7/21/12 – Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

“I got a cousin who spells it the same way, and we call him Louie. Of course, he ain’t a city & he ain’t a saint so there’s no comparison.”

Vincente Minnelli’s wonderful musical Meet Me in St. Louis is the story of the Smiths, an affluent, well-adjusted, turn of the 20th century Midwestern family. It stars Judy Garland as Esther Smith in one of her many fantastic roles. The brilliant but troubled singer & actress is, of course, best known as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. She never won a performance Oscar, but did win the Juvenile Award in 1940 at the 12th Academy Awards. That Oscar year, almost universally recognized as the greatest in film history, included The Wizard of Oz. Garland also starred alongside Mickey Rooney in Babes in Arms that year. Her two Oscar Nominations were for Best Actress for the first remake of A Star Is Born in 1954, and Judgment at Nuremberg in ’61. Ms. Garland died of an overdose of barbiturates in 1969 at the far too young age of 47. As many of you know, her daughter was Oscar Winner Liza Minnelli. Liza’s father was Vincente Minnelli, who directed Meet Me in St. Louis. The couple met on the set of the film, married shortly thereafter, and divorced 6 years later. Vincente won the Best Director Academy Award for Gigi in ‘59 and was nominated in ’52 for An American in Paris. Quite a talented family, wouldn’t you say?

     

Though it received no Oscars, Meet Me in St. Louis was nominated for 4 at the 17th Academy Awards in 1945: Adapted Screenplay, Color Cinematography, [The Trolley] Song, and Score for a Musical. Other wonderful songs in the film include the title piece, a great arrangement of Skip to My Lou, and Judy’s legendary performance of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Minnelli frames her like the subject of a beloved portrait in the song & in various scenes throughout film.

Margaret O’Brien, great as 5 year old Tootie Smith, won the 1945 Juvenile Academy Award for her supporting roles in this movie & The Canterville Ghost, and for starring in Music for Millions. Amongst the many other fine performances in Meet Me in St. Louis are Oscar Winner Mary Astor as Mrs. Smith; Oscar Nominee Marjorie Main as Maid Katie; Harry Davenport as Grandpa; and Tom Drake as Esther’s love interest, John Truett.

This is a tale of love: Romantic love; love of life; love of family; and love for your hometown. The Smiths love living together in St. Louis. It’s home. They’re all so excited that the 1904 World’s Fair is coming to town the next year, they never want to leave. And as long as their stern but loving father, played by Leon James, keeps his great job there, they won’t have to! Like Dorothy said one state away around the same era, “There’s no place like home”.

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