22 October 2005

100 films: Meet Me in St. Louis

starring: Judy Garland, Tom Drake, Mary Astor, and Lucille Bremer
written by: Irving Brecher and Fred F. Finklehoffe, from the novel by Sally Benson
directed by: Vincente Minnelli
NR, 113 min, 1944, USA

A grand old MGM musical, Meet Me In St. Louis is best known for its rousing musical numbers, vivid use of Technicolor, and one of Judy Garland's better performances. She plays Esther Smith, who would very much like to be on better terms with her new neighbor John Truett (Tom Drake). Her older sister Rose (Lucille Bremer) is likewise hoping for a proposal, but their father is threatening to ruin everything by moving the family to New York City. It all looks hopeless.

As is expected from musicals of this era, the plot and dialogue are just minor annoyances that bridge the gap from one musical number to the next. I don't pretend to know which songs are original to the film and which are recycled, but "the Trolley Song" ("Clang! Clang! Clang! Goes the trolley!") was nominated for an Oscar and "The Boy Next Door" and "Meet Me In St. Louis" certainly seem like they were written for the film, so on those alone, the original music is memorable.

Eveything seems vintage and crisp and orderly until somewhere in the middle, when the plot (such as it is) detours into some odd Halloween business involving the youngest daughter Tootie, which serves no real purpose in the film. There's no singing, no dancing, and no hope of a proposal. Instead, we have a bunch of children plotting around a bonfire. To me, it feels as if the scenes (and perhaps the character) were included to placate the author of the novel (Sally Benson), on whom the character is based. It is certainly an odd choice to include it for any other reason.


Derek said...

I liked your points about the Halloween sequence...I tend to disagree about its placement but you certainly make a good argument- check out my review and see what you think!