Have Yourself a Merry Little Musical
"Meet Me in St. Louis" is one of those musicals which wins you over with its good nature, its innocence, its charm and of course its memorable musical numbers. And to be honest it's a good thing because like so many other musicals the actual storyline to "Meet Me in St. Louis" is a little slim relying on the songs and performances to entertain rather than a narrative of any real substance. As such "Meet Me in St. Louis" does end up very memorable be it for the show tunes or for Judy Garland's chirpy performance and if all you want from a musical is some great musical numbers then it will most definitely please.
St. Louis 1903 and 17 year old Esther Smith (Judy Garland - The Wizard of Oz) has fallen for John Truett (Tom Drake) the new boy next door, unfortunately for her he barely seems to notice her. Mean while Esther's old sister Rose (Lucille Bremer) is also having problems of the heart with her college boyfriend Warren (Robert Sully) seeming hesitant to propose to her. Over the course of the year these minor romantic dramas fill the life of Esther and Rose along with other family dramas. But when their father Alonso (Leon Ames - By the Light of the Silvery Moon) tells them that they are moving to New York it means that romance maybe off the cards for Esther and John.
As is the case with many musicals the storyline to "Meet Me in St. Louis" is very slim and in fact for me it doesn't really have a proper storyline. Instead we basically get a few events in the life of the well to do Smith family over the course of the year. One of those events is Esther trying to woo her new neighbour John, another is her sister Rose having issues of the heart with her college boyfriend Warren and then there is Mr. Smith who informs the family that they are moving to New York due to a promotion, something which none of the Smith family really wants. As such these events may intermingle with the move to New York causing urgency in Esther's plans to get John but are really just slim little snippets to provide a vehicle for the various musical scenes.
But whilst the storyline is slim "Meet Me in St. Louis" is full of charm and it is the charm of this old fashioned pre-war family unit which ends up winning us over. We warm to the feisty Esther as she tries to win over John and we feel for Rose as she anticipates a proposal by phone only for one to never come. And it goes on as each of the family members delivers old fashioned charm be it young Tootie, played by Margaret O'Brien, or their slightly eccentric grandpa. Even Mr. Smith delivers a sense of warmth as whilst he is grumpy and likes things done his way in a home which is nearly all women he does have a good heart when it comes to his family. It's all very innocent but it is all very charming as well and as such scenes as they dance or a family meal almost make you feel like you could go back to these simpler times.
But the thing is with "Meet Me in St. Louis" is that it is a musical and it is the musical numbers which end up entertaining when the storyline doesn't. Some of the songs are a bit hit and miss with some of those written specifically for the movie such as "The Boy Next Door" ending up a little dull. But then you get those memorable tunes such as "Meet Me in St. Louis", "You and I", "The Trolley Song" and the wonderful "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" which are just packed with energy. And it is these big numbers, the big productions which make "Meet Me in St. Louis" enjoyable, memorable and magical.
What also makes "Meet Me in St. Louis" memorable are the performances especially that of Judy Garland as Esther. Be it when she is acting or when she is singing Judy Garland delivers a wonderfully rounded performance so you get amusement, you get emotion, you get a sense of her being feisty and of course you get Garland's wonderful singing voice. In fact whilst "Meet Me in St. Louis" features solid performances from all the cast especially Leon Ames who is brilliant in the role of family patriarch it is Judy Garland who is the star and a big reason why "Meet Me in St. Louis" is so memorable.
What this all boils down to is that like so many musicals "Meet Me in St. Louis" is short on storyline but makes up for it with great songs, wonderful performances and also a bucket load of charm. It's the sort of movie which you may struggle to get into to start with but over the course of the movie its charm, those musical numbers and the wonderful performance of Judy Garland wins you over to the point that it's not only entertaining but also engrained in your brain.