Meet Me In St. Louis (1944, Vincente Minnelli)

“Personally, I wouldn’t marry a man who proposed to me over an invention.”

The biggest MGM hit of its time, featuring original (original!) songs “clang clang went the trolley”, “meet me in st. louis”, and “have yourself a merry little christmas”. With the awesome Judy Garland (of Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy).

Seven-year-old Margaret O’Brien (Tootie) was second and third billed in three major 1944 movies, and won an honorary Oscar for this one. I’ll bet no seven-year-old has done as well in a single year since. Neither has Margaret, who starred in two big pictures in ’49 then disappeared to television.

At least two girls are trying to get husbands (Judy nabs the next-door neighbor at the very end, after trying hard for the whole movie) and, along with little Tootie, are blowing every little thing way out of proportion, as girls tend to do. Some excellent side plots, such as Tootie’s Halloween challenge to “kill” an intimidating neighbor (throw flour in his face). Halloween was much more anarchic and fun back then – the kids build a bonfire out of furniture in the middle of the street. The title refers to the world’s fair, which the family sadly is going to miss because Dad got a big promotion and is moving them all to New York. Happy ending: he picks his hysteric family over job advancement, Judy is to be married, and Christmas is merry after all.

Silent star Mary Astor (Two Arabian Knights, The Palm Beach Story, Maltese Falcon) played the mother. The other sister, who nobody seems to care much about, older than Tootie by a few years, was in Leo McCarey’s The Bells of St. Mary’s the next year. I could swear oldest sister Rose looked familiar, but no she hasn’t been in anything else I’ve heard of. Servant woman Katie became famous as “Ma Kettle” in ten movies over the next ten years. Handsome boy next door John Truett worked through the seventies, when he appeared in The Boy Who Stole The Elephant and A Matter of Wife… and Death. Grandpa Harry Davenport (“Mr. Jarr” in a whole bunch of 1915 comedy shorts) also appeared in William Dieterle’s Hunchback of Notre Dame and a bunch of films with “Heaven” in their titles. And Leon Ames, the father of the Smith clan, was in a bunch of good films by name directors over the next ten years, including Little Women which featured four main St. Louis cast members, had a recurring role on Mr. Ed, and in his eighties appeared with Margaret O’Sullivan in Peggy Sue Got Married. June Lockhart appears briefly. I thought she was a big name, but I guess she’s best known for TV roles in Lassie and Lost In Space, later appearing in Troll and CHUD II: Bud The Chud.

The third feature, and first in color, by musical master Minnelli, who married star Judy Garland the following year. Produced by Arthur Freed, who wrote the song “Singin’ in the Rain”.

IMDB trivia sad note for Katy: “Van Johnson was supposed to play John Truett, but Tom Drake took over.”

More sadness: “The book on which the film is based originally ran as a weekly feature in the New Yorker Magazine in 1942. For the film many of the actions attributed to Tootie were actually done in real life by [author Sally] Benson’s sister Agnes. Also in reality Benson’s father moved the family to NYC and they never did come back for the World’s Fair.”

I liked it a lot.

DEC 2023: Watched again in HD… perfect movie.