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Babes on Broadway (1941)

Approved | | Comedy, Musical, Romance | January 1942 (USA)
2:30 | Trailer
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 »


Busby Berkeley


Fred F. Finklehoffe (original story) (as Fred Finklehoffe), Fred F. Finklehoffe (screen play) (as Fred Finklehoffe) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Mickey Rooney ... Tommy Williams
Judy Garland ... Penny Morris
Fay Bainter ... Miss Jones
Virginia Weidler ... Barbara Jo
Ray McDonald ... Ray Lambert
Richard Quine ... Morton Hammond
Donald Meek ... Mr. Stone
Alexander Woollcott Alexander Woollcott ... Alexander Woollcott
Luis Alberni ... Nick
James Gleason ... Thornton Reed
Emma Dunn ... Mrs. Williams
Frederick Burton ... Mr. Morris
Cliff Clark ... Inspector Moriarity
William Post Jr. ... Announcer
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Carl Stockdale ... Man (scenes deleted)


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 her gets the idea to promote a show to send orphaned children on a country holiday. But he is only using the kids to get on himself, which Penny soon realises. With his romance off, an engagement in Philadelphia he can't get to, and, indeed, war in Europe, life can be difficult. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Show That's Out Of This World See more »


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

January 1942 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Débuts à Broadway See more »


Box Office


$940,068 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


A comedy sequence featuring Garland and Rooney, "The Convict's Return" was filmed but deleted before release. The sketch was originally performed in the 1939 Broadway revue The Streets of Paris by Bobby Clark and Luella Gear. See more »


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


Miss 'Jonesy' Jones: Every actor in New York will love you!
Thornton Reed, Theatrical Producer: I don't want every actor in New York to love me! I want my wife to love me!
See more »

Alternate Versions

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


Featured in Hollywood Singing and Dancing: A Musical History (2008) See more »


Romance No.2 in G Major, Op.40
Music by Ludwig van Beethoven
Played on piano by a very young unidentified male prodigy
See more »

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User Reviews

Judy and Mickey are delightful in uneven film
15 February 2017 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

While Mickey Rooney did tend to overact throughout his career and not all his jokes worked, one cannot deny he was multi-talented and that his chemistry with Judy Garland (have always been a big fan of her) was unmatched. This is true in 'Babes on Broadway'.

'Babes on Broadway' is my least favourite of their musicals ('Babes in Arms' had its problems but was a little better as an overall film regardless of its bowdlerised treatment of the musical), but Garland and Rooney and their chemistry are what saves the film. It works well as a musical, but fares problematically as an overall film, one can totally see the appeal but there are definitely understandable reasons as to why it won't click with others.

The story is very contrived and the sentimentality and corniness went well overboard in places. Was willing to forgive that it was structurally thin, the contrivances and problematic tone less so. There is some wartime patriotism which feels both out of place (tonally it feels odd with the rest of the film) and heavy-handed, and some of the editing is on the bloated side, some of it not serving much relevance to the story.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest criticism that 'Babes on Broadway' has gotten is regarding the "black-face" finale. Some of the criticism here has been over-the-top and I have seen plenty of classic period musicals to know that black-face routines were common at the time (it's very like being familiar with racial stereotypes in cartoons), still doesn't stop me not particularly caring for them. Wasn't offended as such here, but the finale did come over as overblown, rather tasteless and it has aged badly (even when judging it by 1941 standards and not by 2017 standards).

However, even when not in Technicolor, 'Babes on Broadway' still looks lovely in crisp black and white and with elegant production design. As said, on the musical front (production values, songs, vocal performance, arrangements, choreography and dancing) 'Babes on Broadway' fares significantly better. The songs are very pleasant and lively, "How Are You", "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" and "Hoe Down" faring best, "Chin Up, Cheerio" is enthusiastically performed but a bit patronising. The choreography mostly has energy and tenderness, really appreciated "Hoe Down's" intricacy.

Of the humour, Rooney's hilarious and pretty amazing impression of Carmen Miranda is a big standout. Garland does well too with her imitation of Sarah Bernhardt. Some nice fun wit and charm in the script, and Berkeley directs more than competently. 'Babes on Broadway' more often than not has a lot of energy and charm.

Fay Bainter, James Gleason and Donald Meek are very good in their roles (then again they could phone in a performance and still be good), and Margaret O'Brien is adorable in a short pre-fame appearance. Ray McDonald's dancing is pretty incredible. At the end of the day though it is Rooney and Garland that make 'Babes on Broadway' worth watching. Rooney clearly has fun, even if he does overdo it at times, while Garland, on radiant and touching form, is even better. Their chemistry is wonderful.

Overall, uneven film but Rooney and Garland delight hugely. 6/10 Bethany Cox

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