After a cou­ple of dark­er selec­tions (Nazi inva­sions and psy­chopaths), I thought I would light­en it up a bit.  In the immor­tal words of Monty Python, “And now for some­thing com­plete­ly different.” 

Today we look at a fun, uplift­ing 40’s musi­cal star­ring a 21-year-old Judy Garland.  Released in 1944, Meet Me In St. Louis is set in the year pri­or to the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904.  The sto­ry focus­es on a fam­i­ly over the course of the year lead­ing up to the World’s Fair.  It’s played out in four sea­son­al episodes—Summer of 1903, Halloween, Christmas, and final­ly Spring of 1904. 

"Meet me in St. Louis" movie poster.

Judy Garland is one of the Smith fam­i­ly’s four daugh­ters (Esther) and her sib­lings include a young Margaret O’Brien who plays lit­tle sis­ter “Tootie,”  Lucille Bremer as Rose, and Joan Carroll as Agnes.  Henry H. Daniels Jr. plays the son, Lon Smith Jr. Mary Astor plays the moth­er, Mrs. Anna Smith, and Leon Ames is the fam­i­ly patri­arch, Alonzo Smith.  The film is well known for two very pop­u­lar songs, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “The Trolley Song.” 

Meet Me In St.Louis is lav­ish in cos­tumes and peri­od set­tings and enhanced even more so by the won­der of Technicolor.  The sto­ry was based on an auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal series of short sto­ries writ­ten by Sally Benson and pub­lished in The New Yorker mag­a­zine called “The Kensington Stories” and lat­er adapt­ed as a nov­el, Meet Me In St. Louis.  Vincente Minnelli was the direc­tor and it was here that he first met and fell in love with Judy Garland.  They were a cou­ple by the end of the film­ing and lat­er mar­ried (hav­ing a daugh­ter, Liza Minnelli). 

The sto­ry involves the fam­i­ly adjust­ing to the idea that the father, a lawyer in St. Louis, has decid­ed to pull up stakes and move the fam­i­ly to New York (not a pop­u­lar idea in the fam­i­ly, I might add).  In the mean­time, Judy Garland’s char­ac­ter meets a new young man who has just moved in next door—and romance is in the air.  The music, the sets, the col­or­ful cos­tumes, and the sto­ry­line all make this an uplift­ing, fun movie for me. 

An added bonus is the play­ful­ness and mis­chie­vous­ness of the young Margaret O’Brien– “Tootie.”  She prac­ti­cal­ly steals the scenes in which she appears.  Tom Drake, the boy next door, was played by John Truett.  Interestingly, also con­sid­ered for that role were Van Johnson, Peter Lawford, and Robert Walker.  Other well-known actors appear­ing in this film include Chill Wills, Hugh Marlowe, Marjorie Main, and June Lockhart.

Judy Garland balked at mak­ing this film as she did not want to play anoth­er role as a teenag­er.  She want­ed to be per­ceived as a woman.  Vincente Minnelli con­vinced her to play the part of Esther, and she lat­er admit­ted she fell in love with the sto­ry (and the direc­tor).  Later in her life, she iden­ti­fied the role of Esther as one of her favorites. 

The film proved to be a major box office suc­cess.  It grossed more mon­ey than any MGM movie in the pre­vi­ous 20 years with the excep­tion of Gone With The Wind.  The suc­cess fos­tered plans to make a series of sequels focus­ing on the Smith fam­i­ly, but that nev­er came to pass. 

The film was nom­i­nat­ed for four Academy Awards, and the ram­bunc­tious Margaret O’Brien won the award in 1944 as Outstanding Child Actress.  The American Film Institute ranked the film num­ber ten on its Greatest Movie Musicals list.  The songs “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” were both ranked in the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Songs in American Films list. 

Meet Me In St. Louis was remade for tele­vi­sion in 1959 (with Jane Powell, Patty Duke, Tab Hunter, and oth­ers) and again in 1966 (with Shelley Fabares and Celeste Holm).  A Broadway musi­cal based on the film opened in 1989.  Rotten Tomatoes gives a score of 100% from crit­ics and 87% from audi­ence reviews.  To lift a quote from The Rotten Tomatoes site:  “In the end, love—accompanied by song, dance and peri­od cos­tumes, all in glo­ri­ous Technicolor—conquers all.” 

To come back to where I start­ed, I want­ed to look at some­thing fun, light-heart­ed, and uplift­ing.  We live in very dif­fi­cult times now with the pan­dem­ic, war in the Ukraine, ongo­ing polit­i­cal divi­sion with­in our coun­try and com­mu­ni­ty, etc.  Movies can be an escape, and to me, that is what this film brings.  Sit back and catch a glimpse into a time long gone, enjoy the humor and hints of first love, mar­vel at the song and dance on the screen, and escape for a cou­ple of hours.  This movie brings joy and a smile to my face, and I hope you will find the same result. 

The film is avail­able on sev­er­al stream­ing sites for a fee, but it is also avail­able on DVD at the Clark County Public Library.  View the trail­er (from YouTube) below. 

Be on the look­out for the next Reel Classic.

  • Ron grew up in Southeast Baltimore, spent three and a half years liv­ing in the High Desert in California, and came to Winchester when his VW Beetle broke down here on a cross-coun­try dri­ve to Vermont. He has lived here and worked as a social work­er since 1973. Though he retired in 2013, he remains active as a com­mu­ni­ty vol­un­teer on var­i­ous boards, coali­tions, and com­mit­tees. His pas­sions include the woods and nature, music, books, and clas­sic movies (espe­cial­ly Laurel & Hardy).