Meet Me In St. Louis

Meet Me In St. Louis

Static Mass Rating: 5/5

Release date: December 16th, 2011
Certificate (UK): U
Running time: 148 minutes

Year of production: 1944

Director: Vincente Minnelli
Writers: Irving Brecher, Fred F. Finkelhoffe

Cast: Judy Garland, Lucille Bremer, Robert Sully, Tom Drake, Marjorie Main, Leon Ames, Mary Astor

Few stars have shone as bright as Judy Garland. From child star to MGM’s most bankable actress, Judy also went on to become a gay icon and was synonymous with the Stonewall movement that rose up on the night of her death on June 27th 1969.

There isn’t a star today that shines like she did back then. That much is clear when we watch her light up the screen in Meet Me In St. Louis.

Meet Me In St. Louis

Based on the novel ‘The Kensington Stories‘ by Sally Benson and set in 1903, it’s the story of a well-to-do family in mid-western St Louis at the time leading up to the World’s Fair the following year.

Judy plays Esther, a young woman desperately trying to attract the attention of her new neighbour, John (Tom Drake), who lives next door. So far he hasn’t taken the slightest bit of notice of her. She sings The Boy Next Door while looking longingly over at him from afar, but still nothing.

Meet Me In St. Louis

We also meet her older sister, Rose (Lucille Bremer). She’s waiting for a long distance telephone call from her beau, Warren (Robert Sully) who’s in New York and hopes he will propose to her. There’s also an older brother, Lon Jr. (Henry H. Daniels, Jr.), two younger sisters, Agnes (Joan Carroll) and Tootie (Margaret O’Brien) and mom Anna (Mary Astor) and dad Alonzo (Leon Ames).

They’re all looked after by Katie the maid (Marjorie Main) who helps to keep the household warm, fed and looking immaculate. Happy as they are, things look like they’re about to change when a promotion for Alonzo means the family will be uprooted to New York.

Meet Me In St. Louis

In one of the film’s most captivating moments, Esther comes home after a ball on Christmas Eve to find her little sister Tootie distraught over the prospect of the move; she sings her a little song called Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.

In The Christmas Carol Reader by William Emmett Studwell, he mentions this very song but first tells us a little bit about the writers:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles
Will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yule-tide gay
From now on our troubles
Will be miles away

Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Will be near to us once more

Someday soon we all will be together
If the Fates allow
Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

~ Hugh Martin (words), Ralph Blane (music)

“The authors of this merry little Christmas song were Alabam-born composer, lyricist, and singer Hugh Martin, who wrote the music, and Oklahoma-born singer, lyricist, and composer Ralph Blane Hunseeker, also known as Ralph Blane, who wrote the lyrics. Martin and Blane were frequent collaborator, also combining on “Buckle Down Winsocki” (1941), “The Trolley Song” (1944), “The Boy Next Door” (1944), and “Pass that Peace Pipe” (1948).”

He then goes on to offer why the song has endured as long as it has, especially during the holiday season:

“Their most enduring song, possibly, is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” In part this is because it is a pleasent and accessible piece of musical dreaminess, and in part because it is strongly entrenched in the December holiday season, a most favourable sitatuion for the preservation of any song, including lesser ones than this ballad.”

  • Studwell, W.E. The Christmas Carol Reader (1995), Routledge

I couldn’t agree with him more. It’s a moment that’s right up there with Bing Crosby singing White Christmas. It’s simply one the world’s best loved Christmas songs. With its heart-tugging lyrics, it can bring a tear to even the hardest among us and when Judy sings it here, no matter how bad things might be, she shines with an optimism that’s needed today as much as it was in 1944.

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