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Film Review: Meet Me in St. Louis

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Meet Me in St. Louis

MGM, 1944 (Color, 114 minutes, Production No. 1317)

All during the summer and the bleak winter of 1903 the mundane city of St. Louis, Mo. acted like a pretty girl preparing for a party. It was gay and distracted while fixing itself up for the whole world to see. The occasion was a huge World's Fair commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase, which filled every citizen of St. Louis with a sense of progress and love for his city.

From this colorful setting Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has drawn the material for its heart-warming musical Meet Me in St. Louis. Based on Sally Benson's autobiographical New Yorker stories, the film moves in on the Smith family of St. Louis and, with cherishing detail, examines its way of life during the year before the fair opened. The only real complication in this easy-going story occurs when the family learns it must move away because Mr. Smith gets a new position. They realize how much they love St. Louis, and the happy ending comes when Mr. Smith decides not to move after all.

This simple story gives Judy Garland an opportunity to sing the current hit, The Trolley Song, and two numbers resurrected from the past, Meet Me in St. Louis and Under the Bamboo Tree. To Margaret O'Brien it gives a chance to enact with naturalness and enchantment the experience of childhood in a friendly city.

[Life, Movie of the Week: Meet Me in St. Louis, December 11, 1944]

See DVD Review

Crew

Produced by: Arthur Freed
Directed by: Vincente Minnelli
Screen Play by: Irving Brecher and Fred Finklehoffe
Based on the Book by: Sally Benson
"The Trolley Song," "The Boy Next Door," "Skip to My Lou," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (by) Hugh Martin, Ralph Blane
Musical Adaptation: Roger Edens
Musical Direction: Georgie Stoll
Orchestrations: Conrad Salinger
Dance Direction: Charles Walters
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Lemuel Ayers, Jack Martin Smith
Set Decorations: Edwin B. Willis
Associate: Paul Huldschinsky
Costume Supervision: Irene
Costumes Designed by: Sharaff
Make-Up Created by: Jack Dawn
Recording Director: Douglas Shearer
Director of Photography: George Folsey
Photographed in Technicolor
Technicolor Color Director: Natalie Kalmus
Associate: Henri Jaffa
Film Editor: Albert Akst

Filmed: December 1943 - April 1944 (Judy was 21 years old)
Released: November 1944

Cast

Judy Garland ... Esther Smith
Margaret O'Brien ... Tootie Smith
Mary Astor ... Anna Smith
Lucille Bremer ... Rose Smith
Tom Drake ... John Truett
Marjorie Main ... Katie
Leon Ames ... Alonzo Smith
Harry Davenport ... Grandpa
June Lockhart ... Lucille Ballard
Henry Daniels, Jr. ... Lon Smith, Jr.
Joan Carroll ... Agnes Smith
Hugh Marlowe ... Colonel Darly
Robert Sully ... Warren Sheffield
Chill Wills ... Mr. Neely
Donald Curtis ... Dr. Terry
Mary Jo Ellis ... Ida Boothby
Robert Emmet O'Connor ... Motorman
Darryl Hickman ... Johnny Tevis
Leonard Walker ... Conductor
Victor Kilian ... Baggage Man
John Phipps ... Mailman
Mayo Newhall ... Mr. Braukoff
Major Sam Harris ... Mr. March
Sidney Barnes ... Hugo Borvis
Myron Tobias ... George
Kenneth Donner ... Clinton Badger
Helen Gilbert ... Girl on Trolley
Arthur Freed ... singing voice for Leon Ames
Denny Markas ... singing voice for Mary Astor

Musical Program

[0:00] Overture: "Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis" (sung by Chorus) / "The Boy Next Door" (played by Orchestra behind titles)
[0:03] Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis (excerpt sung by Joan Carroll, Harry Davenport, Judy Garland and Chorus)
[0:08] The Boy Next Door (sung by Judy Garland)
[0:15] Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis (sung by Judy Garland and Lucille Bremer)
[0:29] Skip to My Lou (performed by Judy Garland, Lucille Bremer, Henry Daniels Jr., Tom Drake and Ensemble)
[0:33] I Was Drunk Last Night (short excerpt sung by Margaret O'Brien)
[0:34] Under the Bamboo Tree (sung and danced by Judy Garland and Margaret O'Brien)
[0:41] Over the Bannister (excerpt sung by Judy Garland)
[0:44] The Trolley Song [AAN] (sung by Judy Garland and Chorus)
[cut] Boys and Girls Like You and Me (sung by Judy Garland)
[1:15] You and I (sung by Leon Ames and Mary Astor, dubbed by Arthur Freed and Denny Markas)
[1:39] Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (sung by Judy Garland)


see soundtrack CD review

Notes

Judy began work on Meet Me in St. Louis immediately upon returning from the Hollywood Bond Cavalcade which played to seven million people in sixteen cities and sold over a billion dollars in war bonds. She was 21 years old. It was during the filming of this movie that Judy became romantically involved with Vincente Minnelli.

Filming was completed in April 1944, and the picture was released in St. Louis on November 22, 1944. The picture broke box-office records all over the country as not only Judy's greatest hit to date, but MGM's top money maker, second only to Gone with the Wind. Margaret O'Brien won an Oscar for her portrayal of Tootie, and "The Trolley Song" was nominated for Best Song Academy Award.

Meet Me in St. Louis is one of the most beloved musicals ever made, and considered by many to be one of the best. It was a landmark achievement in integrated musicals.

Judy initially wanted nothing to do with Meet Me in St. Louis. She fought hard to duck the assignment (her mother even went to see L.B. Mayer on her behalf) because she was finally being given some adult roles (such as For Me and My Gal and Presenting Lily Mars), and she was concerned about being cast as a seventeen-year-old. But Mayer was insistent, and Minnelli eventually convinced her to play the part. After she began working on the project, she soon became enchanted with the story and eventually came to love it, considering it one of her favorite roles.

"Boys and Girls Like You and Me" was an outtake from "Oklahoma!", written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. After previews, Minnelli decided to cut it from St. Louis as well, feeling that it added little to the story. The song was later recorded by Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra for Take Me Out to the Ballgame, but was dropped from that picture as well. It is a beautiful song, and Hugh Martin recalls that after the movie was released, his mother called him, saying it was wonderful that he had finally written such a lovely song.

Though the film won no Academy Awards, it was nominated for four: Best Screenplay (Irving Brecher and Fred F. Finkelhoffe), Best Color Cinematography (George Folsey), Best Score - Musical (Georgie Stoll), Best Song ("The Trolley Song," Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin)

Meet Me in St. Louis is one of three tapes in the "Judy Garland Collection" videotape box set (above left) from MGM/UA Home Video (M602386), 1991. This tape bears the number M202452.

See Judy Garland Movies on Video for information about the latest releases of home video and sountrack.

See Class Act for more information on this and other classic films.

Awards

Margaret O'Brien received an Academy Award for Outstanding Child Actress.

Academy Award Nominations for Best Screenplay (Irving Brecher and Fred F. Finkelhoffe), Best Color Cinematography (George Folsey), Best Score, Musical (George Stoll) and Best Song ("The Trolley Song")

Critical Response

"4 stars ... If you're looking for a picture that represents sheer, unadulterated enjoyment ... The story of the Smiths is told to the accompaniment of a number of hearty laughs, one quick tear and a couple of good tunes ... Judy Garland and Tom Drake ... carry on romantically together, and Judy of course gives out in song whenever the spirit moves her, which is often enough to please her loyal following but not too often to interfere seriously with the thread of the story ..."

[Kate Cameron, The New York Daily News]

"Bremer is a standout, [but] she's no challenge to the star. No one alive could be."

[The New York Daily Mirror]

"A charming movie. Miss Garland is full of gay exhuberance as the second sister of the lot, and sings...with a rich voice that grows riper and more expressive in each new film. Her chortling of "The Trolley Song" puts fresh zip into that inescapable tune ... A ginger peachy show."

[Bosley Crowther, The New York Times]

Memorable Lines

Esther (to John Truett, after beating him up): "If there's anything I hate, loathe, despise and abominate, it's a bully!"

Tootie (to Mr. Neely): "Wasn't I lucky to be born in my favorite city?"

Mrs. Smith (to Mr. Smith): "At a time like this, you think of the chickens!"

Rose (to Esther): "When you get to be my age you'll find that there are more important things to think about than boys."

John (to Esther): "If you're not doing anything tomorrow night, could you beat me up again?"

Esther: (to John after he tells her his suit is at the tailor's) "I don't hate you, I just hate basketball!"

John: (to Esther upon hearing that she is wearing Essence of Violet) "Exactly the kind my grandmother wears."

Esther: (to Rose) "You don't expect me to go to the smartest ball of the season with my own brother?!"

Rose: (to Warren on the telephone) "Yes, you do that little thing."

Supplemental Material

Supplement 1: Magazine Ad
Supplement 2: Publicity Stills: Judy in finale costume
Supplement 3: More publicity stills
Supplement 4: Costume tests
Supplement 5: Movie stills

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Meet Me in St. Louis DVD
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Meet Me in St. Louis VHS
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Meet Me in St. Louis Soundtrack CD
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Meet Me in St. Louis Posters
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Judy Garland and Tom Drake



Judy Garland publicity still



Original sheet music



Margaret O'Brien and Judy Garland



Judy Garland publicity still



Original herald



Publicity photo



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