3 religions were able to unite because of their love for Midge. Margaret O'Brien was terrific and her take-off on Betty Garrett's song was too. Would somebody please tell me what happened from that point on! Thanks much.
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Decent film until the third act
pinkarray15 January 2019
The film was okay up until the last quarter of the film where they start establishing a bond between Midge and Shoo Shoo that has a hint of romance to it.

They made O'Brien who was a pre-teen at the time physically appealing to this woman named Shoo Shoo. They had her sneak into a bar to watch her performance with nobody being wary about a child being in the bar and forced her and Shoo Shoo to develop a shallow romance and what disgusts me is that this is between a grown woman and a young child. I mean, I guess I kind of understand that they want to bond and connect to each other because they're potentially going to be mother and child but I still find this romance and Midge's sneaky behavior inappropriate. And yes, I get it, it has a lot of romance in it and it's about family but it's not much of a romance film.

As for my problems with the earlier parts of the film, there is one major problem I had, I didn't like the parts where they have boys messing with Midge for reasons out of her control yet they barely do anything about this. There could've been a positive message about coming to accept others instead of bullying them but that unfortunately doesn't become the centerpoint of the film and thus, the boy has a fairly shallow redemption character arc and this is because he has too little screentime in the film.

It's a disappointing film which is quite a waste of talent from the sweet, talented Margaret O'Brien on a shallow screenplay and somewhat poor direction.
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It's not a bad movie if you're under 15 years old. Otherwise, you'll squirm in your seat.
forwardlobe9 May 2017
Ugh; it is sufficient to watch only one (1) half hour of this soupy, too-long movie. It doesn't matter which half hour, they're all tedious.

And then, the pretty lady appeared. She looked familiar. Betty Garrett. Checked her out on IMDb; she played Irene Lorenzo on All in the Family! I didn't know she was a movie star! So happy for her.

I was in love with Garrett back in 1973. But 25 years before her TV role, wow, what a luuuvely babe!! They didn't really let her character loose in this movie, but what's there is heart-melting.

Nice to also catch glimpses of Robert Preston and Danny Thomas who apparently were also pretty young in 1948. Edward Arnold, who was never young, as a compassionate judge is as good as this movie gets. Margaret O'Brian overdose, as the plot revolves around her, again.

Maybe the drama was designed to be suitable for 14 year olds.

Unless you need to keep a 14 year old occupied for a couple of hours, recommend watching this mushy movie with the sound turned down while browsing the internet and playing Beethoven on the stereo, so it's not a total waste of your half hour.
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