AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Babes in Arms
Director: Busby Berkeley (Dir)
Release Date:   13 Oct 1939
Premiere Information:   World premiere in Houston, Tex: 15 Sep 1939
Production Date:   began 13 May 1939
Duration (in mins):   93
Duration (in reels):   10
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Cast:   Mickey Rooney (Mickey Moran)  
    Judy Garland (Patsy Barton)  
    Charles Winninger (Joe Moran)  
    Guy Kibbee (Judge Black)  
    June Preisser ([Baby] Rosalie Essex)  
    Grace Hayes (Florrie Moran)  
    Betty Jaynes (Molly Moran)  
    Douglas McPhail (Don Brice)  
    Rand Brooks (Jeff Steele)  
    Leni Lynn (Dody Martini)  
    John[ny] Sheffield (Bobs)  
    Henry Hull (Harry Maddox)  
    Barnett Parker (William)  
    Ann Shoemaker (Mrs. Barton)  
    Margaret Hamilton (Martha Steele)  
    Joseph Crehan (Mr. Essex)  
    George McKay (Brice)  
    Henry Rocquemore (Shaw)  
    Lelah Tyler (Mrs. Brice)  
    Lon McCallister (Boy)  
    Ann Bupp    

Summary: When vaudeville is eclipsed by the motion picture, Mickey Moran's parents, vaudeville troupers Joe and Florrie Moran, find bookings scarce. However, Mickey, who was born backstage at New York's Palace Theatre, remains undaunted and determines to write a show to be presented by the kids of the old vaudevillians in his hometown of Seaport, Long Island. In order to reach his goal, Mickey has to contend with many adversities, among which are the threats of Martha Steele, the head of the welfare board, who wants to send the youngsters to work school; the temperamental ego of Baby Rosalie Essex, the child star who is bankrolling the show; and the jealousy of Patsy Barton, his girl friend, who sees a rival in Baby Rosalie. Mickey manages to overcome all these problems, but is unable to control the weather when a hurricane washes away the show in mid-performance. Just when things look their blackest and Mrs. Steele is about to swoop the children off to work school, Mickey receives word that Harry Maddox, a New York producer, has decided to stage the show on Broadway. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's, Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Busby Berkeley (Dir)
  William Ryan (Asst dir)
Producer: Arthur Freed (Prod)
Writer: Jack McGowan (Scr)
  Kay Van Riper (Scr)
  John Meehan (Contr wrt)
  Noel Langley (Contr wrt)
  Florence Ryerson (Contr to trmt)
  Edgar Allan Woolf (Contr to trmt)
Photography: Ray June (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Merrill Pye (Art dir assoc)
Film Editor: Frank Sullivan (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
Costumes: Dolly Tree (Ward)
Music: George Stoll (Mus dir)
  Leo Arnaud (Orch arr)
  George Bassman (Orch arr)
  Roger Edens (Mus adpt)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Dance: Eddie Larkin (Asst dance dir)
Production Misc: Art Smith (Unit mgr)
Stand In: Robert Bradford (Singing double for Charles King in "Broadway Melody" number)
  Tex Brodus (Singing double for Cliff Edwards in "Singing in the Rain" number)
Country: United States

Songs: "The Lady Is a Tramp," "Babes in Arms" and "Where or When," music and lyrics by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers; "Good Morning" and "You Are My Lucky Star," music and lyrics by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed; "God's Country," music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg; "I Cried for You," music and lyrics by Arthur Freed, Gus Arnheim and Abe Lyman; "I'm Just Wild About Harry," music and lyrics by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake; "Ida," music and lyrics by Eddie Leonard; "My Day," composer undetermined.
Composer: Harold Arlen
  Gus Arnheim
  Eubie Blake
  Nacio Herb Brown
  Arthur Freed
  E. Y. Harburg
  Lorenz Hart
  Eddie Leonard
  Abe Lyman
  Richard Rodgers
  Noble Sissle
Source Text: Based on the musical Babes In Arms by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (New York, 14 Apr 1937).
Authors: Lorenz Hart
  Richard Rodgers

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Loew's Inc. 15/9/1939 dd/mm/yyyy LP9144

PCA NO: 5477
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

Genre: Musical comedy
Sub-Genre: Show business
Subjects (Major): Actors and actresses
  Amateur theater
  Romantic rivalry
Subjects (Minor): Children
  Long Island (NY)
  Motion pictures
  Palace Theatre (New York City)
  Social workers
  Theatrical producers

Note: In a montage in the first reel of the film, clips from the 1929 M-G-M musical Broadway Melody are shown. In these sequences, Robert Bradford dubs the singing voice of Charles E. King in the song "Broadway Melody," and Tex Brodus dubs the singing voice of Cliff Edwards in "Singing in the Rain." Scenes of Mickey Rooney as a young child, taken from earlier screen appearances, are included, indicating the passage of time from his babyhood to teenaged years. A pre-production news item in HR notes that Mervyn LeRoy was to replace Arthur Freed as solo producer and Freed was to be relegated to the role of associate producer. According to an early draft of SAB , Noel Langley and John Meehan were contributing writers, but the exact nature of their contribution is not known. This picture marked Busby Berkeley's debut as an M-G-M director. The film also marked actress June Preisser's screen debut. A news item in HR adds that M-G-M planned to groom actress Grace Hayes for Marie Dressler-type roles. Rooney was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor for his role in this film, but lost to Robert Donat for Goodbye Mr. Chips . Modern sources state that the ending of the film in which Rooney spoofs Franklin D. Roosevelt in the production number "God's Country" was removed in a 1948 reissue of the film and never restored. The viewed print, a current video release of the film, includes the spoof, however. In 1941, M-G-M produced the musical Babes on Broadway , which was also directed by Berkeley and starred Rooney and Garland. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   15 Sep 39   p. 3.
Film Daily   19 Sep 39   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Jan 39   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Feb 39   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   12 May 39   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Jun 39   pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Sep 39   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Seo 1939   p. 1.
Motion Picture Daily   19 Sep 39   p. 1, 18
Motion Picture Herald   23 Sep 39   p. 45, 48
New York Times   20 Oct 39   p. 27.
Variety   20 Sep 39   p. 15.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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