Sunday, 6 January 2013

Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)

Based on the book by Sally Benson (which was based on her real life experiences), adapted for the screen by a large number of people and directed by Vincente Minnelli, Meet Me In St. Louis is one of those classic musicals that everyone seems to love, or at least like it a fair bit. Me? I liked it a fair bit. I won't rush to rewatch it but I may, one day, find myself looking it over if it's in a sale and then making a purchase.

Set in the year preceding the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, aka the St. Louis World's Fair, this colourful slice of sweetness is all about the Smith family and the events that shape their lives in this exciting time. Most of the focus is on Esther Smith (Judy Garland) as she falls for the next door neighbour (Tom Drake) and then engineers a number of potential romantic moments. Then there's Rose Smith (Lucille Bremer), a young woman who can't seem to get her boyfriend to pop the big question, despite the way their relationship has developed. Young 'Tootie' (Margaret O'Brien) is a typical little girl who tries to make some mischief whenever possible, but especially on Halloween. And, last and least, is Agnes (Joan Carroll), who doesn't really do all that much. Mr. Smith (Leon Ames) upsets the family with a decision to move everyone to New York, Mrs. Smith (Mary Astor) tries to keep everyone calm and grandpa (Harry Davenport) may not seem to be taking everything in but he has his moments when he knows exactly what's best for the girls.

The acting is all well and good for this sort of thing, all wide-eyed expressions and spadefuls of earnestness, and the look of the film throughout is very pretty but, for me, this isn't a film that always works as a great FILM. It's a very good musical, thanks to a couple of very memorable tunes, but the different vignettes that make up the movie are hit and miss and leave the whole thing feeling like some strange kind of anthology flick.

So, just what are the main songs that you may already know and love? Well, there's "Meet Me In St. Louis, Louis" (of course), "The Trolley Song", "The Boy Next Door", "Under The Bamboo Tree" and "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas". In fact, because of the last song and the sequence that it appears in, many people class Meet Me In St. Louis as a Christmas movie. Whatever works for you is fine but it's just missing that little bit of magic for me, although that snowy section of the film is certainly a highlight. Fans of seasonal cheer can only be thankful that Garland didn't want to sing the original lyrics to O'Brien of "Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last"

It will always have its fans, and anyone who likes Liza Minnelli should also be thankful that her mother and father met during the filming and got married not long after, but I'll always have many other choices to place above it.

Perhaps it's all just down to the fact that I was always more of a Doris Day fan, happier when watching the kinda similiar On Moonlight Bay and By The Light Of The Silvery Moon. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.


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