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Babes in Toyland (1954)

Wally Cox , Barbara Cook  |  NR |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Wally Cox, Barbara Cook, Jo Sullivan, Dennis Day, Dave Garroway
  • Format: Black & White, Classical, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Video Artists Int'l
  • DVD Release Date: December 4, 2012
  • Run Time: 152 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00A73AON8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,704 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
First, to clear up some potential confusion: the reviews here by Dean Richards and R.C. Walker are about the 2007 release by a company called Jef Films, which was what we call a "pirated" version of the 1954 BABES IN TOYLAND telecast. What is being offered here, on the other hand, is a properly licensed, authorized DVD release by Video Artists International (VAI) which includes not just the 1954 live telecast of BABES IN TOYLAND, but also the 1955 telecast. (In the days before videotape, re-runs were a technical challenge, so if a program was particularly successful, a repeat performance would be scheduled - which also was telecast live.)

So, VAI is now releasing both of the Max Liebman productions of BABES IN TOYLAND on a single DVD. The first was telecast Dec. 18, 1954, the second on Dec. 24, 1955. Both feature Dave Garroway as Santa (as part of a framing device), "special guest" Wally Cox as the toy-maker Grumio, Jack E. Leonard as Silas Barnaby, and the always-delightful Dennis Day as Tommy Tucker. The main cast change from 1954 to 1955 was the actress playing the part of Tommy Tucker's love interest, Jane Piper. In 1954, the role was taken by Jo Sullivan; in 1955, it was Barbara Cook. Both telecasts are delightful souvenirs of these legendary performers fairly early in their careers.

Nearly stealing the show from the humans are the Bil and Cora Baird Marionettes, which surely provided inspiration for Jim Henson and his Muppets. Their big numbers - like the scene in Grumio's toy workshop and the "Dance of the Woodland Creatures" in the forest scene - reward repeated viewings.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Until this year, I had no idea there was a live musical spectacular based on Babes in Toyland on NBC in 1954 and 1955, but this year, it showed up on DVD from the same folks who gave us the treasure of The Stingiest Man In Town on DVD last year.

This production, produced and directed by Your Show of Shows' Max Leibman, was co-written by Neil Simon not long after the young scribe was in the Show of Shows writers room. It was likely to be a very big event for TV viewers in '54 and '55, as it starred the Today Show host Dave Garroway as a department store Santa who narrates the story, as well as Wally Cox as toymaker Grumio (a character from the original 1903 script). Cox was starring in Mr. Peepers at the time.

Dennis Day, best known as Jack Benny's confused tenor, is perfect as Tom (Tucker this time, not Piper). Ellen Barrie and the legendary Broadway/cabaret performer Barbara Cook play Joan, in the '54 and '55 broadcasts, respectively. Jack E. Leonard plays villainous Barnaby to the hilt in the most wisecracking, sardonic version of the character to date (likely benefitting from the comedy material supplied by Simon, William Friedberg and Fred Saidy (the latter the co-ilbrettist for Finian's Rainbow).

Musically, many of the Victor Herbert/Glen McDonough songs are intact, including "Toyland," "March of the Toys," "I Can't Do the Sum," "Hail to Christmas" and the rarely-heard "Barney O'Flynn" (as if tailor made for Dennis Day) There are several instrumental melodies throughout, particularly during two lengthy clown performances that put one in the mind of "Circus Day" on the Mickey Mouse Club. Irwin Kostal did the orchestrations, with such landmarks as West Side Story, Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music ahead of him.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Max Liebman's Babes in Toyland January 17, 2014
By Jared
Verified Purchase
Back in the early days of television, there were few pre-recorded programs. So, when Oldsmobile sponsored Max Liebman's television adaptation of Babes in Toyland in 1954, it was actually performed live. Luckily for future generations, a kinescope recording was made. (A 1950 television adaptation of Toyland is now lost to time because of no recording being made or preserved.) Featuring quite a lot of Victor Herbert's music and Bil Baird's marionettes, the performance delighted audiences so much that the production was re-mounted in 1955.

The story begins with a little girl (Ellen Barrie) lost in a department store (an establishing shot of the store uses the song "Hail to Christmas") and asking the Santa Claus (Dave Garroway) there for help. Although he's tired, he calls the little girl's mother and reads her a story while waiting for the girl's mother to arrive. Of course, the book selected is Babes in Toyland.

The Toyland scenes opens with a lengthy musical sequence ("Toyland" and instrumentals of "Don't Cry, Bo Peep," "I Can't Do The Sum," "Floretta" and other pieces) celebrating the engagement of Tom Tucker (Dennis Day) and Jane Piper (Jo Sullivan in 1954, Barbara Cook in 1955). Silas Barnaby (Jack E. Leonard) disapproves and tries to convince Jane to marry him instead. When she refuses, he fires Tom from his job at the toy factory. Jane doesn't mind, saying that even as paupers, they'll still love each other.

Shortly, Jane helps her younger siblings Ann (Karin Wolfe) and Peter (Edward Brian in 1954, Dickie Belton in 1955) with their homework, resulting in a performance of "I Can't Do The Sum." Tom arrives and promises Jane a "Castle in Spain.
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