Can you believe that winter and the Christmas holidays are practically here? It is time to get cozy and revel in some sweet-natured nostalgia. Released in 1944, Meet Me in St. Louis provided just such a relief for audiences weary from the struggle of World War Two. Enjoying Meet Me in St. Louis in 2021, perhaps we can find some respite from the ravages of COVID-19; the loss, the fear, the guidelines, and the unfathomable controversies.
Author Sally Benson had looked back on her happy childhood in St. Louis and compiled a series of vignettes under the title 5135 Kensington and MGM purchased the stories to film. Ms. Benson added more stories to the collection and it was released by Random House under the movie title of Meet Me in St. Louis. The studio did not use a screenplay by Sally Benson but one by Irving Brecher (Du Barry Was a Lady) and Fred Finklehoffe (Strike Up the Band) with uncredited assists.
Meet Me in St. Louis was the follow-up picture for Broadway costumer and set designer Vincente Minnelli after Cabin in the Sky. His contract with MGM allowed him to apprentice and study the workings of the studio prior to directing. Minnelli's artistic sensibilities and eye for colour and detail make his film work exquisite. Meet Me in St. Louis benefits from all of Minnelli's many talents.
Cinematographer George J. Folsey was nominated for an Oscar for Meet Me in St. Louis, his fifth of 11 nominations. The superb costumes by Irene Sharaff and the set design and art direction magically transport us to the world of 1903.
Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien, Henry H. Daniels Jr.
Following Sally Benson's template of a year in the life of the Smith family through the seasons, the basic story is deceptively simple as the audience shares a year, like all years with its joys, sorrows, and hopes.
The parents are lawyer Alonzo and homemaker Anna played by Leon Ames and Mary Astor. Their children are Lon Jr., Rose, Esther, Agnes, and Tootie played by Henry H. Daniels Jr., Lucille Bremer, Judy Garland, Joan Carroll, and Margaret O'Brien. Rounding out the household is Grandpa Prophater played by Harry Davenport and the cook Katie played by Marjorie Main.
Romance takes up a lot of the younger generation's time. Rose has a beau named Warren Sheffield played by Robert Sully but that doesn't keep her from casting her eye toward Col. Darly played by Hugh Marlowe. While away at college, Lon Jr. is attracted to socialite Lucille Ballard played by June Lockhart. Esther is besotted by the boy next door, John Truett played by Tom Drake. Meanwhile, Agnes and Tootie shake the world with their independent troublemaking. Tootie has a particular talent for --- well, let's call it impishness.
The big news in the town is the upcoming World's Fair. The big news in the Smith household is Mr. Smith's promotion and transfer to New York City. A large household with many different personalities does not mean that everyone will be on the same page concerning such a momentous change.
The songs for Meet Me in St. Louis by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane include the Oscar-nominated The Trolley Song, and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas which quickly became a holiday standard. Both composer and lyricist were inductees to the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.
Filled with laughter and tears, song and heart, Meet Me in St. Louis never fails to work its magic. Let it do so again.
TCM is screening Meet Me in St. Louis on Saturday, December 4th. The afternoon begins with the 2011 documentary Night at the Movies: A Merry Christmas and is followed by Little Women, 1949, Meet Me in St. Louis, and It Happened on 5th Avenue as holiday viewing begins in earnest.
Further opportunities to see Meet Me in St. Louis on TCM in December are Tuesday the 21st and Friday the 24th.