Monday, December 2, 2013

Everything I learned in life I learned from the movies: Meet Me in St. Louis


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...

4) You can find love next door

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!
 

23 comments:

  1. I have never seen that movie and didn't know THAT song was introduced by it. I love the old movies and hope I get a chance to watch this one.

    I must be distracted. When you said "all a-twitter" I thought Twitter, and social media, which led to my "homework" assignment for a meeting that I must travel to and what could be a stressful Monday trying to get a bunch of things done and packing for a week. But I'll get to see my dad, yay!

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    1. Judy was my mother's favourite, so I got introduced to this movie early! I laughed about twitter - I don't use it, so that never even occurred to me!

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  2. Another film I haven't seen.... I really am a philistine! Must add this to my long list of films I must see!
    Hope you're well and enjoying your cold weather... I always get a bit wistful when I see snow....

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    1. I think I am pulling out the old stuff, which most people haven't seen, but am hoping to get a few converts! We had about 15 cm of snow yesterday - it is still snowing!

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  3. Wendy - my list of movies I need to watch is growing because of you!! I thought I was with it until very recently...:)

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    1. well, I am picking the old ones...

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  4. I have never seen either but then I have never seen It's a Wonderful Life. Looks like I may need a movie list.

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    1. well we will get to the latter very soon, but I will bring you a little closer next week!

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    2. That's another one that hubs was crazy for, he's much more of a girl than I am! He had the poster hanging in his bachelor flat, but it is a really good film, bit of a weepfest, really looking forward to you take on this WMM.

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    3. we may have married the wrong men for us, Tabs! you need the handyman - I am looking for the girl!

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  5. Need to order this immediately. I am already in love with this movie from your description and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is my favorite Christmas song ever. (If you need a Christmas album recommendation that the boys in the house will not barf to, Tracey Thorn's Tinsel and Lights is a good one). I'm probably the character that is having a meltdown Christmas Eve but whatever, thanks for introducing me to this movie.

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    1. Marie - it is just about as sweet a film as you could ever want!

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  6. SISTER ACT Well Wendy, learned something new already this morning. Had seen snippets because of Garland and the song, but never connected to the actual film. Loving the coordinated robes scene. Always marvel at those families (not mine) that have their act together in PJs.
    Hope you are staying warm and safe. The Glasgow crash, those teens in N.B., so many tragedies past week.

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    1. I know - the tragedies have been terrible. Am trying to focus on the good stuff. No matching PJs here!

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  7. Add it to the very long list of films I have never seen and likely never will since I usually only watch movies when I am captive on an airplane. The other day I was thinking I should have a list of movies for the quiet time during Christmas and NYE since I won't be skiing this year and although I will still go skating it is usually a much shorter activity. Since my husband will probably hit the slopes I will most likely spend the time with books if I'm honest about it.

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    1. you made me laugh out loud with your comment! just know if you are trapped on a plane and this comes on, give it a whirl!

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  8. I have never seen this movie, it's not even been on my radar, and I don't like musicals (ducking! lol!!).

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    1. Ha! That's okay - Marie and I will just be off cuddling in the corner with Tabs' husband!

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  9. You are kidding? That's where the song comes from? I have never seen this and don't know anything about it.
    Oh I'm with Cate, I loathe musicals, on one of my first dates with hubs ages ago, pfft 18 years now, he took to me to one and I said " hang on, is this a musical? You haven't been listing I loathe them I need to leave now"
    Amazingly he called back. He loves Les Mis and all of that, ugh!

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    1. Just as I suspected -your husband is, to quote Captain Renault from Caablanca "a rank sentimentalist" - you neef to bring him to NB!

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  10. Hi Wendy, I'm sure that I've seen this movie before, but the details are fuzzy as I probably watched it on tv as a child. Thanks for this rundown - I, too, had forgotten/didn't realise that the song came from there.

    My favourite Christmas movie is White Christmas; we watch it on TV every year, but apparently it's not on this year. Boo!

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    1. Patricia - that is just a sign to go and buy the DVD - there are lots of extra goodies on it!

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  11. Such innocence. We need this in our lives sometimes.

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Kindness is a virtue...