Babes on Swing Street

Screening on Film
Directed by Edward C. Lilley.
With Ann Blyth, Peggy Ryan, Marion Hutton.
US, 1944, 35mm, black & white, 69 min.
Print source: Universal

A spirited example of the B-musical, Universal’s Babes on Swing Street was an early vehicle for star-in-training Ann Blyth—as Carol Curtis—then only fifteen and at the very start of her career, just before her breakthrough role as Mildred Pierce’s venomous daughter. Babes on Swing Street takes delight in its threadbare musical numbers, staged as the bricolage inventions of a youth social club raising money for music conservatory scholarships by putting on a fundraising extravaganza in a convention hall surreptitiously borrowed from Carol’s wealthy but parsimonious aunt. Among the highlights are the film’s hilarious opening number by an aspiring hoofer simultaneously tap-dancing and shaving a customer at her father’s music-school-adjacent barber shop. With its college sweaters, trendy dances and proto-jive talk, the rarely screened film offers fascinating glimpses into WWII-era youth culture that anticipate Fifties Hollywood’s programmatic and often painful appeal to younger audiences.

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