BABES ON BROADWAY
PRODUCTION NUMBER: 1204
PRODUCTION DATES: June 1941 – October 1941
PRODUCTION COST: $955,300.37
RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes
RELEASE DATE: Although most sources list the release date as December 31, 1941 (some list January 2, 1942), the film opened on December 30, 1941, in several cities in the U.S.
INITIAL BOX OFFICE: $3,859,000
Babes on Broadway is the third of the four “Let’s put on a show!” musicals starring Judy and Mickey Rooney. The huge success of the previous two (Babes in Arms in 1939 and Strike Up The Band in 1940) meant that a third similarly-themed musical co-starring the studio’s teen team would also be a hit. This time, instead of putting a show on in a barn or in the backyard, the kids graduated from their high school milieu and have made their way to New York, now representing the young aspiring actors who would flood into NYC every year, trying to make it big on the stage.
For Judy, Babes on Broadway was a bit of a step backward in regards to her career trajectory. She was beginning to make the usually difficult transition from child/teen star to adult star. Due to her incredible talents, it was obvious that she was on her way to becoming a successful adult actress/film star. Being stuck in yet another “kids” musical didn’t help matters. In spite of this, in Babes on Broadway Judy comes across as not a kid but a lovely young woman who is actually (by 1941 standards) very independent. Her character of Penny Morris is not just a sidekick to Mickey’s Tommy Williams character. She’s also not pining away over him romantically (most of the time). There’s no song of longing in this film as there were in Babes in Arms and Strike Up The Band. This is the first time in the series that Mickey’s character pursues Judy’s and not the other way around. After Babes on Broadway Judy went into For Me And My Gal which was her first truly adult role – and it was a hit. No more kid’s roles for Judy Garland!
Busby Berkeley was again the director and he put his unique stamp on the “Hoe Down” production number and the big finale sequence (in spite of its racist overtones) to great effect. Both are overflowing with energy and a polish that was lacking in most of the musicals of that era. He handled the more intimate dramatic scenes just as well. This ability to direct dramatic scenes and not just big dance numbers served him well in his and Judy’s next project, For Me And My Gal. Here, there’s no hint of the future incompatibility and animosity between him and Judy that would plague their future work together. In fact, the filming went well with everyone again at their best. Judy is especially charming while displaying a sense of confidence and maturity.
One could say that Babes on Broadway is a kind of “transition film” in the “Let’s put on a show!” series. Some of the musical numbers and dramatics hark back to the previous two films, especially the “Hoe Down” and “Finale Sequence” numbers. But it also looks forward to the more adult Girl Crazy (the last in the series) in its mature romance between Judy and Mickey that is definitely more than just puppy love.
“How About You?” became one of the all-time great standards, covered by a wide variety of singers and bands and popping up in random movies over the years as background scoring or more often than not, being played on a piano in the background of a party scene. As Mickey Rooney noted years later, he and Judy had the pleasure of introducing some of the best songs ever written.
Babes on Broadway was another huge hit. The duo of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney had become MGM’s most successful screen team to date. The previously (and mostly) untapped teen market flocked to see their favorite duo sing and dance as only they could. There would be one more in the series, 1943’s Girl Crazy, that completed the cycle. By the time Girl Crazy was completed, producer Arthur Freed said, “No more kids pictures!” His Freed Unit of movie musicals, having cut their teeth on these “kids musicals” and some adaptations of Broadway musicals, was poised to enter into a golden age of MGM musicals.
TIMELINE PART ONE:
TIMELINE PART TWO:
Mickey Rooney as Tommy Williams
Judy Garland as Penny Morris
Fay Bainter as Miss Jones (“Jonesy”)
Virginia Weidler as Barbara Jo Conway
Ray McDonald as Ray Lambert
Richard Quine as Morton Hammond (“Hammy”)
Donald Meek as Mr. Stone
Alexander Woollcott as Himself
Luis Alberni as Nick
James Gleason as Thornton Reed
Emma Dunn as Mrs. Williams
Frederick Burton as Mr. Morris
Cliff Clark as Inspector Moriarity
William Post, Jr. as Announcer
Annie Rooney as third girl opposite Hammy – uncredited
Donna Reed as (debut) Jonesy’s Secretary
Joe Yule (Mickey Rooney’s real-life father) as Mason, Reed’s Aid
Margaret O’Brien as (debut) Child Auditioner
Carl Stockdale as Man
Dick Baron as Butch
Will Lee as Waiter
Stop, Look and Listen Trio as Themselves
Tom Hanlon as Radio Man
Renee Austin as Elinor
Roger Steele as Boy
Bryant Washburn as Director
Charles Wagenheim as Composer
Arthur Hoyt as Little Man Customer
Jack Lipson as Fat Man Customer
Dorothy Morris, Maxine Flores as Pit Astor Girls
Sidney Miller as Pianist
King Baggott as Man in Audience
Barbara Bedford as Matron
Shimen Ruskin as Excited Russian
Jean Porter as “Hoe Down” Dancer
Leslie Brooks as Actress-Committee Extra
The Peters Brothers – specialty dance (outtake)
Vocals provided by:
Allegedly a young Ava Gardner and Roger Moore have bit parts in the film.
Critic and columnist Alexander Woollcott has a cameo as himself at the beginning of the film.
Produced by: Arthur Freed
Directed by: Busby Berkeley
Screenplay by: Fred Finklehoffe and Elaine Ryan
Original Story by: Fred Finklehoffe
Songs by: E. Y. Harburg, Burton Lane, Ralph Freed, Roger Edens, Harold J. Rome
Musical Adaptation: Roger Edens
Musical Direction: Georgie Stoll
Vocals and Orchestrations: Leo Arnaud, George Bassman, Conrad Salinger
Art Director: Cedric Gibbons
Associate: Malcolm Brown
Set Decorations: Edwin B. Willis
Musical Presentation: Merrill Pye
Gowns by: Kalloch
Men’s Wardrobe by: Gile Steele
Make-Up Created by: Jack Dawn
Recording Director: Douglas Shearer
Director of Photography: Lester White
Film Editor: Fredrick Y. Smith
Babes on Broadway
(MGM Studio Chorus)
Anything Can Happen in New York
(Mickey Rooney, Ray McDonald and Richard Quine)
How About You?
(Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney)
(Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Six Hits and a Miss, The Five Musical Maids, MGM Studio Chorus)
Chin Up! Cheerio! Carry On!
(Judy Garland, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Choristers, MGM Studio Chorus)
Ghost Theater Sequence:
(background vocals by The Stafford Quartet, The Debutantes, The Notables and The Uptowners)
Bombshell from Brazil
(Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Richard Quine, Ray McDonald, Virginia Weidler, Annie Rooney, Robert Bradford, and the MGM Studio Chorus)
Mama, Yo Quiero
(Mickey Rooney and the MGM Studio Chorus)
Minstrel Show Sequence:
The Convict’s Return
(non-musical sketch by Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney)
The Man I Love
(piano solo by Roger Edens)
(dance by The Peters Brothers)
This “Air Trailer” features the Babes on Broadway edition of MGM’s “Leo Is On The Air” audio trailers. These were sent to radio stations to air beginning on specific dates (note the “For Release” date of December 15, 1941). Many times these air trailers included clips of songs that were ultimately deleted or shortened in the final prints of the films.
Listen to the complete air trailer here:
Soundtrack albums of songs as recorded for films were still several years away. Instead, movie musical stars like Judy recorded studio versions of some of the songs from their films. In the case of Babes on Broadway, Judy recorded both “F.D.R. Jones” and “How About You?” for Decca Records.
Check out The Judy Garland Online Discography’s Decca Records Pages here.
Listen to “F.D.R. Jones” here:
Listen to “How About You?” here: