william steig drawing

May 13, 2010
Kartina Richardson

Meet Me in St. Louis

This clip is from the 1944 MGM technicolor smorgasbord Meet Me in St. Louis directed by total genius Vincente Minnelli and produced by that musical making powerhouse Arthur Freed. I know I normally don’t mention producers, but if we’re talking about musicals of the 40s and 50s, and we are, we’ve got to include the Freed.

The film follows a family’s adventures, trials, and minor tribulations in St. Louis, Missouri before the 1904 World’s Fair. It stars Judy Garland, Lucille Bremer, Leon Ames, the lovely Mary Astor, the always comforting even when prickly Harry Davenport, and child star Margaret O’Brien.

I watched this film everyday after school for several months.
It was part of my new routine.
The one that involved obsessively watching every single technicolor musical ever made.
I was no longer satisfied with black & white Fred and Ginger pictures.
RKO was for babies. At the age of 10 I had blossomed into a full grown MGM* girl. I needed BIG and I needed COLOR.

Looking back, I realize that this move to technicolor was directly influenced by my parents divorce.
Before this I had enjoyed the black & white comedies of the 30s. But even Bringing Up Baby was not funny or shiny enough to counter the sudden instability of divorce.

During this time I became increasingly drawn to the safety and security of the plots that these candy colored pictures offered. In the 40s they distracted audiences from WWII. In the early 90’s they distracted audiences from custody battles. Goodbye Holiday Inn, Hello White Christmas. During the day I navigated the bumpy roads of being a multi-racial kid in an all white neighborhood with divorcing parents. At night, I lost myself in the wonders of Vincente Minelli or Stanley Donen composed shots.
Meet Me in St. Louis had everything: gorgeous color, gorgeous sets, famous songs, old timey dancing, cute little kids, romance, and above all family. I recently re-watched the trolley song scene and nearly drowned in a sea of movie-loving tears. I know every single minor motion Garland makes in this number. From the tilt of her head to the position of her index finger. Something about this scene perfectly encapsulates everything I adore about studio era Hollywood. Is it Garland’s perfect emoting? Is it her bangs? Is it the knowledge that Minnelli and Garland fell in love while filming (and and later produced Liza Minnelli?).

Maybe it’s that not only is the film itself an ode to a different era, BUT, in the song Garland excitedly recalls her interaction with the boy she’s lusting for. This double dose of nostalgia combined with my own makes for one HIGHLY EMOTIONAL viewing experience.

This video is with limited commentary, because I start crying each time I try to record.

* Paramount had a few good ones too.

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