Strike Up the Band (film)

Strike Up the Band

theatrical release poster
Directed by Busby Berkeley
Produced by Arthur Freed
Written by John Monks Jr.
Fred F. Finklehoffe
Kay Van Riper
Starring Judy Garland
Mickey Rooney
Music by (see article)
Cinematography Ray June
Edited by Ben Lewis
Distributed by Loew's Inc.
Release dates
September 27, 1940 (1940-09-27)
Running time
120 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $854,000[1]
Box office $3,494,000[1]

Strike Up the Band is a 1940 American black and white musical film produced by the Arthur Freed unit at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (M-G-M) and distributed by its parent company, Loew's Inc.. The film was directed by Busby Berkeley and stars Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, in the second of a series of musicals they co-starred in, after Babes in Arms, all directed by Berkeley.

A memorable quote from the film is "Take that boy on the street. Teach him to blow a horn, and he'll never blow a safe.", spoken by Paul Whiteman.


Jimmy Connors (Mickey Rooney), a student at Riverwood High School, also plays the drums in the school band, but dreams of playing in a dance band. He and his "pal" Mary Holden (Judy Garland) sell the school principal the idea of forming the band and putting on a dance. The principal is initially doubtful, but then agrees to buy the first ticket. The event is a success and the school's debt for the instruments in paid off.

Famous band leader Paul Whiteman (played by himself) sponsors a contest in Chicago for the best high school musical group, and Jimmy decides the band must compete. In three weeks, the kids write, plan, and put on a show. The melodrama, called "Nell from New Rochelle", is also a success and raises the money to go to Chicago, but they're still short. A loan from Whiteman himself solves that problem. But when a member of the cast is injured and needs a critical and urgent operation, the band gives the money up so that the injured student can be flown to Chicago for the operation.

The band raises the money anyway, competes in Chicago, and wins the $500 prize. To Jimmy goes the honor of leading all the bands in a grand finale performance.



In keeping with MGM's practice of the time, the film soundtrack was recorded in stereophonic sound but released with conventional monaural sound. At least some of the original stereo recording has survived and been included in some home video releases, including the Mickey Rooney - Judy Garland Collection.[2]


Box office

According to MGM records the film earned $2,265,000 in the US and Canada and $1,229,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $1,539,000.[1]

Critical response

Daily Variety:

"While all the young principals do themselves proud, Garland particularly achieves rank as one of the screen's great personalities. Here she is for the first time in the full bloom and charm which is beyond childhood, as versatile in acting as she is excellent in song - a striking figure and a most oomphy one in the wild abandon of the La Conga."

Movie and Radio Guide, 1940:

"The La Conga danced by Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in Strike Up the Band is nothing less than sensational. For that reason, Movie and Radio Guide hereby christens the number 'The Roogaronga.' This title is a combination of the first three letters of Mickey's and Judy's last names, to which has been added the identifying dance classification."

Variety, September 18, 1940:

"Strike Up the Band is Metro's successor to 'Babes in Arms,' with Mickey Rooney, assisted by major trouping on the part of Judy Garland ... Picture is overall smacko entertainment ... and Mickey Rooney teamed with Judy Garland is a wealth of effective entertainment."

Awards and honors

In 1941, the year after the film was released, the film was nominated for three Academy Awards.[3] Douglas Shearer (M-G-M's Sound Director) won an Oscar for Best Sound, Recording and Roger Edens and George Stoll were nominated for an Oscar in the category of Best Music, Original Song for the song "Our Love Affair". George Stoll and Roger Edens were also nominated for an Oscar in the category of Best Original Score.

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Home video

As well as being commercially released as a VHS in its own right, it was also released on 25 September 2007 by Warner Home Video in a film package entitled: "The Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland Collection." This collection included the films Babes in Arms, Babes on Broadway, Girl Crazy, and Strike Up the Band.[5]

Strike Up the Band is featured in:



  1. 1 2 3 The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  3. "The 13th Academy Awards (1941) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-12.
  4. "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.

Further reading

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