Director: Vincente Minnelli
Original Release: 1944
My Overall Rating: 3 stars out of 5
In our story, the Smiths live at 5135 Kensington in St. Louis, just about the most beautiful house you'll ever see in cinema. The 1904 World's Fair is mere months away and the city is abuzz. Esther (Garland) is the middle child of five and she's in love with the boy next door. The family's idyllic life is threatened when father announces they're all moving to New York after Christmas. The movie is based on a series of short stories by Sally Benson and thus has an episodic feel. Ultimately, the heartwarming themes of home and family togetherness carry the day.
The film is beautifully shot in vivid color. The energy is a bit inconsistent, though, and my own engagement waned in the middle. Interestingly, whereas most musicals are front-loaded, Meet Me in St. Louis picks up towards the end. It won me back when Esther's grandfather offers to take her to the Christmas ball and she calls him the most handsome man in town (sniff...).
The musical legacy is strong. There's some lovely part singing, unusual in musicals of the era. Garland's childhood vaudeville career touring with her older sisters was solid preparation. She's the rare leading lady who can nail a harmony line. I love a good alto! As a choral conductor, I'll take a solid alto over a fleet of sopranos anytime. The two most famous songs are "The Trolley Song," which I associate with Saturday Night Live's Sweeney Sisters, and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," a holiday standard covered by pretty much everyone. Hard to top the original: