Busby Berkeley’s “Babes in Arms,” the third teaming of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, following “Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry (1937) and “Love Finds Andy Hardy” (1938), is the one that put them on the map, after which they became as popular a team as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers or Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler.
The plot, as usual, is flimsy, sort of an excuse for the song and dance numbers, though “Babes in Arms” has a stronger story, based as it is on the stage musical of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. In this one, Garland and Rooney play the children of vaudevillian performers, who decide to put on a show.
Babes in Arms” is the first production of Arthur Freed, who would establish the Freed Unit within MGM, producing some of the best musicals of the 1940s and 1950s, directed by Vincente Minnelli (“Meet Me in St. Louis,” “The Band Wagon”) and others
As was the norm then, there are new songs (by Freed and others), which were not in the original production, and vice versa.
Among the popular tunes in the picture are: “The Lady Is a Tramp,” by Rodgers and Hart, “Good Morning” and “You Are My Lucky Star,” by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown.”
Oscar Nominations: 2
Actor: Mickey Rooney
Score: Roger Edens and George E. Stoll
Oscar awards: None
The winner of the 1939 Best Actor was surprisingly Robert Donat for “Goodbye, Mr. Chips”; Clark Gable was expected to win for “Gone With the Wind.”
The Score Oscar went to a Western, John Ford’s “Stagecoach,” which made John Wayne a star, music by Richard Hageman, Frank Harling, John Leipold, and Leo Shuken
Mickey Rooney was nominated before for an Oscar and would be nominated again in the future, but would never win a legit award, only an Honorary Oscar.