Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Does "Meet Me In St. Louis" Still Hold Up? You Bet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Though it has been referenced and mentioned so many times, since I started this blog, I do not believe I had sat through a full screening of "Meet Me In St. Louis" in all that time. So, last Saturday, upon discovering it was to be the Channel 13 movie, I told my beloved we just HAD to watch.
The film is perfection. It elevates the ordinary into art. A year in the turn-of-the-century lives of the Smith family is what the film is about. But how those lives and that era is portrayed is what makes the film.
Start with Vincente Minnelli's artistry. Not only does he elicit brilliant work from the actors, but each frame, in color, detail, composition, and camera placement, is a work of art in itself. Simple scenes, like Garland and Lucille Bremer positioned at the piano, singing the title tune, or the lighting during John Pruitt's proposal to Esther, are visually breathtaking.
Add Judy Garland at her vocal peak. Each song gets better and better, culminating in "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," leading to a moment that just keeps the tears flowing.
Then there is an Academy Award winning performance from Margaret O'Brien. How this darker exploration of the childhood psyche was elicited from her at so young an age, and that it made it to the screen, is remarkable, for its time. Many consider Tootie's Halloween adventure to be the film's high point, but, for me, it is the entire Winter sequence, culminating in Tootie's smashing of the snow men, that not only turns the film on its dramatic heels, but shows how capably children could be used in films. O'Brien won her Oscar deservedly.
The great Joan Carroll plays Agnes, and her start of the singing of the title tune, as it runs throughout the household, establishes this movie's structural flow. But it the quiet moments that stood out for me--Lucille Bremer's hand gestures in the "Skip To My Lou" number, Garland and O'Brien facing each other, arms raised, in "Under The Bamboo Tree, and, loveliest of all, turning the lights off in the house with Tom Drake, as John Truett, to Garland's poignant rendering of "Over The Bannister, Leaning," which set my tears to flowing.
Have hankies on hand, because, oh my, God, darlings, this film will elicit tears in places not expected. Save plenty for the Christmas sequence, commencing with Garland dancing with Harry Davenport ("Gone With The Wind's" own Dr. Meade) as Grandpa, where he leads her over behind a gorgeous Christmas tree, and out she comes on the other side, in Tom Drake's arms! A candlelit tree, a tender scene, and that red dress! Oh, my God, that dress! Where else would one find such perfection? Then, just as the eyes are drying, comes her singing, to O"Brien, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," and not since "Over The Rainbow," five years before have I heard a song sung so tenderly. The transitions on O'Brien's face throughout are spot on brilliant, and then the following--"The Snow Men Scene" has to be seen, if you can see through the mist of tears it elicits. By this point, I am an absolute mess, sobbing and gasping, like Tootie.
This was MGM's biggest money maker since "Gone With The Wind," and deservedly so. What is more, in the two dance sequences, in staging, lighting, and camera placement, one can sing how that earlier film influenced this one.
"Meet Me In St. Louis" is the midpoint of the Garland Triptych, flanked on the left by "The Wizard Of Oz," and "A Star Is Born," on the right. How many film stars can boast a Triptych Of Perfection?
As Tootie says, early on, "Wasn't I lucky to be born in my favorite city?" If already seen, watch it again. If never seen before, well, girls, come on, now!
You will be so lucky to see one of my favorite movies, to borrow from Tootie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!