“Home is where the heart is”, as the age-old saying goes. Some associate “home” with dread, anguish, and fear while others relate familiarity, comfort, sentimentality, pride, and a sense of belonging to the term. Growth and change can allow one to bloom beyond their comfort zone, but the idea of uprooting from home may arise trepidation. The development of relationships, a career, and overall support is often cultivated in one location designated as home, and the thought of potentially starting anew is daunting. The vibrant 1944 Technicolor musical Meet Me in St. Louis directed by Vincente Minnelli delves into these apprehensions among an upper-middle class family in the face of starting a new life in the Big Apple.
The film begins during the carefree summer of 1903 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Smith family children are enjoying the freedom and joviality of summer, counting down to the 1904 World’s Fair. Their father Lon Smith (Leon Ames) drudges through daily life as a lawyer in a downward career cycle. The proposition of success as a lawyer in New York prompts Lon to instruct the family in a highly patriarchal manner that they will be leaving their beloved St. Louis to begin a new life in New York. Meanwhile, wife Anna (the highly versatile Mary Astor) has created strong roots in this community in raising their children. Eldest daughters Rose (Lucille Bremer) and Esther (the always magnificent Judy Garland) have romantic involvements and educational prospects in St. Louis. Esther is particularly fond of the “boy next door” John Truett (Tom Drake). The younger bratty daughters Agnes (Joan Carroll) and Tootie (Margaret O’Brien) advocate in favour of staying to continue their obscene and inappropriate pranks. Eldest son Lon Jr. (Henry H. Daniels Jr.) is already in college at this point, having begun exploring life beyond St. Louis. As the seasons advance towards the once prospectively exhilarating Fair, an aura of despair looms through this observed upbeat, decadent, colour-saturated world.
This film is undoubtedly a quintessential musical. The musical numbers are highly memorable and vibrant, with “The Trolley Song”, “The Boy Next Door”, and the classic “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” being among the fabulous roster of songs. The propelling of popularity and timelessness of these songs are mainly due to Judy Garland’s exquisite and astute vocals, expressing every emotion necessary in a very genuine manner. Vincente Minnelli’s careful direction showcases Garland’s talent but also allows the viewer to feel great compassion for the Smith family. I must also mention the beautiful costumes, embodying the fashion of the early 1900s. Overall, romance, drama, teenage troubles, and childhood woes all captivate in this wonderful film, which is ultimately an ode to the glory and connection of home. This love, joy, and adoration for St. Louis are expressed within the film’s title and eponymous initial number.
I do not own the pictures in this post. As well, this post is part of the Judy Garland Blogathon hosted by In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood. Please check out the other awesome posts honouring the amazingly talented and legendary Judy Garland!