Meet Me in St. Louis is wholesome in story [from the book by Sally Benson], colorful both in background and its literal Technicolor, and as American as the World’s Series.
As Leon Ames plays the head of the Alonzo Smith clan it’s a 1903 life-with-father. Mary Astor is the understanding and, incidentally, quite handsome mother as they worry about Judy Garland and Lucille Bremer, playing their daughters. Henry H. Daniels Jr is the self-sufficient brother, off to Princeton, but the romantic travail of the two older girls is the fundamental. Backgrounded are Marjorie Main, capital as the maid who almost bosses the household, and the still-gallant Harry Davenport, now 80-ish, who is grandpa.
It’s the time of the St Louis Fair, hence the title song, and everything that makes for the happy existence of a typical American family is skillfully panoramaed.
Seasonal pastorals, from summer into the next spring, take the Smith clan through their appealing little problems. Judy Garland’s plaint about ‘The Boy Next Door’ (played by Tom Drake); the Paul Jones dance routine to the tune of ‘Skip to My Lou’; the Yuletide thematic, ‘Have Yourself a Merry Christmas’; and the ‘Trolley Song’, en route to the Fairgrounds, are four socko musical highlights. Thhey have been intelligently highlighted and well-paced by director Vincente Minnelli.
Garland achieves true stature with her deeply understanding performance, while her sisterly running-mate, Lucille Bremer, likewise makes excellent impact with a well-balanced performance.
1944: Nominations: Best Color Cinematograhy, Scoring of a Musical Picture, Song (‘The Trolley Song’)