|Babes in Arms|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Busby Berkeley|
|Produced by||Arthur Freed|
Annalee Whitmore Fadiman
Edgar Allan Woolf
|Screenplay by||Jack McGowan|
Kay Van Riper
|Based on||Babes in Arms|
(1937 stage musical)
by Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart
Arthur Freed (lyrics) &
Nacio Herb Brown (music);
Richard Rodgers (music) &
Lorenz Hart (lyrics);
Harold Arlen (music) &
E. Y. Harburg (lyrics);
Roger Edens (music & lyrics)
|Edited by||Frank Sullivan|
|Distributed by||Loew's, Inc.|
Babes in Arms is the 1939 American film version of the 1937 Broadway musical of the same title. Directed by Busby Berkeley, it stars Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland (their second film together), 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 (Winninger) announces the birth of a son, but after the advent of talking pictures in 1928, vaudeville fails. His son Mickey Moran (Rooney) writes songs, and Patsy Barton (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 (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 nephew Jeff (Rand Brooks) from military school complain to Judge Black (Kibbee) about the Vaudeville kids, but he will not take them from their homes. In a drugstore, Mickey and Patsy meet movie star Baby Rosalie Essex (Preisser), but Mickey gets in a fight with Jeff. Mickey tells Judge Black that his parents' show flopped. The judge gives Mickey 30 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. 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 blackface 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 Mickey listens, Maddox asks 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".
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 President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The scene was edited from the film after Roosevelt's death in office in 1945. It was thought to be lost, but was discovered on a 16-mm 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 to be a musical number 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 Rodgers and Hart biopic Words and Music (1948). Garland also sang "Johnny One Note" in the same picture. The film, 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.
The film premiered on October 13, 1939, and became one of the 10 biggest hits of the year. 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.
Babes in Arms was released on VHS tape in 1992. It was released on DVD for the first time as part of Warner Bros. five-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.