Babes on Broadway (1941)

Approved   |    |  Comedy, Musical, Romance

Babes on Broadway (1941) Poster

Tommy Williams desperately wants to get to Broadway, but as he is only singing in a spaghetti house for tips he is a long way off. He meets Penny Morris, herself no mean singer, and through... See full summary »

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  • Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in Babes on Broadway (1941)
  • Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in Babes on Broadway (1941)
  • Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in Babes on Broadway (1941)
  • Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in Babes on Broadway (1941)
  • Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Ray McDonald, Richard Quine, Virginia Weidler, and Jeanie Dunn in Babes on Broadway (1941)
  • Mickey Rooney in Babes on Broadway (1941)

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Reviews & Commentary

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User Reviews

21 May 2012 | Lechuguilla
| A Product Of Its Time
Unfairly maligned by viewers with little or no knowledge of history, "Babes On Broadway" is a reasonably good film that, more than anything else, speaks to us from across the years. It tells us a lot about America in 1941.

Several talented young people, just starting out, try to make it big on Broadway. That's the story premise. The script presents a thin, superficial plot. Dialogue lacks significant subtext. But, of course, the plot's real purpose is to create continuity in a film meant to showcase the musical talents of its two big stars: Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. They, along with a large cast, sing and dance in various musical productions, some good, some not so good.

Which leads to my main criticism of this film: the editing. With a thin plot and a runtime of two hours, large chunks could have been chopped out. I have no idea why they included a Beethoven piano performance by a child prodigy; it has no connection to anything. Similarly, the "Hoe Down" musical segment is arguably weak. And, though I commend the producers for acknowledging Great Britain's War efforts, devoted plot elements are thematically irrelevant and overly long.

On the other hand, the best sequence in the film is its grand musical finale, a tribute to the American South. This segment provides a nice contrast to New York's Broadway allure. Dialogue here refers to an "old-fashioned" minstrel show. Most of the songs are from decades earlier. Musical lyrics include the wording "And boy that Southern cooking is okay". Clearly, the intent is to salute the South. So putting performers in black face is entirely appropriate within the well-defined historical context.

Performances are fine. Judy Garland shines. Fay Bainter, ideally cast as a theatrical agent, also gives a good performance. At various points Ray McDonald excels as a tap dancer; he's almost in the same league as Fred Astaire. And impersonating "Brazil bombshell" Carmen Miranda, Mickey Rooney is funny in drag, wearing platform shoes, tawdry women's jewelry, and a flamboyant hat as he sings Miranda's signature song "Mamae Eu Quero". Throughout the film Rooney exudes confidence, energy, and a highly animated persona.

The film's sets and costumes, dialogue about tough times, as well as the selected music and the big accent on tap dancing, combine to give viewers a pretty good feel for American pop culture in the early 1940s. It's by no means a perfect film. But it's worth watching, mostly for nostalgia, as representative of an era that is gone forever.

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Did You Know?


A third "Babes" picture for Garland and Rooney, director Busby Berkeley, and producer Arthur Freed entitled 'Babes in Hollywood' was shelved after Freed decided to produce the long awaited Girl Crazy (1943) instead and give Garland a leading lady role in For Me and My Gal (1942). 'Babes in Hollywood' was intended to be an update of "Merton of the Movies", filmed in Technicolor with cameo appearances by MGM's stable of stars. 'Harry Warren' and Leo Robin were hired to compose the score (which then included "A Journey to a Star", "Polka Dot Polka", and "No Love No Nothin") with additional songs by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. Sid Silvers was hired to write the script, which never got past a first draft. After the project was shelved, 20th Century Fox hired Berkeley, Warren, and Robin for The Gang's All Here (1943). The songwriters used their songs written for the scrapped film at MGM and Berkeley's elaborate "Polka Dot Polka" finale with neon hula-hoops (originally meant for 'Babes in Hollywood') was staged with all-out abandon.


Maxine, Little Girl at Audition: Please wait don't send my brother to the chair, don't let him burn, please please warden please


During the "Hoe Down" number, both Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland's voices are heard singing, but Judy is not singing the words.

Alternate Versions

Some older television prints of the film delete the minstrel show finale.


The Yankee Doodle Boy
(1904) (uncredited)
Written by
George M. Cohan
Sung by Mickey Rooney imitating George M. Cohan


Plot Summary


Comedy | Musical | Romance

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