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Forty Little Mothers (1940)

Approved | | Drama | 26 April 1940 (USA)
An out-of-work professor gets a break from an old college buddy to teach at an exclusive girl's school. But events conspire against him: he finds an abandoned child which he takes under his... See full summary »


Busby Berkeley


Dorothy Yost (screen play), Ernest Pagano (screen play) | 1 more credit »


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Complete credited cast:
Eddie Cantor ... Gilbert Jordan Thompson
Judith Anderson ... Madame Madeleine Granville
Ralph Morgan ... Judge Joseph M. Williams
Rita Johnson ... Marian Edwards
Bonita Granville ... Doris
Diana Lewis ... Marcia
Nydia Westman ... Madamoiselle Cynthia Cliche
Margaret Early ... Eleanor
Martha O'Driscoll ... Janette
Charlotte Munier Charlotte Munier ... Lois
Louise Seidel Louise Seidel ... Betty
Baby Quintanilla Baby Quintanilla ... 'Chum'


An out-of-work professor gets a break from an old college buddy to teach at an exclusive girl's school. But events conspire against him: he finds an abandoned child which he takes under his wing, despite the school's rules against teachers having a family; and the girls in the school resent his replacing a handsome and popular teacher, and do everything in their power to get him fired. Written by Gary Dickerson <slug@mail.utexas.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Hear Eddie sing "Little Curly Hair in a High Chair." See more »




Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

26 April 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Cuarenta madrecitas See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Baby boy "Chum" is actually played by twin girls billed as Baby Quintanilla in this, their first picture. About nine months old at the time of this production, they appeared in only three other films - Gold Rush Maisie (1940), Boom Town (1940), and Go West (1940), all released in 1940 by MGM. See more »


Gilbert Jordan Thompson: Now wait a minute girls, you know motherhood is not a government project - at least not in this country.
[a thinly-veiled reference to Nazi Germany in this 1940 film]
See more »


Version of Forty Little Mothers (1936) See more »


Good Morning to You
Sung to the tune of "Happy Birthday to You" (1893)
Written by Mildred J. Hill and Patty S. Hill
Sung by schoolgirls
See more »

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User Reviews

Eddie Gets A Baby
23 May 2006 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

Forty Little Mothers Has Eddie Cantor first saving Rita Johnson from committing suicide and then taking her baby when he mistakenly thinks someone abandoned it. It was a boy baby and that was a new experience for the man who founded Girls Town, USA.

This is a more dramatic Eddie than was previously seen on screen. He's a meek and gentle history professor, not the schnook he was normally cast as. He's replaced a heartthrob history professor at the college which insists on its faculty boarding at the school and they don't allow kids there. So says President Judith Anderson.

Cantor was cast with a whole bunch of young MGM starlets as the students and was reunited with Busby Berkeley who directs this film. He had done the musical numbers on several Cantor films for Sam Goldwyn earlier in the decade. Cantor only sings one song in the film, Little Curly Hair in a High Chair which had good success.

The woman have some Berkeley like moments serving as the baby's forty little mothers once the ice is broken with Cantor. But no real dance numbers as Berkeley was so well known for.

Look for Nydia Westman who plays Judith Anderson's assistant. She's quite funny, maybe the best thing in this film.

The story is nice though it does get a bit maudlin at times. Probably Eddie Cantor had he gotten something like Ed Wynn got later on in The Great Man or The Diary of Anne Frank, Cantor might have made his bones as a dramatic actor.

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