Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Meet Me In St. Louis (1944): Have Yourself a Charming Little Movie

You like splashy color? With Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) you got splashy color! You also have one of the most charming, enduring and elegant classic musicals ever put to film. Developed by the MGM musical powerhouse of producer Arthur Freed and director Vincent Minnelli, it showcased the fragile songbird Judy Garland at the height of her fame and talent and became a box office bonanza for the mega studio in the winter of 1944-45.

Set in the Missouri burg of the title in 1903, the film centers on the Smith family, middle class and ready to see and celebrate the coming Louisiana Exposition of 1904 but instead of a straight narrative, St. Louis is really a set of colorful, sentimental vignettes set to some of the catchiest tunes and loveliest melodies to come from Hollywood in the 1940’s, with Garland of course taking on the bulk of the lilting tones. Along with “The Boy Next Door” and “Under the Bamboo Tree” with the precocious moppet Margaret O’Brien, Judy and gang belt out one of the most glorious four minute interludes of musical magic known to the golden age of American cinema with “The Trolley Song”. Written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, “The Trolley Song” was not only nominated for an Academy Award as the year’s Best Song (it lost out to “Swinging on a Star” from Going My Way) but had several very popular renditions that hit the airwaves during the decade. The most enduring song to come from the St. Louis musical resume however, was Judy’s poignant holiday signature, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Hauntingly beautiful in its delivery both visually and audibly, “Christmas” has become a standard on Yuletide play lists.


In an auburn wig with very heavy bangs, Garland had shed the “baby fat” much discussed by her studio boss Louis B. Mayer, but her trimmer figure could still pack a vocal wallop and did so. She is handsomely supported by a superlative array of MGM talent including the above mentioned O’Brien, Lucille Bremer, Mary Astor, Leon Ames, Marjorie Main, Harry Davenport and Tom Drake, as the “boy next door”. The entire cast charms its way from scene to scene evoking the feel and sound of turn of the century Americana via the MGM backlot.
Off-screen the film’s star found her own “boy next door” in director Minnelli. A confusing and tumultuous relationship, the two were married and begat Liza with a Z. However, whatever problems their future held, the two created a film musical masterpiece and the biggest financial hit MGM released since Gone With The Wind. There were many nostalgic period copy cats (Summer Holiday and Fox’s Centennial Summer) but none even came close to this jewel.


  1. Oh, I just love this movie! It's my favorite Judy movie. The music, the characters, the sets and costumes are all superb.

  2. Definitely a family favorite - Christmas time or any time! I shared it with my newlywed husband, last year, and even he enjoyed it!

  3. Fine review of a holiday charmer, Rupert. I love the scene where Judy, thinking the family is moving, sings a melancholy (but lovely) version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

  4. It's so good to be reading your work again. You knew darn well that I'd love your blog on Meet Me In St. Louis" Judy Garland is wonderful in this film. Thank you for your marvelous writing, All my best to you Rupert,,
    Tommy Monroe

  5. Loved your review so much that I'm spotlighting it on N and CF. I hope you do not mind.

  6. One of my all-time favorite films. It is a beautiful film. Great performances all around. A true classic. (Heaven forbid it is ever remade!) I'm very excited to see this on Blu-Ray. Should be like seeing it for the first time. I love technology. :)

    Now we need Liz Taylor's "Cleopatra" and "Easter Parade", "To Catch A Theif", "Singing In The Rain", and "Auntie Mame". They should look stunning on Blu-Ray.

  7. Out of so many wonderful moments in this movie one of my faves is a very subtle one towards the end when Leo Ames places his hand over that of Mary Astor. No words are exchanged between them but the gesture speaks volumes.
    My grandmother was born in Italy & raised in South America but loved this very American movie. She died ten years before I was born, but her words to my mother after seeing this movie was "that man is a genius" (re: Minnelli)



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