28 user 19 critic

Strike Up the Band (1940)

2:49 | Trailer
Jimmy Connors and his girl-friend want to take part in Paul Whiteman's high-school bands contest, but they cannot afford the fare. But per chance they meet Paul Whiteman in person and are ... See full summary »


Busby Berkeley


John Monks Jr. (screen play), Fred F. Finklehoffe (screen play) (as Fred Finklehoffe)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Mickey Rooney ... Jimmy Connors
Judy Garland ... Mary Holden
Paul Whiteman and Orchestra Paul Whiteman and Orchestra ... Performers
June Preisser ... Barbara Frances Morgan
William Tracy ... Phillip Turner
Larry Nunn ... Willie Brewster
Paul Whiteman ... Paul Whiteman
Margaret Early ... Annie
Ann Shoemaker ... Mrs. Connors
Francis Pierlot Francis Pierlot ... Mr. Judd
Virginia Brissac ... Mrs. May Holden
George Lessey ... Mr. Morgan
Enid Bennett ... Mrs. Morgan
Howard Hickman ... Doctor
Sarah Edwards Sarah Edwards ... Miss Hodges


Jimmy Connors and his girl-friend want to take part in Paul Whiteman's high-school bands contest, but they cannot afford the fare. But per chance they meet Paul Whiteman in person and are able to convince him that their band is good enough, so he lends them the money. But then one of their friends becomes seriously ill and has to be carried to a hospital by plane, and they have to use Whiteman's money for this. Written by Stephan Eichenberg <eichenbe@fak-cbg.tu-muenchen.de>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Melodious with WHITEMAN'S BAND See more »


Passed | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


The puppet orchestra made of fruit that comes to life playing instruments for Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland on a kitchen table, was the work of animator George Pal. He had just arrived in Hollywood from Europe via New York and this was among his first projects. Pal's work was relatively unknown by American audiences, thus he was uncredited. The idea for the sequence was that of another New York-to-Hollywood transfer: Vincente Minnelli. See more »


As Jimmy sets up his fruit orchestra, the third pineapple (string bass) he places falls over. As he finishes conducting and the camera pulls back, we see the fallen pineapple standing up perfectly. See more »


Paul Whiteman: Take that boy on the street. Teach him to blow a horn and he'll never blow a safe.
See more »


Featured in MGM Parade: Episode #1.24 (1956) See more »


Sidewalks of New York
(1894) (uncredited)
Music by Charles Lawlor
A few notes played at the start of the 'Nell of New Rochelle' sequence
See more »

User Reviews

Let the music play
15 February 2017 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

Being a huge lifelong fan of Judy Garland, with a voice that you can listen to for hours and tire of, and who likes her paired with Mickey Rooney (a multi-talented performer with a tendency to overdo it), 'Strike Up the Band' was definitely something that couldn't be missed.

To me, 'Strike Up the Band' is the second best of their four "backyard" musicals. Their best being 'Girl Crazy', the best paced of the four and with the best songs and choreography, even if the story is not as good as the rest of the film. Faring weakest is 'Babes on Broadway' ('Babes in Arms' was a slightly better film regardless of its bowdlerisation of the source material), that film gets a lot right still but is too sentimental, contrived and corny in places with some out of place patriotism and a sour-taste-in-the-mouth finale. All four are worth watching though, and all four are well above average films.

'Strike Up the Band' is not perfect either, its Achilles heel being the far too corny, melodramatic and ponderous middle third (a shame because the film is actually very well paced for most of it and then drags badly in the non-musical moments of the middle third). The dialogue warms the heart and moves sometimes but the silly corniness of some of it is cringe-worthy.

Lastly while the cast are mostly splendid, there is one exception and that is the terribly annoying June Preisser (just as much as in 'Babes in Arms'), enviously athletic dancing is not enough for an obnoxious character played far too broadly to unbearable degrees.

However, even when not in Technicolor, 'Strike Up the Band' 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) 'Strike Up the Band' fares significantly better. The songs are great, not as great as the scores for 'Girl Crazy' and 'Babes in Arms' but almost. The three best songs being the plaintive "Our Love Affair", the exuberant "Drummer Boy" and the barn-storming "Do the La Conga".

Busby Berkeley's direction and how he stages the songs are not quite as imaginative, witty or dazzling as some of his other films, but it doesn't come over heavy-handedly and it has charm, tenderness and energy, particularly in the aforementioned three songs. Unlike 'Babes on Broadway', sentimentality is avoided thankfully and is replaced by a lot of entertainment and heart-warming. The story is unexceptional but is full of energy, fun, heart and charm, palling only in the non-musical moments of the middle third.

Rooney and Garland make 'Strike Up the Band' especially worth seeing, they are both on top form and their chemistry irresistible. From personal opinion, of the four Rooney-Garland "back-yard" musicals (despite 'Babes in Arms' being the one to get the Oscar nomination) this contains Rooney's best performance of the four, his role really plays to his strengths and even stretches him in showing more talents that one never knew he had (i.e. didn't know he could play the drum so well). Garland is as ever radiant and deeply touching, "Our Love Affair" being one of the most poignant renditions of any song in a film she starred in (very near the top too, and the list is long). Paul Whiteman, not the "King of Jazz" for nothing, contributes hugely to the film's appeal too.

Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable film, a must for Garland fans and a must for anybody wanting to see what the fuss is about with her and Rooney together. 7/10 Bethany Cox

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Release Date:

27 September 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Armonías de juventud See more »


Box Office


$838,661 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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