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Noted columnist and radio personality Alexander Woollcott appeared as himself in a brief segment at the beginning of the film. The sequence is set at a broadcast of Woollcott's weekly radio program The Town Crier, in which he advises all aspiring performers to work hard and hold on to their dreams of becoming Broadway stars. The appearance marked Woollcott's first time onscreen since the 1935 film The Scoundrel (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.3926). According to Hollywood Reporter news items, Shirley Temple was originally cast in the role of "Barbara Jo," and Roy Del Ruth was scheduled to direct the film. The film would have marked Temple's first film at M-G-M, but instead she went into production on Kathleen (see below). News items include Jean Porter and The Peters Brothers in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. The film marked the motion picture debut of child actress Margaret O'Brien, who became one of M-G-M's most popular child stars of the 1940s.
Babes on Broadway was a very successful film that capitalized on the popularity of the teaming of stars Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, especially in such films as the 1939 Babes in Arms (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.0194). Babes on Broadway was one of several successful 1940s musicals which centered on a group of teenagers "putting on our own show." Several of the film's production numbers have been used in documentaries on film musicals of the 1940s, including the "Hoe Down" number and "Bombshell from Brazil/Mam yo quiero," in which Rooney impersonated popular Twentieth Century-Fox star Carmen Miranda. In another sequence of the film, in which the characters of "Tommy" and "Peggy" think about the past stars who played the Duchess Theater, Garland and Rooney impersonate several dramatic and musical stars of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, including Richard Mansfield, Fay Templeton, Sir Harry Lauder, Blanche Ring, Sarah Bernhardt and George M. Cohan. Songs heard briefly in that sequence include "I've Got Rings on My Fingers," "Mary," "Yankee Doodle Boy" and "She Is Ma Daisy." Burton Lane and Arthur Freed were nominated for an Academy Award for their song "How About You."