musicals

The Early Queen of Technicolor

Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis

As we continue our review of the 1001 films to watch before you die, it has become increasingly obvious that Judy Garland was the early queen of color film.  Most people will remember the scene in the The Wizard of Oz where she opens the door from the black and white world of Kansas to the riot of color that is Oz, but it would take a much more hardcore movie fan to recall the subject of today’s post.

Meet Me in St. Louis is another Garland musical, this time from 1944 which, unlike The Wizard is basically a family drama / romance.  As such, the color is a little more muted – but still stands out among the other great films mainly due to the simple fact of having been filmed in color.  Looking back at the movies we’ve reviewed here at Classically Educated, only The Life and Death of General Blimp was a color film.

So, what did we think?

Hmm.

Not our cup of tea, really.  To be brutally honest, it seemed like an unnecessarily melodramatic treatment of stuff that wasn’t all that serious.  This isn’t entirely a bad thing.  Had this same film been made in modern times, the melodrama would have been created by having someone die slowly of something awful during the entire film, or having someone fight against some terrible social stigma.  In that sense, the Garland vehicle is much, much less unbearable.

Meet Me in St. Louis Scenery

The scenery is also evocative, if much less complex than what you’d see today.  It does make you want to move to St. Louis over a hundred years ago and recreate that idyllic lifestyle.

The central conflicts have to do with a couple of love stories and a possible family move that would disrupt everything, but in the end it’s not really a spoiler to say that things turn out for the best.  It may have unnecessary melodrama, but is in essence a musical comedy.

In its time, it was critically well-received, and even commended for being just a bit darker than similar films which had a more “pollyanna” vibe to them, but that edge – though still visible when comparing to other films of its day – has lost a lot of its bite for modern audiences.

I wouldn’t say that the film was particularly memorable, but it is significant for a few things.  In the first place, it’s where Garland met Minelli, which, eventually, led to a whole bunch of other musicals with Liza in them.  This may or may not be a good thing, depending on one’s point of view, so I’ll leave it at that.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Album Cover

In addition to that, this film saw the debut of the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas“.  This, many, many years later has allowed millions of wives to annoy millions of husbands with the Michael Bublé version of the same while in the car. Again, this may or may not be a good thing, depending on one’s musical taste and gender.  All we can really say for sure is that divorce lawyers seem to be happy with that development.

Finally, this is the first film in the 1001 that we’ve seen that has three surviving cast members: Joan Caroll, June Lockhart and Margaret O’Brien.  If any of them are reading this, Hi!

So, all in all, this is a film we’d probably recommend to people partial to slightly melodramatic musical comedies.  It would probably not go down particularly well with an audience capable of appreciating the finer points of Apocalypse Now, but that isn’t its intention after all.

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