“Clang clang clang went the trolley” and ring ring ring went the tills in every box office all over America when Meet Me in St Louis arrived in 1944. Made when the war in the Pacific was at its height, it was a chocolate-boxy feast of nostalgia even then, a story about a decent paterfamilias (Leon Ames) considering uprooting his family and moving them from cosy St Louis to New York. What could be more appropriate in wartime than a film about a lifestyle under threat? Poor Esther (Judy Garland), the second oldest daughter. How is she ever going to croon and spoon with “The Boy Next Door”? Poor Tootie (an Oscar to seven-year-old Margaret O’Brien), the youngest Smith daughter – she’s so upset all her dollies are coming down with terminal illnesses and she’s developed the nasty habit of taking the heads off snowmen. It’s this unease that gives the film its bite and ensures that it’s not overwhelmed by soppiness, of which there’s an iron-hooped barrel-load. Look no further than the film’s other standout song – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Big aaah.
© Steve Morrissey 2006