Classic Movie Review: Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Title: Meet Me in St. Louis
Release Date: November 22, 1944
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

A romantic comedy musical in vivid Technicolor, Meet Me in St. Louis is set in 1903-1904.  The movie is a series of vignettes for each season leading up Louisiana Purchase Exposition focused on the Smith family of St. Louis.  The oldest daughter Rose (Lucille Bremer) is concerned about getting a marriage proposal from her beau, while Esther (Judy Garland with an unfortunate hairstyle) has a crush on the boy next door, John (Tom Drake).  The younger girls Agnes (Joan Carroll) and Tootie (Margaret O’Brien) are more interested in mischief.  The focus on sisters hosting parties, attending dances, and concerned about marital prospects is reminiscent of the Bennet sisters of Pride and Prejudice, but these sisters have a brother, Lon Jr. (Henry H. Daniels Jr).  The family is rounded out with their mother Mrs. Anna Smith (Mary Astor), Grandpa (Harry Davenport), and the maid Katie (Marjorie Main).  Their workaholic father, Mr. Alonzo Smith (Leon Ames), presents the major plot twist to the story when he informs the family they will be moving to New York.

The movie is full of song and dance from the period, including several renditions of the title song.  It also introduces several new songs that would become standards: “The Boy Next Door,” “The Trolley Song,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”  Garland is clearly the star, but O’Brien steals every scene she is in.  In fact, the Halloween segment where Agnes and Tootie go out to participate in basically widespread vandalism and violence may be one of the best things ever put on film.

The film is light and fluffy but its fun and the songs are joyous.  Watch it with your favorite misanthrope and see what happens.

Rating: ***