Sunday, February 28, 2010

121. Babes in Arms (1939)

Running Time: 93 minutes
Directed By: Busby Berkeley
Written By: Jack McGowan, Kay Van Riper
Main Cast: Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Charles Winninger, Guy Kibbee, June Preisser

"THEY CALL US BABES IN ARMS/BUT WE ARE BABES IN ARMOR!"

Yet another Busby Berkeley musical comes up for viewing in the '1001' book, but instead of just choreographing the numbers, this time Berkeley directs, in a film that I didn't find half as good as his previous pictures, the ones that he didn't direct.

When the days of vaudeville and stage shows is reaching it's bitter end and being replaced by talking pictures, this film zooms in on one families struggle to accept the fact that those days are over. The family are the Morans, headed up by the patriarch and famous vaudeville performer, Joe Moran. Joe is married and has two children, Mickey (Rooney) and Molly, two kids who dream of following in their father's footsteps and who want nothing more than to shine on the stage. They're both teenagers, and Mickey actually tastes a bit of success when he sells one of the many songs he's written. This inspires Mickey to make it even more, and when he finds out that the parents of all the kids in town are taking their vaudeville performance out for one last burst of life, Mickey and all the kids are disappointed that they won't be joining in. Mickey tries to persuade his father that all of the kids have got real talent, but to no avail, as the father wants no part of it.

This inspires Mickey even more and when the parents leave for New York, the kids band together and decide to put on a show, so that they can show their parents what they're made of and pull them out of debt in the process. The show is staged with Mickey, his friend/girlfriend Patsy, his sister Molly and another boy Don, as the leads. However, the cast lineup changes when famous child actor, Baby Rosalie enters the picture and decides that she'll put up the money they need to secure the location, sets, etc., as long as she gets to be in the lead. Meanwhile, the whole time, Martha, the town biddy, is trying her best to get the judge to send all the children to a state work school, since the parents are obviously clinging to dreams of stardom, instead of taking care of their responsibilities at home.

The plot is a bit fast, with a whole lot of information and plot points being chucked out and having it chucked out by children, for that matter. I just wasn't able to suspend my imagination enough to take all of this grown up behavior from these teenage kids. The kids go through the picture, caught up in love triangles, fighting it out in court, smoking cigars, going on dinner dates and all with the burden of taking care of their parents financial responsibilities, or trying to anyway. It just wasn't believable for me. Although Mickey Rooney was amazing in this, his performance was full of energy and I don't know if he was just naturally like that, or if they filled the kid full of caffeine before shooting. The character of Mickey and maybe even Patsy, we're believable for me, but the rest was just too much of a stretch for me to go along with. Even the musical numbers, as good as they were, fell a little bit flat, for Berkeley's standards. I was expecting grand numbers, like I saw in "42nd Street", "Gold Diggers of 1933" and "Footlight Parade", but instead the best I got was a silly black face routine and an average rendition of "Where or When".

RATING: 5/10 Mickey Rooney was the life of the party here and his portrayal of Mickey Moran was enough to get this picture to the halfway mark.

NEXT UP: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington...Jimmy Stewart has arrived! My favorite classic actor of all-time (well before I started the book anyway) steps up to bat with his first film from the '1001' book. I'll be back later with the review for this one.

February 28, 2010 4:52pm

2 comments:

  1. Although Mickey Rooney was amazing in this, his performance was full of energy and I don't know if he was just naturally like that, or if they filled the kid full of caffeine before shooting.

    Ha. Too bad you didn't like it. With all Micky-Judy movies, I wonder why the 1001 guys chose that one. I think some others are better.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah I wouldn't doubt that there are better ones. Rooney and Garland were likeable enough, it was just the film itself was something I couldn't get all that into.

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