23 September 2007 | bkoganbing
I Like Them Fine, How About You?
Despite the fact the Busby Berkeley finale was a minstrel show, I like Babes on Broadway just fine. If you want to see Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland as a team at their peak, this isn't the film. But I like it fine anyway
Mickey is a member of a trio which also consists of Ray McDonald and Richard Quine singing for their supper at a one armed spaghetti joint owned by Luis Alberni. One of the three customers in the joint one night is Broadway girl Friday, Fay Bainter who loves the act and Mickey especially. She spends the rest of the film trying to get ulcer ridden producer James Gleason to hear him and the rest of the talent Rooney collects for that inevitable show he wants to put on.
Of course one of those talents is Judy Garland, another eager young hopeful and the musical highlight of the film is their singing the famous Vernon Duke song, How About You. It's not one of Berkeley's big production numbers, it's done with Mickey and Judy at a piano in her place, but their infectious enthusiasm will grab you immediately. How About You was later done in the fifties with a really fine arrangement by Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby in one of their joint albums.
The other highlight for me is the surreal number done when Judy and Mickey arrive at a long closed theater for their show and are transformed by the spirits of the performers of long ago who headlined in the place. What has to be remembered is that several of these people were actually still alive when Mickey and Judy are imitating them, people like George M. Cohan, Harry Lauder, Blanche Ring. Faye Templeton, Sarah Bernhardt, and Richard Mansfield were long dead or retired by then. Still people in the audience remembered them and Mickey and Judy's reverential treatment to these stage stars of long ago must have struck a chord in movie audiences we can't appreciate today.
The minstrel show finale of course isn't good, yet even that is salvaged somewhat by Judy's singing of Franklin D. Roosevelt Jones. She also recorded it for Decca and the number still plays well today. When Judy does it even in blackface, somehow instead of degrading, it comes out as a tribute, like Fred Astaire in blackface imitating Bill Robinson in Bojangles of Harlem.
My favorite of their joint projects has always been Girl Crazy, still Mickey and Judy are as alive and fresh in Babes on Broadway as ever and it's a great example of matchless chemistry and teamwork.