Babes in Arms (film)

Babes in Arms

theatrical release poster
Directed by Busby Berkeley
Produced by Arthur Freed
Written by Uncredited:
John Meehan
Noel Langley[1]
Anita Loos
Florence Ryerson
Annalee Whitmore
Edgar Allan Woolf
Screenplay by Jack McGowan
Kay Van Riper
Based on Babes in Arms
(1937 stage musical)
by Richard Rogers & Lorenz Hart
Starring Mickey Rooney
Judy Garland
Music by Songs:
Arthur Freed (lyrics) &
Nacio Herb Brown (music);
Richard Rodgers (music) &
Lorenz Hart (lyrics);
Harold Arlen (music) &
E. Y. Harburg (lyrics);
Roger Edens (music & lyrics)
et al.
Cinematography Ray June
Edited by Frank Sullivan
Distributed by Loew's Inc.
Release dates
  • September 15, 1939 (1939-09-15) (Houston)
  • October 13, 1939 (1939-10-13) (US)
  • [1] ([1])
Running time
93 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $745,341[2][3]
Box office $3,335,000[2][3]

Babes in Arms is the 1939 American film version of the 1937 Broadway musical of the same name. The film version stars Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, and features Charles Winninger, Guy Kibbee, June Preisser, Grace Hayes and Betty Jaynes. The film concerns a group of youngsters trying to put on a show to prove their vaudevillian parents wrong and make it to Broadway. The original Broadway script was significantly revamped, restructured and rewritten to accommodate Hollywood's needs.


In 1921 vaudeville performer Joe Moran (Charles Winninger) announces the birth of a son; but after the advent of talking pictures in 1928, vaudeville fails. His son Mickey Moran (Mickey Rooney) writes songs, and Patsy Barton (Judy Garland) sings "Good Morning." Mickey sells the song for $100. He gives Patsy his pin and kisses her. Mickey learns that his parents Joe and Florrie (Grace Hayes) are going on the road without the children, and he disagrees. Patsy and Molly Moran (Betty Jaynes) sing "You Are My Lucky Star" and "Broadway Rhythm," but Joe says no to their going. So Mickey proposes the kids put on a show, and Don Brice (Douglas McPhail) sings "Babes in Arms" as they march and make a bonfire. Joe dismisses Mickey.

Martha Steele (Margaret Hamilton) and her son Jeff Steele (Rand Brooks) from military school complain to Judge Black (Guy Kibbee) about the Vaudeville kids, but he won't take them from their homes. In a drugstore Mickey and Patsy meet movie star Baby Rosalie Essex (June Preisser), but Mickey gets in a fight with Jeff. Mickey tells Judge Black that his parents' show flopped. The judge gives Mickey thirty days to pay damages. Don and Molly sing "Where or When" with an orchestra of children. Mickey has a date with Baby and dines in her house. Mickey wants Baby in the show, which needs $287. She offers to pay it. Mickey smokes a cigar and leaves sick.

Mickey tells Patsy that Baby has to play the lead because of the money. Baby shows how limber she is. Mickey directs rehearsal with Baby and Don, imitating Clark Gable and Lionel Barrymore. Patsy sees Mickey kiss Baby. Mickey tries to stop Patsy from leaving. On the bus Patsy sings "I Cried for You." Patsy goes to a theater to see her mother (Ann Shoemaker). Patsy says that Mickey is putting on a show to keep the kids out of an institution. Patsy's mother tells Patsy not to quit her show.

Baby's father takes her out of the show, and Mickey asks Patsy to go on. In the show Patsy sings "Daddy Was a Minstrel Man." Mickey and Patsy put on black face and sing a medley with Don. Patsy sings "I'm Just Wild About Harry," but a storm drives the audience away. Mickey learns that his father quit theater and got an elevator job. Mrs. Steele says the children must report and gives Joe the paper. Mickey gets a letter from producer Maddox (Henry Hull), who liked the show and produces it. As hidden Mickey listens, Maddox asks bitter Joe to teach the youngsters in the show. Mickey introduces the show by singing "God's Country," which the company contrasts to fascism. Mickey and Patsy satirize Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, and then everybody dances and finishes with a chorus of "God's Country"is


Mickey Rooney as Mickey Moran
Judy Garland as Patsy Barton

Cast notes:


Babes in Arms is the first film directed in its entirety at M-G-M by choreographer Busby Berkeley.[4] It was produced by the Arthur Freed unit at the studio.[5]

Filming of Babes in Arms began on May 12, 1939, soon after Garland and Hamilton had finished filming The Wizard of Oz, and was completed on July 18, 1939.

The original release of the film included a segment during the finale in which Rooney and Garland lampoon Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt; this was edited from the film after FDR's death. It was thought to be lost, but was discovered on a 16 millimeter reel and restored in the 1990s.


Most of the Rodgers and Hart songs from the stage musical were cut, except for the title tune, "The Lady Is a Tramp" used as background music during a dinner scene, and "Where or When". Freed and Nacio Herb Brown wrote a new song for the film, "Good Morning", later made famous in Singin' in the Rain). "God's Country", from Hooray for What! by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg composer and lyricist for The Wizard of Oz was used for the finale. Garland and Rooney later sang "I Wish I Were in Love Again" from the Broadway version of the show in the 1948 Rodgers and Hart biopic Words and Music. Garland also sang "Johnny One Note" in the same picture. The movie, as well as the musical, included the song "I'm Just Wild About Harry" which was written in 1921 for the Broadway show Shuffle Along, with lyrics by Noble Sissle and music by Eubie Blake.[6]

Musical numbers were recorded in stereophonic sound but released to theaters with conventional monaural sound. Recent home video releases feature some of the original stereo recordings.[7]


The film premiered on October 13, 1939, and became one of the ten biggest hits of the year.[2] According to MGM records it earned $2,311,000 in the US and Canada and $1,024,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $1,542,000.[3]

Awards and honors

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Actor in a Leading Role for Mickey Rooney, who was 19 at the time, and Best Music, Scoring by Roger Edens and Georgie Stoll.

Home video

Babes in Arms was released on VHS tape in 1992. It was released on DVD for the first time as part of Warner Bros. 5-disc DVD set The Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland Collection on September 25, 2007. The set contains Babes in Arms, Babes on Broadway, Girl Crazy, and Strike Up the Band, as well as a fifth disc containing bonus features on Rooney and Garland.[8]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Babes in Arms at the American Film Institute Catalog
  2. 1 2 3 Eyman, Scott. Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer, Robson, 2005 p 328
  3. 1 2 3 The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  4. Hirschhorn, Clive (1991) [1981]. The Hollywood Musical (2nd ed.). New York: Portland House. p. 167. ISBN 0-517-06035-3.
  5. Higham, Charles; Greenberg, Joel (1968). Hollywood in the Forties. London: A. Zwemmer Limited. p. 172. ISBN 0-302-00477-7.
  6. Haskins, Jim; Tate, Eleanora; Cox, Clinton (2002). Black Stars of the Harlem Renaissance. New York: John Wiley & sons, Inc. p. 31. ISBN 0-471-21152-4.
  7. "Mickey Rooney Garland Collection Broadway", accessed September 5, 2011
  8. "The Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland Collection". Retrieved 2008-01-04.

External links

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