Mickey Moran (Mickey Rooney) and Patsy Barton (Judy Garland) are aspiring entertainers and the children of vaudeville performers. Vaudeville is losing its popularity due to the success of the movie business, and Mickey and Patsys parents are struggling to revitalize its popularity. After deciding to produce their own show in a bid to reach their dreams of stage stardom, the young couple runs into problems, including Mickeys jealous girlfriend and the threat of being sent to a work camp.
Babes in Arms is the 1939 American film version of the 1937 Broadway musical of the same name. The film version stars Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Charles Winninger, Guy Kibbee, June Preisser, Grace Hayes and Betty Jaynes.
Mickey Moran, son of two vaudeville veterans, decide to put up his own vaudeville show with his girlfriend Patsy Barton. But child actress Rosalie wants to make a comeback and replace Patsy both professionally and as Mickey's girl.
In 1921 vaudeville performer Joe Moran (Charles Winninger) announces the birth of a son; but after the advent of talking pictures in 1928, vaudeville fails. His son Mickey Moran (Mickey Rooney) writes songs, and Patsy Barton (Judy 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 (Betty 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 son Jeff Steele (Rand Brooks) from military school complain to Judge Black (Guy Kibbee) about the Vaudeville kids, but he wont take them from their homes. In a drugstore Mickey and Patsy meet movie star Baby Rosalie Essex (June Preisser), but Mickey gets in a fight with Jeff. Mickey tells Judge Black that his parents show flopped. The judge gives Mickey thirty 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. Baby shows how limber she is. 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. Patsys mother tells Patsy not to quit her show.
Babys 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 black face and sing a medley with Don. Patsy sings "Im 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 hidden Mickey listens, Maddox asks bitter Joe to teach the youngsters in the show. Mickey introduces the show by singing "Gods Country," which the company contrasts to fascism. Mickey and Patsy satirize FDR and Eleanor and dance.
Cast notes:Cliff Edwards appears in a clip from The Hollywood Revue of 1929 of the song Singin in the Rain
Vaudevillian Charles King appears in a clip from The Broadway Melody
The movie was written by Jack McGowan, Kay Van Riper and Annalee Whitmore (uncredited). It was directed by Busby Berkeley — the first film directed in its entirety at M-G-M by the noted choreographer — and produced by Arthur Freed.
The original Broadway script was revamped to accommodate Hollywood standards. It concerns a group of youngsters trying to put on a show to prove their vaudevillian parents wrong and make it to Broadway. Most of the Rodgers and Hart songs were cut, except for the title tune, "The Lady Is a Tramp" (used as background music during a dinner scene), and "Where or When". Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown wrote a new song for the film, "Good Morning" (later made famous in Singin in the Rain). "Gods 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 1948 Rodgers and Hart biopic Words and Music. Garland also sang "Johnny One Note" in the same picture.
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 Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt; this was edited from the film after FDRs death. It was thought to be lost, but was discovered on a 16 millimeter reel and restored in the 1990s.
Musical numbers were recorded in stereophonic sound but released to theaters with conventional monaural sound. Recent home video releases feature some of the original stereo recordings.
The film premiered on October 13, 1939.
The film was one of the ten 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.
It was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Mickey Rooney, who was 19 at the time) and Best Music, Scoring by Roger Edens and Georgie Stoll.
Babes in Arms was released on VHS tape in 1992.. It was released on DVD for the first time as part of Warner Bros. 5-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.