It's the turn of the century and St. Louis is about to host the Louisiana Purchase Exposition World's Fair. The Smith family is all a-twitter - this is the big time, folks.
And it is one of my favourite Christmas movies.
Oh you can argue with me: most of the movie does not take place at Christmas time. But it has its penultimate moment on Christmas Eve and it has THAT song.
You can tell me that this is a saccharine-sweet look back at an America that didn't exist.
You can tell me whatever you like and I will tell you this:
This is THE musical.
This is THE family you wanted to be born into.
Those of us here who are Betsy-Tacy fans will admire the potted palm in the brass planter on the landing a la Mrs. Ray.
Those of us who love good music will marvel at Judy.
Before we begin you need to know:
- The movie was directed by Vincent Minnelli in 1944, who was a set designer before he got his big break. He loved Judy and married her after the movie and except for Victor Fleming who directed her in The Wizard of Oz, Minnelli probably filmed Judy in the most loving way possible. (the marriage didn't last, in part because - a-hem - he turned out to be at least partially friend of Judy, every pun intended)
- The movie was adapted from a series of short stories by Sally Benson that were originally published in The New Yorker magazine under the title "5135 Kensington", and later in novel form as Meet Me in St. Louis.
- The movie was shamelessly ripped off later in Cheaper by the Dozen and On Moonlight Bay (both of which are fun in their own rights, but not classics).
Ah but these don't matter, because you are going to immerse yourself into Esther Smith's family and you are going to love them, so shall we begin:
1) The father always thinks he is in charge, but he is NEVER in charge
Alonzo (Lon) Smith thinks he runs his house like a well-oiled machine. He is wrong. Nope - his wife is in charge, as are his children. He will realize this as the movie goes along and he will be surprised when he does, but he will also be glad.
2) Although sometimes the housekeeper is in charge...
Marjorie Main, she of the Ma and Pa Kettle Movies, is the housekeeper and she knows all of the family secrets. She brooks no criticism and she is fiercely loyal. She is, in other words, the perfect foil to the father...
3) and Grandpa lives with you and he is a lifesaver
Boyfriend misplaces his tux? No worries, Grandpa will take you to the Christmas dance. Grandpa will argue with Lon. Grandpa is one of the kids at heart and he is quite a hero...
My oh my, that boy next door is cute. You have to work on your flirting and you have to be pretty obvious with him, because, he is well, kind of thick, but he is worth it....
5) Your sister is incorrigible
Her name is Tootie (played by Margaret O'Brien) and she steals the movie. Everyone loves her. You love her. But can't she go to bed? Maybe after you do the cakewalk....
6) But she is brave...
Only she has the guts to go throw flour at the evil neighbour on Halloween. You want to shake her, but really, she is so darn adorable.
7) And then dad buggers everything up by deciding you should all move to New York City!
Hasn't he heard about the World's Fair? The Boy Next Door? The Gang on the Trolley? Oh you love Dad, but he is an idiot. You are all so happy - who cares about money?
8) Je when the boy next door says he loves you on Christmas Eve?
Are you kidding me? This is tragedy...
9) But then your sister fixes it all by having a mini-nervous breakdown and you get to sing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and I defy any old coot to ignore THAT...
10) All's well that ends well - Let's go to the fair!
And since I adore you all, let's watch the big moment that made me weep when I saw it the first time..
Have you seen this movie? What do you think?
Have a great Monday and Stay Safe out there!