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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. Written by
"Don't Tell Me The Lights Are Shining Any Place But There"
A lot of the Hollywood studios during the War years made these nostalgic films about a simpler time when no foreign foe threatened our way of life. MGM's contribution to these films was not bettered served than by Meet Me In St. Louis. It's a simple story about the Smith family in 1904 St. Louis eagerly awaiting the World's Fair that would take place in their town. And to my knowledge no other World's Fair had as enduring a theme song as the one written for this fair, serving as the title song for the film.
The Smith family consists of parents Leon Ames and Mary Astor and their five children, son Henry Daniels, Jr. and daughters in descending order, Lucille Bremer, Judy Garland, Joan Carroll, and Margaret O'Brien. Grandfather Harry Davenport lives with the clan and so does live-in maid Marjorie Main who functions like Alice in the Brady household. A good meal and an occasional wisecrack to keep everyone in line.
Everyone's excited about the upcoming fair, St. Louis's rival city Chicago had one a decade earlier and Buffalo did three years earlier, but this one promises to be the most extravagant of all. Ames gets an opportunity in business and wants to move the family to New York, but one by one the family has or develops obligations and ties to St. Louis that makes them reluctant to leave. Not to mention they don't want to miss the fair.
Vincente Minnelli directed Meet Me In St. Louis and it was his first opportunity to work with Judy Garland whom he would marry after the film was finished. Judy got to do three of her most identified songs from the Hugh Martin-Ralph Blane score that was blended with some traditional music of the times. The Boy Next Door, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, and The Trolley Song all come out of Meet Me In St. Louis and were staple items at Garland concerts for years. One of the Oscar nominations that Meet Me In St. Louis received was for The Trolley Song for Best Original Song. It lost to Bing Crosby's Swinging On A Star that year. The other nominations were for musical scoring, color cinematography, and screenplay.
Margaret O'Brien did a remarkable job in this film, this was probably her best role while a child star at MGM. Not that she was the youngest and most appealing of the kids, she was that. But Minnelli did a great job in directing her. She had all the fears and trepidations of a child growing up and not wanting to leave all she's known and loved in St. Louis. Her acting reached its zenith in the scene where she destroys the carefully made snowmen in her yard and in the Halloween scene where she is induced to play a practical joke on a neighbor the rest of the kids regard as scary. Her number with Judy Garland, Under The Bamboo Tree is a gem.
Meet Me In St. Louis was one of the earliest and best films coming out of the Arthur Freed unit at MGM. It was films like these that gave the Freed unit and MGM its reputation for turning out the best in musical film entertainment. It can never be duplicated because you don't have studios with all that talent under contract.
In its way the film itself is as nostalgic as the time it celebrates. I guarantee your heart strings will go Zing Zing Zing as you hear Judy Garland sing the score from Meet Me In St. Louis.
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