director Vincente Minnelli
Some classic films that I watch with the kids are not only their initiation with the material, but my own as well. I once used to note that no one has seen every interesting or important classic film, everyone has holes in their experience, so don’t be so surprised that I’d never seen it. That said, in telling people about the movie the next day, I was surprised how many people hadn’t even heard of it.
Directed by Vincente Minnelli, Meet Me in St. Louis is one of Judy Garland’s most known and beloved films. Set in the early part of the 20th century, it’s a family drama/comedy/entertainment that is interestingly already wistful for a bygone time of innocence in American culture. Based on the writings of Sally Benson, it recalls a middle class family in St. Louis in the year leading up to the 1904 World’s Fair, which was held there. Garland plays Esther, the second eldest daughter of the Smith clan (which includes three other sisters). The joys and adventures are comprised of riding the trolley, riding shotgun with the ice delivery man, Halloween shenanigans, building snowmen and going to dances. And wooing young men.
Some humor is made of the “invention” of the telephone, the newfangled device that allowed a person in New York to talk to a person in St. Louis “as if they were just in the next room” (via shouting and misunderstanding).
The film is shot in Technicolor and is a pretty pure delight. It debuted such classic songs as “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, two of the film’s many highlights. It’s also interesting that second-billed Margaret O’Brien played the youngest of the sisters, Tootie. She’s a total hoot, a wild almost tomboy of a character, who gets most of the laughs and a bit of the drama.
Made in 1944, during WWII, the film is a diversion of diversions, reckoning of a wholesome America. The film’s largest drama revolves around the father’s plan to uproot the family for a promotion in New York City. The film is of course a tribute to the St. Louis of the early century, which received the World’s Fair’s cosmopolitan fantasia, “right in old St. Louis” (or something to that sentiment.) St. Louis represents the ideals of the American family, and the joys and traumas therein are of that of nearly broken hearts and almost abandoned homes. But the whole thing is too happy and upbeat and cheerful (despite the sentiment of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” that things will be better) to end with anything but a smile.
The kids really enjoyed it. Felix had specifically asked if we could watch some more musicals and this was one that I’d always wanted to see.