“Meet Me in St. Louis” was the 2nd highest vote getter from my readers. With Judy Garland starring, I expected a bit of singing in that wonderful alto (technically contra-alto) voice of hers. And she certainly did that in this period musical.
Our story is of a wealthy St. Louis family in the time just before the 1904 World’s Fair. We meet the Smiths, a family with four daughters ranging in a age (the youngest, Tootie, is elementary age). The oldest, Rose, awaits a phone call one evening from a young man attending Yale, and Esther (Judy Garland) tries to help her sister be free for the phone call by having the dinner hour changed.
Dad, Alonzo Smith, isn’t happy. And, in fact, he’s quite a pill throughout the film. This story, told throughout the seasons, focuses on the family life, and Esther’s budding romance with the boy next door—John Truett, who has just moved in. After the potential love interests get established in the summer, the tale jumps forward to late October. Tootie gets hurt while partaking in some questionable Halloween activities and blames it on John Truett. Esther heads over to confront John, only to find out later he was trying to protect young Tootie.
In the midst of this, Dad comes with news. He tells the family that he is moving them all to New York for his job. It’s all about money and moving up and how much better New York would be. He sort of just announces this, with apparently no conversation with his wife whatsoever. The girls are all devastated, especially Esther. Who, when she went back to apologize with John, has her first kiss.
Which brings us to Christmas. It took awhile to set us up and get to this point, so some—like me—may question how this is a “Christmas film.” The center of the plot here is on the Christmas Eve dance and who’s going with whom and all that. Esther is going with John, of course, although at the very end he can’t make it because he didn’t get to the cleaner’s in enough time to get his tux. Esther’s grandfather swoops in to take her since they move in a just a few days. While there, John appears for the last dance.
In the afterglow of the dance, John proposes, Esther accepts and wonders how they’l make it work since her family is moving. Once finally home Esther encounters a crying Tootie who cannot believe they are leaving St. Louis, and Esther sings the famous “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” (which is probably how this film gets the holiday tag).
Dad has second thoughts on Christmas Eve as he sees his daughters so distraught, and finally declares that he’s staying.
While set in 1903/4, you can understand a bit of the patriarchal stuff. On the other hand, it grates quite a bit. His change of heart does help redeem this movie some—I just wish his demeanor might have as well. He never really apologizes—that would be seen as too soft, probably—and that does impact my feeling about this classic.
Given all this, I have to give it:
More could have been done to show the deeper meaning of apology and forgiveness from Dad. Musicals aren’t really my thing, but this is a solid movie none the less. I won’t feel my life is incomplete if I never watch it again, but some of my readers may disagree (it was the second highest vote getter). And Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself” is worth it alone.
Next to be viewed: “Christmas with the Kranks.”