Sunday, December 7, 2014

#1,574. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Directed By: Vincente Minnelli

Starring: Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien, Mary Astor

Tag line: "A cast of favorites in the Charming . . . Romantic . . . Tuneful Love Story of the Early 1900s !"

Trivia: The book on which this film is based originally ran as a weekly feature in New Yorker Magazine in 1942 \

The Wizard of Oz is a beloved motion picture that has captured the imagination of countless millions over the years. That being said, it is not the movie I think of whenever Judy Garland's (who appeared as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz) name is mentioned. That honor belongs to 1944’s Meet Me in St. Louis, a film set at the turn of the 20th century in which she played a young girl on the verge of becoming a woman.

It’s 1903, which could prove to be a pivotal year in the lives of St. Louis’ Smith family. For one, Rose (Lucille Bremer), the eldest daughter of Mr. Alonzo Smith (Leon Ames) and his wife Anna (Mary Astor), is anticipating a marriage proposal from her boyfriend Warren Sheffield (Robert Sully), despite the fact he’s hundreds of miles away in New York City. Their next-eldest daughter Esther (Garland) also experiences her first romance, having fallen in love with the boy next door, John Truett (Tom Drake). We follow the Smiths over the course of several months, from the warmth of summer to Halloween night, when youngest child Tootie (Margaret O’Brien), gets into all sorts of mischief. Their lives take an unexpected turn, however, when Mr. Smith announces that he’s accepted a position in New York City, and the entire clan will be moving there after the first of the year. Naturally, the Smith women are less than enthusiastic about the news, especially since they were all looking forward to the World’s Fair, which is set to open in St. Louis in the Spring. Are the Smith girls really heading east, or will fate intervene on their behalf?

With all due respect to "Over the Rainbow", I think Judy Garland’s rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", which she sings at a key moment in Meet Me in St. Louis, is her finest on-screen musical performance, followed closely by another number from this film, "The Trolley Song", where her character Esther, upset that new beau Joh Pruett has seemingly missed the trolley, forgets her troubles by belting out this lively tune. In addition to the musical numbers (which also includes the title song, performed at different intervals throughout the movie), Meet Me in St. Louis is a beautiful motion picture, with lush period costumes and gorgeous set pieces that perfectly convey the film’s turn-of-the-century setting, capturing the innocence and charm of what was, for some, a simpler time in America’s history.

A musical of the highest order, Meet Me in St. Louis is a shining example of what Hollywood was capable of during its Golden age, taking a simple story and a few catchy tunes and turning them into a timeless classic.

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