Judy Garland is one of classic Hollywood’s biggest names, but without searching her name on IMDB, I reckon The Wizard of Oz is the only Garland joint I could name off the top of my head. Skip to My Lou, The Trolley Song and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas are classic songs that I know without knowing how or where I first heard them. Well, randomly recording a movie because the title sounded vaguely familiar gave me Garland, and all those songs, and a pretty great example of classic Hollywood firing on all cylinders, in Meet Me in St Louis.
As the city of St Louis gets ready to host the 1904 World’s Fair, it’s just one event exciting the Smith family. Patriarch, Alonzo (Leo Ames) busts his ass in a law firm all day to provide for his large family and large, opulent home. Occupying said opulence with Alonzo are his wife and the home’s matriarch, Ann (Marty Astor), eldest daughter Rose (Lucille Smith), second eldest Esther (Garland), college bound son, Lon (Henry H Daniels Jr), and two pre teenage daughters, Agnes (Joan Carroll) and Tootie (Margaret O’Brien). As well as the kid’s grandfather (Harry Davenport), and a live in maid Katie (Marjorie Main).
For the two older Smith girls, love is in the air. Rose pines for their handsome neighbour, while Esther awaits a long distance phone call from New York that she is sure will be a marriage proposal from her beau. While they pursue their respective loves, the whole family is thrown into upheaval when Alonzo accepts a job in New York that will uproot the entire family after Christmas.
This is some syrupy, corny shit. But it’s the best kind of syrupy corn. The colours are brighter than anything in the real world, the streets are cleaner than anything that could ever exist outside of a Hollywood backlot, and these characters are more wholesome than is healthy. Sometimes, this adds up to just too much dated, out of touch artifice. But Meet Me in St Louis is too charming to be overwhelmed by that stuff.
It’s the kind of movie that justifies that statement, “they just don’t make ‘em like they used to”. And that’s not a bad thing, because a movie made in the new millennium with this kind of look or attitude would just seem so out of touch and fake. But when filmed in technicolor, and performed by people like Judy Garland, this world is only becomes more endearing as it becomes more artificial.