Meet Me in St. Louis is available to rent, buy or stream now.
Vincente Minnelli’s classic musical is an odd Christmas film in that, apart from including one of the most famous Christmas songs ever written, the plot does not revolve around Christmas. Yet, there is no denying its overall warmth, atmosphere, and family-orientated themes embody a classic festive vibe.
The film takes us through a year in the life of the upper-middle-class Smith family, starting in the summer of 1903 and leading up to the St. Louis World Fair in the spring of 1904. For a classic Hollywood studio film, Meet Me in St. Louis is somewhat unique because it does not revolve around a specific conflict. The main issue is a father moving to New York for work and his family leaving behind their beloved St. Louis. However, this secular plot device is only presented halfway through the film and resolved with few significant obstacles.
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Instead, Meet Me in St. Louis is told through a series of vignettes depicting each season, each portraying the successes and hardships of the family members. This includes the disagreements between mum and dad (Leon Ames and Mary Astor), Rose (Lucille Bremer) and Esther’s (Judy Garland), search for love. While at the same time, the two youngest, Agnes (Joan Carroll) and Tootie (Margaret O’Brien), search for security and warmth. Here we find elements of the classic coming-of-age tale, long before it was labelled as such, as the film neatly merged a selection of short stories published in The New Yorker by Sally Benson.
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Being the first collaboration between Minelli and Garland, Meet Me in St Louis is the epitome of a classic Hollywood romantic musical, with everything you could expect from the genre. The majestic settings, the authentic costumes and incredibly vibrant and gorgeous colours make it apparent how high the budget must have been. While at the same time, the cast is outstanding as an ensemble, with Margaret O’Brien’s 6-year-old Tootie stealing some scenes. However, make no mistake, this is Judy Garland’s film – her voice is incredible and her performance beautiful. Here the timeless classics “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “The Trolley Song” have a personal touch that is unbeatable, no matter how many have tried over the years.
Meet Me in St. Louis is quite possibly one of the most iconic musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood. And while it might feel a bit too sentimental or corny at times, its visuals, performances and festive spirit are more than worth anyone’s time. However, while it may be referred to as a Christmas classic, the film is primarily a love letter to St. Louis. Yet, the age-old question remains unanswered on its correct pronunciation.
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