Classic Movie Watchlist 2018

Classic Movie Of The Week: Babes In Arms (1939)

Starring: Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Charles Winninger

Director: Busby Berkeley

A troupe of performers are struggling to make ends meet with the advent of sound in films. They decide to take their show in the road, but upset at being left behind, their children all get together and come up with a show of their own to show that they too have what it takes. And in the process, maybe they can raise enough money to save their parents. 

This film was such a success that it spawned a few more, where the “babes” Garland and Rooney were teamed up with director Busby Berkleley again, with a similar plot line. It’s a very cute, frothy film, with song numbers and a sequence where the children all march to the title song, but it hides the truth that the 30’s was the Great Depression. It must have been one of the heartening distractions of it’s era. It does raise the stakes however by letting us know that if the kids can’t pull of a great show, they will end up in a state work school. (The villain is Margaret Hamilton who also played the Wicked Witch). 

What might be less obvious to modern audiences is that the film is showing us that the work that the parents do, like vaudeville and other acts, were now dated and on their way out, while the kids know what the audiences want, though their parents can’t see it. It’s about the end of one kind of entertainment and the advent of the new. 

It’s a really charming film, one where Garland and Rooney were still playing child stars, and are surrounded by other alumni of the MGM school. There are some sparkling scenes and great songs. Personally, I’m not a huge musical fan, but I did really like seeing Garland and Rooney turn in great lead performances. 

See It If: you like musicals and cute kids. It’s got great songs and a classic pairing in the lead roles. 

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