For faster navigation, this Iframe is preloading the Wikiwand page for Little Nellie Kelly.

Little Nellie Kelly

Little Nellie Kelly
Poster - Little Nellie Kelly 03.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed byNorman Taurog
Screenplay byJack McGowan
Based onLittle Nellie Kelly
1922 musical
by George M. Cohan
Produced byArthur Freed
StarringJudy Garland
George Murphy
CinematographyRay June
Edited byFredrick Y. Smith
Music byRoger Edens
William Axt
Distributed byLoew's, Inc.
Release date
  • November 22, 1940 (1940-11-22)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,046,000[1]
Lobby card
Lobby card

Little Nellie Kelly is a 1940 American musical-comedy film based on the stage musical of the same title by George M. Cohan which was a hit on Broadway in 1922 and 1923.[2] The film was written by Jack McGowan and directed by Norman Taurog. Its cast included Judy Garland, George Murphy, Charles Winninger and Douglas McPhail.

The film is notable for containing Judy Garland's only on-screen death scene, but she re-appears in the film as the daughter of the character who died.


In Ireland, Jerry Kelly (George Murphy) marries his sweetheart Nellie Noonan (Judy Garland) over the objections of her ne'er-do-well father Michael Noonan (Charles Winninger), who swears never to speak to Jerry again, even though he reluctantly accompanies the newlyweds to the U.S., where Jerry becomes a policeman, and all three become citizens. Michael continues to hold his grudge against Jerry, even when Nellie dies shortly after giving birth to her daughter, also named Nellie.

Years later, Jerry is now a captain on the police force, and little Nellie (also played by Judy Garland) has grown up as the spitting image of her mother. Michael dotes on his granddaughter but is embarrassed when she sings in public at the police department parade (It's a Great Day for the Irish). He uses a supposed weak heart, for which he takes a tot of whiskey from a medicine bottle, to get his way with little Nellie and to avoid work. When Nellie becomes enamored of Dennis Fogarty (Douglas McPhail), the son of Michael's old friend Timothy Fogarty (Arthur Shields), the conflict in the home intensifies. Jerry is happy for her, but Michael objects to the romance, and when Nellie, encouraged by her father, finally stands up to him, he leaves home.

Eventually, the three generations are reconciled, and Nellie and Dennis remain a couple.[3][4][5]



Judy Garland sings a swing version of "Singin' in the Rain" more than 10 years before Gene Kelly famously sang it in his film Singin' in the Rain (1952) as well as sings several newer songs, including the traditional "A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow" sung partly in Irish-Gaelic. There are also two production numbers, one set at the New York City Policeman's Ball and the other written by Roger Edens. In the latter, Garland sings "It's A Great Day for the Irish" while marching in New York City's St. Patrick's Day Parade. This song became one of Garland's bigger hits.

Songs cut from the film include "Rings on Your Fingers and Bells on Your Toes" (used in Garland's later film Babes on Broadway, 1941), "Danny Boy" and "How Can You Buy Killarney".


After the success of The Wizard of Oz (1939), the film was a "test" by MGM to evaluate both Garland's audience appeal and her physical image. It was rumored at the time that George M Cohan sold the rights expressly as a vehicle for Garland. The film gave 18-year-old Garland the opportunity to grow up as she is in the first half of the picture set in Ireland, in which she plays Nellie Noonan, the mother of Little Nellie Kelly. Although called "a bit of Blarney", overall the film was well-received. Critics noted Garland "gets prettier with each picture".[6]

Box office

According to MGM records, the film earned $968,000 in the U.S. and Canada and $1,078,000 in other markets, resulting in a profit of $680,000.[1]

Home media

The film was released on DVD on March 15, 2011.

See also


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. ^ "Little Nelly Kelly". Internet Broadway Database.
  3. ^ TCM Full synopsis
  4. ^ Erickson, Hal Plot synopsis (Allmovie)
  5. ^ Bubbeo, Daniel Plot summary (IMDB)
  6. ^ Little Nellie Kelly Archived 2006-06-18 at the Wayback Machine at the Judy Garland Database
{{bottomLinkPreText}} {{bottomLinkText}}
Little Nellie Kelly
Listen to this article

This browser is not supported by Wikiwand :(
Wikiwand requires a browser with modern capabilities in order to provide you with the best reading experience.
Please download and use one of the following browsers:

This article was just edited, click to reload
This article has been deleted on Wikipedia (Why?)

Back to homepage

Please click Add in the dialog above
Please click Allow in the top-left corner,
then click Install Now in the dialog
Please click Open in the download dialog,
then click Install
Please click the "Downloads" icon in the Safari toolbar, open the first download in the list,
then click Install

Install Wikiwand

Install on Chrome Install on Firefox
Don't forget to rate us

Tell your friends about Wikiwand!

Gmail Facebook Twitter Link

Enjoying Wikiwand?

Tell your friends and spread the love:
Share on Gmail Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Buffer

Our magic isn't perfect

You can help our automatic cover photo selection by reporting an unsuitable photo.

This photo is visually disturbing This photo is not a good choice

Thank you for helping!

Your input will affect cover photo selection, along with input from other users.


Wikiwand 2.0 is here 🎉! We've made some exciting updates - No worries, you can always revert later on