Meet me in Saint-Louis (1944)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Meet me in Saint-Louis</strong> (1944)

(On Cable TV, September 2018) MGM’s extraordinary success in producing what we think of as the quintessential musical comedy films arguably began with Meet me in Saint-Louis. Not that it was the first musical—the form had been popular for fifteen years by that point. But it’s in this film that MGM put together the ingredients that ensured its continued success for the decade-and-a-half to come: Colour cinematography, distinct memorable songs, a nostalgic depiction of a slightly earlier era, limpid plotting and very charming actors all explain why the film was an immediate hit and still plays superbly well into the twenty-first century. Meet me in Saint-Louis is headlined by Judy Garland, and I have to say that despite my overall ambivalence about her later work, she is adorable as a doll here—old enough to escape being a child actor, but not yet damaged by a life of substance abuse. (It’s on this movie that she met director Vincente Minnelli, with whom she’d marry in 1945 and have Liza Minnelli in 1946.) The episodic structure of the film—adapted from a series of short stories—seems odd at first, but soon becomes a comfortable and heartwarming depiction of a year in the life of an upper-middle-class family, complete with holiday-themed episodes and a final act that sums up the year’s narrative threads. Some of the film’s songs have since become classics, especially “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Meet me in Saint-Louis remains a great film to watch, no matter the time of the year.

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