Sunday, December 16, 2007

Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)

Four stars - will watch again annually.
I was all excited to watch a classic Christmas movie that didn't include any racially-insensitive musical numbers (see "Mandy" in "White Christmas").

But alas, I had forgotten the horrible cake-walk number in which a "Zulu" sings to his love in broken English under the bamboo tree (huh?). It's not just racially insensitive, it's absurd.

However, you can't toss out the baby with the bath water and in this case the baby is a sweetly ridiculous period piece full of apocryphal Americana. What other movie can boast the ice wagon, homemade ketchup, early Halloween celebrations, trolleys, straw hats, and a "Skip to My Lou" dance number? Not to mention the romantic scene where they turn down the gas lights!

And I haven't even touched on the costumes!! Judy Garland makes her entrance in a blue-striped tennis dress with a white bow that DEFIES DESCRIPTION.

Then she appears for the first party of the movie in a dress that looks so much like it was made from a curtain that I feel certain it was one of the cast-offs in the tryout for Scarlett O'Hara's curtain-dress. I can hear the director, "no, no, it looks too much like a curtain!"

Since I'm so fond of this movie, let me introduce you to the Smith family:
Alonzo Smith, the father who completely misunderstands his own family
Anna Smith, the perfect mother, savvy and sympathetic
Rose Smith, the oldest daughter, a bit prissy
Alonzo Smith Jr, the eldest son
Esther Smith, the impetuous one, not a bit prissy
Agnes Smith, the relatively normal odd, precocious young girl
Tootie Smith, the REALLY odd, precocious young girl
Katie, the tart, matter-of-fact family maid - obviously the inspiration for the Brady Bunch's Alice
Grandpa, the Grandpa

This also contains one of my favorite Christmas carols, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" one of the best sad/happy songs ever!

I leave you with a parting quote:

Anna: "What about Katie and Grandpa and the chickens - not that we have many left."
Alonzo: "Those are minor details that can be worked out later!"
Grandpa: "So I'm a minor detail?"
Alonzo: "Now you all know very well that I was talking about the chickens!"
Anna: "Of course, never mind what happens to your family, at a time like this talk about the chickens!"


Cheryl said...

I love Tootie. She is such a weirdo. I always wondered how much was intended by the director, and how much was brought by the odd little actress herself.

Dody Jane said...

Have you seen Mark Steyn's article on the songs for this movie? Really interesting!

Jessica said...

Odd little precocious children do help make a movie. I'm not sure I could pull off any of the dresses, but it was fun to watch. Thanks for the recommendation.