My March movie selection makes me smile from beginning to end every time I watch it, except for the part where I cry when Judy Garland sings “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The movie is “Meet Me in St. Louis,” based on a series of short stories written by Sally Benson in 1941. The movie tells the story of a year in the life of the Smith family of St. Louis, Missouri, just before the World’s Fair of 1904. World’s Fairs are exhibitions designed to show off its host country to visitors from around the world. There are rides and shows and displays of technology. There is also a lot of food. The ice cream cone became popular after people discovered it at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. You may have family who attended a World’s Fair. I remember the New York World’s Fair of 1964-65 that introduced Belgian waffles to the world. Expo 2017 is an upcoming World’s Fair to be held in Kazakhstan.
In “Meet Me in St. Louis,” the Smith children: teenagers Rose, Esther, Lon and younger kids Agnes and Tootie are all excited about the upcoming World’s Fair celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. Their father is sick of hearing about the Fair and just wants to take a bath after work. Mr. Smith makes a decision about his family’s future that could make it difficult to visit the Fair. There are lots of wonderful songs in this movie along with beautiful colors and one of the most rotten kids in movies outside of a horror movie. “Meet Me in St. Louis” has a happy ending that makes me glad I watch it every time it’s on TV. Turner Classic Movies often shows this wonderful film, especially around Christmas. If you are familiar with Judy Garland from “The Wizard of Oz,” I recommend that you get to know this Judy Garland movie from 1944.
I first saw this movie when I was 10 years old. I watched it on a tiny black and white TV on our first night on the road in a motel during our annual vacation trip to Florida. While my family slept in the room, I was transported to olden times through the magic of music and the movies. It didn’t matter that the screen was small or that I watched a beautiful color movie in black and white or that I had the sound turned very low. I remember the magic of the songs (“The Trolley Song,” “Skip to My Lou,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”). I remember how Tootie (the youngest Smith child) danced with her sister Esther at a party and how she yelled “I’m the most horrible!” after she played a Halloween trick. I also remember thinking then---and every time I’ve watched it since then---that Tootie gets away with behavior that no parent would tolerate today. You’ll have to see the movie to learn more. I hope this movie will make you as happy as it makes me.
“Meet Me in St. Louis” feels like a year in any family’s life. There are good times and sad times. There is cake. There are arguments and hurt feelings. There is singing and dancing. There is forgiveness and hugs. There are also snow people wearing fancy hats and furs. If you like stories about families in olden times, you will probably love “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Just please…don’t imitate Tootie’s behavior in real life.