Meet Me in St. Louis
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|Meet Me in St. Louis|
|Directed by||Vincente Minnelli|
|Screenplay by||Irving Brecher|
Fred F. Finklehoffe
|Based on||Meet Me in St. Louis|
by Sally Benson
|Produced by||Arthur Freed|
|Cinematography||George J. Folsey|
|Edited by||Albert Akst|
|Music by||George Stoll|
|Distributed by||Loew's, Inc.|
|Box office||$6,566,000 (original release)|
Meet Me in St. Louis is a 1944 American Christmas musical film made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Divided into a series of seasonal vignettes, starting with Summer 1903, it relates the story of a year in the life of the Smith family in St. Louis, leading up to the opening of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (more commonly referred to as the World's Fair) in the spring of 1904. The film stars Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien, Mary Astor, Lucille Bremer, Tom Drake, Leon Ames, Marjorie Main, June Lockhart, and Joan Carroll.
The film was adapted by Irving Brecher and Fred F. Finklehoffe from a series of short stories by Sally Benson, originally published in The New Yorker magazine under the title "5135 Kensington", and later in novel form as Meet Me in St. Louis. The film was directed by Vincente Minnelli, who met Garland on the set and later married her. Tony Award winning designer Lemuel Ayers served as the film's art director.
Upon its release, Meet Me in St. Louis was both a critical and a commercial success. It became the second-highest grossing film of 1944, only behind Going My Way, and was also MGM's most successful musical of the 1940s. In 1994, the film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
Garland debuted the standards "The Trolley Song", "The Boy Next Door", and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", all of which became hits after the film was released. Arthur Freed, the producer of the film, also wrote and performed one of the songs.
It is summer 1903. The Smith family leads a comfortable upper-middle class life. Alonzo Smith (Leon Ames) and his wife Anna (Mary Astor) have four daughters: Rose (Lucille Bremer), Esther (Judy Garland), Agnes (Joan Carroll), and Tootie (Margaret O'Brien); and a son, Lon Jr. (Henry H. Daniels, Jr.). Esther, the second eldest daughter, is in love with the boy next door, John Truitt (Tom Drake), although he does not notice her at first. Tootie is riding along with iceman Mr. Neely and disputing that St Louis is the best city. Rose, the eldest daughter, is expecting a phone call during which she hopes to be proposed to by Warren Sheffield (Robert Sully). While the call takes place, she is embarrassed when not only does Warren fail to propose but also the entire family is present as she takes the call during dinner.
Esther finally gets to meet John properly when he is a guest at the Smiths' house party, although her chances of romancing him don't go as planned when, after all the guests are gone and he is helping her turn off the gas lamps throughout the house, he tells her she uses the same perfume as his grandmother and that she has "a mighty strong grip for a girl."
Esther hopes to meet John again the following Friday on a trolley ride from the city to the construction site of the World's Fair. Esther is disappointed when the trolley sets off without any sign of him, but cheers up when she sees him running to catch the trolley mid-journey.
On Halloween, Tootie and Agnes are costumed and ready to go out for the night. While Agnes and the other neighborhood children discuss who will "kill" (throw flour at) various neighbors, Tootie begs to be included but is ignored because she is "too little." Desperate to prove herself, she volunteers to go after the dreaded Mr. Braukoff. When she succeeds despite her fears, the others proclaim her "the most horrible" and let her toss scrap furniture on their bonfire.
Back home, Rose and Esther are talking when all of a sudden they hear Tootie screaming from the direction of the trolley. Esther rushes out and carries Tootie back in. The little girl is crying, with a split lip and a lost tooth, and claims "John Truitt tried to kill me." Without bothering to investigate, Esther runs next door and confronts John, physically attacking him and scolding him for being a "bully." After Esther returns, Tootie and Agnes confess the truth - John was trying to protect them from the police after a dangerous prank of theirs went wrong. Upon learning the truth, Esther immediately dashes to John's house to apologize, and they share their first kiss.
That same night, Mr. Smith comes home and announces that he is to be sent to New York City on business and they will all move after Christmas. The family is devastated and upset at the news, especially Rose and Esther whose romances, friendships, and educational plans are threatened. Esther is also aghast because they will miss the World's Fair. Although Mrs. Smith is upset as well, she reconciles with her husband and they sing a tender duet as she plays piano.
An elegant ball takes place on Christmas Eve. John cannot take Esther as his date because he was too late to pick up his tuxedo at the tailor's. Initially disappointed, she is soon relieved when her grandfather (Harry Davenport) offers to take her to the ball instead. At the ball, Esther and Rose plot to ruin the evening of Warren's date, Lucille Ballard (June Lockhart) by filling up her dance card with losers. They are surprised when Lucille turns out to be warm and friendly and not "an eastern snob." She suggests that Warren should really be with Rose, allowing her to pair up with Lon. Esther switches her dance card with Lucille's and dances in Lucille's place with the clumsy and awkward partners. After being rescued by Grandpa, Esther is overjoyed when John appears in a tuxedo, and the pair dance together for the rest of the evening. Later on, John proposes to Esther and she accepts, but their future is uncertain because she must still move to New York.
Esther returns home to find Tootie waiting impatiently for Santa and worrying about whether she can bring all her toys with her to New York. After Esther's poignant rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", an inconsolable Tootie runs out into the cold to destroy the snowmen they have to leave behind.
Mr. Smith watches his youngest daughter's tantrum from an upstairs window and changes his mind. The family will not leave St. Louis after all, he announces. Warren rushes into the Smith home, declares his love for Rose, and announces they will marry at the first possible opportunity.
On or after April 30, 1904, the family take two horse-drawn buggies to the World's Fair. The film ends that night with the entire family (including Esther and John, Lon and Lucille, Rose and Warren) gathered overlooking the Fair's Grand Lagoon, just as thousands of lights illuminating the grand pavilion are switched on.
- Judy Garland as Esther Smith
- Margaret O'Brien as "Tootie" Smith
- Mary Astor as Mrs. Anna Smith
- Leon Ames as Mr. Alonzo Smith
- Lucille Bremer as Rose Smith
- Tom Drake as John Truitt
- Marjorie Main as Katie the maid
- Harry Davenport as Grandpa
- Henry H. Daniels Jr. as Alonzo "Lon" Smith Jr.
- Joan Carroll as Agnes Smith
- June Lockhart as Lucille Ballard
- Robert Sully as Warren Sheffield
- Hugh Marlowe as Colonel Darly
- Chill Wills as Mr. Neely the iceman
- Darryl Hickman as Johnny Tevis, neighbor boy (uncredited)
- Donald Curtis as Dr. Girard (uncredited)
The musical score for the film was adapted by Roger Edens, who also served as an uncredited associate producer. Georgie Stoll conducted the orchestrations of Conrad Salinger. Some of the songs in the film are from around the time of the St. Louis Exposition. Others were written for the movie.
- "Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis" Kerry Mills and Andrew B. Sterling, 1904
- "The Boy Next Door", Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, 1944, performed by Judy Garland.
- "Skip to My Lou", Traditional, with section sung to the tunes of "Kingdom Coming" and "Yankee Doodle" arranged by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, 1944
- "I Was Drunk Last Night," performed by Margaret O'Brien.
- "Under the Bamboo Tree," Words and music by Robert Cole and The Johnson Bros., 1902, performed by Judy Garland and Margaret O'Brien.
- "Over the Banister," 19th-century melody adapted by Conrad Salinger, lyrics from the 1888 poem "Over the Banisters" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, adapted by Roger Edens (1944), performed by Judy Garland.
- "The Trolley Song", Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, 1944, performed by Chorus and Judy Garland.
- "You and I," Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, sung by Arthur Freed and D. Markas, dubbing for Leon Ames and Mary Astor.
- "Goodbye, My Lady Love", (Instrumental), Joseph E. Howard, 1904.
- "Little Brown Jug", (Instrumental), Joseph Winner, 1869.
- "Down at the Old Bull and Bush," (Instrumental), Harry von Tilzer, 1903.
- "Home! Sweet Home!", (Instrumental), Henry Bishop, 1823/1852.
- "Auld Lang Syne", (Instrumental)
- "The First Noel", (Instrumental)
- "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, 1944, performed by Judy Garland. The lyrics for "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" were originally different. The lyricist, Hugh Martin, wrote opening lyrics which were deemed too depressing by Judy Garland, Tom Drake, and Vincente Minnelli (they were: "Have yourself a merry little Christmas / It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past"), so Martin changed the lyrics.
- (Years after the movie's release, additional lyric changes were made for Frank Sinatra, who objected to the song's generally downbeat tone. The most notable changes included "Next year" becoming "From now on", "Once again, as in olden days / Happy golden days of yore / Faithful friends that were dear to us / Will be near to us once more" becoming "Here we are, as in olden days / Happy golden days of yore / Faithful friends that are dear to us / Gather near to us once more", and "Someday soon we all will be together / If the fates allow / Until then we'll just have to muddle through somehow" becoming "Through the years we all will be together / If the fates allow / Hang a shining star upon the highest bough". This revised version is the one now most commonly performed.)
Garland's pre-recording of "Boys and Girls Like You and Me" survives today, but the cut film footage has been lost. This song was originally composed by Rodgers & Hammerstein for their Broadway musical Oklahoma! but cut prior to its opening.
Upon its 1944 release, Meet Me in St. Louis was a massive critical and commercial success. During its initial theatrical release, it earned a then-massive $5,016,000 in the US and Canada and $1,550,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $2,359,000.
The film was a New York Times Critics' Pick: after seeing it at the Astor Theatre, Bosley Crowther called it "a warm and beguiling picturization based on Sally Benson's memoirs of her folks ... The Smiths and their home, in Technicolor, are eyefuls of scenic delight, and the bursting vitality of their living inspires you like vitamin A. Miss Garland is full of gay exuberance as the second sister of the lot and sings, as we said, with a rich voice that grows riper and more expressive in each new film. Her chortling of "The Trolley Song" puts fresh zip into that inescapable tune, and her romantic singing of a sweet one, "The Boy Next Door," is good for mooning folks." Crowther concludes: "As a comparable screen companion to Life With Father, we would confidently predict that Meet Me in St. Louis has a future that is equally bright. In the words of one of the gentlemen, it is a ginger-peachy show."
Time called it "one of the year's prettiest pictures"; "Technicolor has seldom been more affectionately used than in its registrations of the sober mahoganies and tender muslins and benign gaslights of the period. Now & then, too, the film gets well beyond the charm of mere tableau for short flights in the empyrean of genuine domestic poetry. These triumphs are creditable mainly to the intensity and grace of Margaret O'Brien and to the ability of director Minnelli & Co. to get the best out of her." O'Brien drew further praise from Time; " [her] song and her cakewalk done in a nightgown at a grown-up party, are entrancing acts. Her self-terrified Halloween adventures richly set against firelight, dark streets, and the rusty confabulations of fallen leaves, bring this section of the film very near the first-rate." Writing in The New Yorker, Wolcott Gibbs praised the film as "extremely attractive" and called the dialogue "funny in a sense rather rare in the movies," although he thought it was too long.
In 2005, Richard Schickel included the film on Time.com's ALL-TIME 100 best films, saying "It had wonderful songs [and] a sweetly unneurotic performance by Judy Garland....Despite its nostalgic charm, Minnelli infused the piece with a dreamy, occasionally surreal, darkness and it remains, for some of us, the greatest of American movie musicals."
Arthur Freed: "Meet Me in St. Louis is my personal favourite. I got along wonderfully with Judy, but the only time we were ever on the outs was when we did this film. She didn't want to do the picture. Even her mother came to me about it. We bumped into some trouble with some opinions – Eddie Mannix, the studio manager, thought the Halloween sequence was wrong, but it was left in. There was a song that Rodgers and Hammerstein had written, called Boys and Girls Like You and Me, that Judy did wonderfully, but it slowed up the picture and it was cut out. After the preview of the completed film, Judy came over to me and said, "Arthur, remind me not to tell you what kind of pictures to make." [It] was the biggest grosser Metro had up to that time, except for Gone With the Wind."
The film currently holds a 100% "Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 33 reviews with an average score of 8.69/10. The site's critics consensus for the film reads, "A disarmingly sweet musical led by outstanding performances from Judy Garland and Margaret O'Brien, Meet Me in St. Louis offers a holiday treat for all ages."
The film was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Color, Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture, and Best Music, Song (Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin for "The Trolley Song"). Margaret O'Brien received an Academy Juvenile Award for her work that year, in which she appeared in several movies along with Meet Me in St. Louis.
The American Film Institute ranked the film 10th on AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals; two songs from the film made AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs ("The Trolley Song" at #26 and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" at #76).
- Meet Me in St. Louis was remade in 1959 for television, starring Jane Powell, Jeanne Crain, Patty Duke, Walter Pidgeon, Ed Wynn, Tab Hunter and Myrna Loy. It was directed by George Schaefer from the original Brecher and Finklehoffe screenplay.
- Meet Me in St. Louis was remade again for television in 1966. This was a non-musical version starring Shelley Fabares, Celeste Holm, Larry Merrill, Judy Land, Reta Shaw, Tammy Locke and Morgan Brittany. It was directed by Alan D. Courtney from a script written by Sally Benson herself. This was to be a pilot for a TV series, but no network picked it up. It was later included as a special feature on the 2 disc DVD set released in 2004.
- A Broadway musical based on the film was produced in 1989, with additional songs.
- The late-19th century vintage carousel in this movie could be found at the Boblo Island Amusement Park in Amherstburg, Ontario until the park closed in September 1993. It was dismantled and sold to private collectors.
- Gerald Kaufman wrote a study of the film, with the same title, which was published by the British Film Institute in 1994.
- The Benson house at 5135 Kensington Avenue, St. Louis, Mo. no longer exists. After being sold, it fell into disrepair, eventually became uninhabitable, and was demolished in 1994. The house had also used in the film Cheaper by the Dozen.
The plot points for the film originate from the following of Sally Benson's stories published in The New Yorker
- "5135 Kensington: January, 1904" January 31, 1942 - Tootie and Grandpa visit the fairgrounds
- "5135 Kensington: February, 1904" February 8, 1942 – Mr. and Mrs. Smith go out and the girls have a gay time at home
- "5135 Kensington: March, 1904" March 28, 1942 – The family visits the World's Fair
- "5135 Kensington: April, 1904" April 11, 1942 – Not moving to New York
- "5135 Kensington: May, 1904" May 23, 1942 – A last look at the Fair
- "Meet Me in St. Louis". American Film Institute. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study
- Box Office Information for Meet Me in St. Louis. The Numbers. Retrieved August 27, 2013.
- Variety film review; November 1, 1944, page 10.
- Harrison's Reports film review; November 4, 1944, page 178.
- Arnold Saint-Subber (September 11, 1955). "Obituary: Lemuel Ayers". The New York Times.
- "Movies: Top 5 Box Office Hits, 1939 to 1988". Ldsfilm.com. Retrieved June 18, 2014.
- on YouTube
- "Great Songs Cut From Broadway Shows" at vulture.com
- Crowther, Bosley (November 29, 1944). "Meet Me in St. Louis, a Period Film That Has Charm, With Judy Garland and Margaret O'Brien, Opens at the Astor". The New York Times. Retrieved August 2, 2011.
- "The New Pictures". TIME. November 27, 1944. Archived from the original on September 12, 2012. Retrieved August 2, 2011.
- Gibbs, Wolcott (December 9, 1944). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. New York: F-R Publishing Corp.: 50.
- Schickel, Richard (February 12, 2005). "Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)". TIME. Archived from the original on March 12, 2010. Retrieved August 2, 2011.
- Films of Judy Garland, Joe Morella & Edward Epstein Cadillac Publishing, 1969
- "Movie Reviews for Meet Me in St. Louis". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
- "25 Films Added to National Registry". The New York Times. November 15, 1994. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 23, 2020.
- "Complete National Film Registry Listing | Film Registry | National Film Preservation Board | Programs at the Library of Congress | Library of Congress". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved July 23, 2020.
- "Google Maps". Google Maps. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
- ABC News. "Boom Nation: Meet Me in St. Louis". ABC News. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
- Meet Me in St. Louis essay  by Andrea Alsberg on the National Film Registry website
- Meet Me in St. Louis at IMDb
- Meet Me in St. Louis at the TCM Movie Database
- Meet Me in St. Louis at AllMovie
- Meet Me in St. Louis at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Meet Me in St. Louis at Rotten Tomatoes
- Meet Me in St. Louis from TheJudyRoom.com
- Meet Me in St. Louis at Filmsite.org.
- Meet Me in St. Louis at the Museum of Modern Art.
- Meet Me in St. Louis on Lux Radio Theater: December 2, 1946
- Meet Me in St. Louis essay by Daniel Eagan in America's Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide to the Landmark Movies in the National Film Registry, A&C Black, 2010 ISBN 0826429777, pages 377-379