Sunday, July 8, 2012

Babes in Arms.

Last night I watched Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland's first musical together, Babes in Arms, again. I don't think I've ever written about their four musicals on here, so over the next week or two I'm going to.

In case you didn't know, Mickey and Judy made four musicals together (besides several other non-musical films), beginning in 1939 and ending in 1943. They are so stinkin' cute together. I love that these movies were the films that teenagers would have watched back then {infinitely better than modern-day teen flicks *ahem*}, that this is the couple that they would have swooned over and talked about.

All of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland's musicals have several things in common:
1. Slightly lacking, repetitive plots. Nearly every film can be summed up in "Let's put on a show!" :)
2. At least one over-the-top, extremely long and extravagant musical number, created by Busby Berkeley.
3. A big cast of children and teens, including a couple of interesting minor characters who play friends of Judy and Mickey.

So...Babes in Arms. Here's the basic plot of their first musical. Mickey (how convenient that Mickey Rooney played someone who shared his first name :) and Patsy (Judy Garland) are the children of formerly successful vaudeville stars. They live in a community full of former vaudeville stars and their children. But with the popularity of motion pictures, vaudeville is dying and the people in the community are struggling to pay their mortgages and grocery bills. Mickey's dad creates a sort-of reunion tour for his fellow vaudeville stars, and they head off (apparently leaving all of the children at home alone...what?). Mickey has had a bit of conflict with his dad because he (Mickey) insists that if they're going to bring back a vaudeville revival, they have to include new material instead of the same old acts. Upset that his dad wouldn't heed his advice, he decides to put on his own show with all of the neighborhood kids. Meanwhile, a local woman is sure that the children are being mistreated and neglected, being raised by vaudevillians, so she's trying to send them all off to a work school to learn a trade (gasp!) instead of relying on show business for income.

I really like Babes in Arms, though I think it is lacking the tiniest bit in a couple of ways, compared to the other films. First of all, this musical of the four probably has the most songs that I'm not too crazy about. It introduced "Good Morning," which is one of my favorite classic movie songs, so that's a good thing.

But I'll have to be honest here...I don't like opera-sounding music or operatic voices at all. I've tried, thinking that maybe they'll grow on me, but they never do. That's why I've never been able to really appreciate Kathryn Grayson and other classic film stars like that. Howard Keel is about as much as I can endure. :) And in this musical, the two major supporting teen characters are Mickey's sister and her fellow, and they both sing in an operatic style. I'm sorry- I like the song "Where or When," but not sung like that! I like the jazz vs. opera scene, which jokingly puts Patsy against Mickey's sister, and makes it even more clear to me that I will always prefer a jazzy/swingy style to opera.

And speaking of Mickey's sister and her guy...they're not the most interesting supporting characters. In the later musicals, there are some really amusing ones, but these two are rather dull. So those are the things I don't like (and mostly it's just a personal thing- not a reflection of the movie itself). But there are tons of good things about Babes in Arms. :)

Like the fact that the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) is also the villain in this movie. It was the second film that year in which she co-starred with Judy Garland and played the villain.

And what about Baby Rosalie, played by June Preisser? She's a wealthy former child actress who flirts with Mickey and squeezes her way into the lead part of his show. She's hilarious to watch and has some very creepy yet mesmerizing acrobatic/contortionist skills.

I love the kid adorable! And this film contains one of my favorite moments of the four musicals: Mickey Rooney's impersonations of Clark Gable and Lionel Barrymore. They are surprisingly accurate and very funny. :)

I also enjoy the slightly spoofy Roosevelt number towards the end. Another thing that several of the films have in common: very patriotic musical numbers.

Here's a bit of trivia about Babes in Arms:
-This musical was MGM's biggest money-maker in 1939, even grossing more that year than The Wizard of Oz!
-The Roosevelt scene was edited out after FDR died in 1945. It was thought to be lost for a long time, until it was rediscovered and added back into the film for the DVD release.
-Johnny Sheffield (aka, Tarzan's son and Bomba the jungle boy) was apparently in this film, though I didn't notice him when I watched! He would have been 8 years old at the time...I'm definitely going to keep an eye out next time. :)

{I felt like I needed to mention that there is a blackface minstrel number. These were common in 30s/40s musicals, though now they, of course, feel offensive. I am always against altering classic movies in any way- whether it's to edit them, convert them to color (or black and white, if they're in color), or to remove offensive content. They're a product of that time period and should be left alone. But I wanted to mention it because it can be rather shocking and unexpected when you first start watching old movies!}

Have you seen Babes in Arms?

Until next time,


  1. I haven't watched this movie in AGES! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Mickey and Judy were a terrific on-screen pairing!

  2. Thanks for shining the spotlight on these films. I just bought the 4-pack DVD set with the Mickey Rooney introductions. Can't wait to start watching them.


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