Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 19, 2017


BABES IN ARMS (1939). Director: Busby Berkeley.

When some old vaudevillians leave town to go on tour, their children decide to put on their own show.  That's the plot of this okay Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland "let's put on a show" musical. This is based on a Rodgers and Hart stage musical, but the only songs by the team that are left are the title tune and "Where or When?," which I believe was from another show. ("The Lady is a Tramp" from Pal Joey plays in the background of one scene.) As usual, some of the "kids" in this are a bit too old, such as Douglas McPhail and real-life wife Betty Jaynes, both of whom have beautiful semi-operatic voices (they do "Where or When?"). Mickey and Judy are in splendid form, of course, and we see footage of Rooney when he was a small boy performing in vaudeville. Of the older cast, which includes Guy Kibbee,  Margaret Hamilton, Henry Hull and Ann Shoemaker, Charles Winninger [Three Smart Girls] is a stand-out as Mickey's father, Joe Moran. Johnny Sheffield of Bomba fame also has a small role. Judy sings "I Cried for You," Mickey does an excellent impression of Gable, and there's a memorable finale in "God's Country." McPhail had hoped to have a career along the lines of Nelson Eddy, but when it didn't materialize and he and Jaynes got divorced, the poor guy took his own life at age thirty.

Verdict: Not the best Mickey-Judy musical but fun enough. **1/2.


angelman66 said...

I own this movie as a part of my Garland/Rooney collection, and this one is pretty solid if not the best (they are all pretty damned good!!). Busby Berkeley really brought the charisma out of both these talented kids. I have heard he was a monster, and personally tortured, but a talented director of musicals. Love his early 1930s work, too, with all those kaleidoscopic visions of beautiful girls!

William said...

Yeah, Busby started that whole bit with the girls shot from overhead, didn't he? He did some amazing stuff. Garland and Rooney graced every musical they were in.