DVD review of Meet Me in St. Louis – starring Judy Garland, directed by Vincent Minelli – one of the best musicals of the 20th Century
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) starring Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Mary Astor
How do you measure the power of a movie musical? In the case of Meet Me in St. Louis, it can be measured in decades — I first saw Meet Me in St. Louis in college, as part of a class on movie musicals, and at this moment I can visualize highlights of the movie in my mind as clear as day — Judy Garland singing “clang, clang, clang went the trolley …” (better known as The Trolley Song), a tear-inducing rendition of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas as Judy Garland sings to her “younger sister” Margaret O’Brien, and the climax where the father of the family (Leon Ames) makes a climatic decision that affects the entire family.
The story is …
The basic plot is as follows: set in St. Louis in the 1890’s, a young girl, Esther Smith (played very well by Judy Garland) is on the verge of becoming a young woman, against the background of her family – a ‘precocious’ younger sister (played by Margaret O’Brien), her loving mother (Mary Astor) and father, and the “boy next door”. The conflict in the movie comes from the father being offered a promotion, which would involve them moving away from their beloved home in St. Louis to New York City, separating them from their friends and family, and separating Judy Garland’s character from her first serious boyfriend — all before the World’s Fair would come to St. Louis.
Set against this background, there’s room for character development, some wonderful musical numbers, and a resolution to the conflict. It’s not an end-of-the-world conflict, but the sort of thing that I could understand then, and that I can understand my daughters’ going through now. In short, it’s the normal sort of everyday human stress that everyone can relate to. It’s a wonderful movie, one that I love, and one that I recommend strongly.
If you’re a fan of musicals like me, one of the best things is the music — and Meet Me in St. Louis has a plethora of great songs:
- Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis
- The Boy Next Door
- Skip to my Lou
- I was drunk last night, dear Mother
- Under the Bamboo Tree
- Over the Banister leans a face, tenderly sweet and beguiling
- The Trolley Song
- You and I
- Home! Sweet Home!, (Instrumental)
- Auld Lang Syne, (Instrumental)
- The First Noel, (Instrumental)
- Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Product Description of Meet Me in St. Louis
St. Louis 1903. The well-off Smith family has four beautiful daughters, including Esther and little Tootie. 17-year old Esther has fallen in love with the boy next door who has just moved in, John. He however, barely notices her at first. The family is shocked when Mr. Smith reveals that he has been transfered to a nice position in New York, which means that the family has to leave St. Louis and the St. Louis Fair.
Trivia for Meet Me in St. Louis
- Producer-lyricist Arthur Freed dubbed the singing for Leon Ames.
- Van Johnson was supposed to play John Truett. But Tom Drake took the role over.
- Vincente Minnelli and Judy Garland met on this movie, and married soon afterwards.
- Director Vincente Minnelli worked hard to make the movie as accurate to the times as possible. Not only did its novelist, Sally Benson, give explicit directions as to the decor of her home down to the last detail, but the movie’s costume designer took inspiration for many of the movies costumes right out of the Sears & Roebuck catalog from the time period.
- The movie was based on the real-life experiences of novelist Sally Benson. The character of Tootie was based on her own childhood; she was called Tootie as a little girl.
- The Trolley Song was inspired by a children’s picture book. The book had a page with a picture of a trolley car, captioned “Clang! Clang! Clang! went the jolly little trolley.”
- Judy Garland missed 13 days of work causing the production taking 70 days to complete from the original budgeted 58 days.
- The Halloween sequence on the street outside of the Smith home was primarily filmed from a low angle, so that the movie audience would experience the Halloween night on screen as though they were seeing it through the eyes of a child. When Tootie (Margaret O’Brien) embarks on her adventure to the Braukoff home, the houses appear to be large and looming.
- After Tootie crashes Lon’s going-away party, Esther asks her if she would like to recite “Did You Ever See a Rabbit Climb a Tree?” for the company. This is a nonsense poem by L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz (from “Father Goose: His Book”, 1899).