Time for another monthly assignment with Kristina from Speakeasy. With all due respect to the other films she pointed me to (see here), this one far outshines the others in so many categories. And yes she did get me reaching for the tissue once again. She’s killing my tough guy persona!!!
I am almost embarrassed to say I had never seen this Judy Garland classic but then I have never been big on musicals despite enjoying the majority of them once I finally sit down to give them a look.
I was hardly fifteen minutes into this Vincente Minnelli film when I felt a warmth coming through from the screen. It`s the turn of the century with Garland starring here as a young girl who has an older sister Rose played by Lucille Bremer and a younger one as well in the form of Margaret O`Brien. The opening bit is a gem where the family tries to set up some quiet time for Bremer to receive a phone call from a prospective beau in New York.
Things go awry when Leon Ames as the head of the household arrives home demanding dinner and fields the call himself. There`s an innocence that shines through in this technicolor production that sees a young boy played by Tom Drake move into the house next to the Garland residence. Time for young Judy to play the sophisticate and catch his eye.
Young Margaret O`Brien really shines when Halloween night arrives and she hits the street only to be dared to approach a house full of mystery and rumors. Her performance here is astonishing as she conveys the fears so perfectly that each and every one of us surely experienced at some point in our youth. The fears quickly turn to excitement and mischief as she causes a very embarrassing scene for young Judy.
Life couldn`t be better for the the ladies of the family as fall approaches. That is until Father announces he is being transferred to New York and the family is moving from St. Louis shortly after Christmas. Once again the film can hit home as most of us have been uprooted over the years and can easily relate to the feelings that Judy and company are going through.
As the film heads towards it`s fadeout there`s a wonderfully filmed dance where things come together for Judy and her beau thanks to her Grandfather played by Harry Davenport. Then it`s time for a jaw dropping rendition of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas from Miss Garland. An amazingly beautiful recording.
It`s right around this time that Kristina has me reaching once again for the box of tissue. Hard to keep a dry here as the family comes to realize their lives are all about to change drastically with the impending move in just a few days. It`s up to Ames as the head of the household to save face and give everyone a Christmas they`ll never forget.
Director Minnelli really hits a home run with this family saga from simpler times. The camera movements are perfectly staged and stand out so much when looking back at other films from the era. He brings out a beauty and innocence in Judy that captures the warmth I spoke of earlier that the film conveys to the viewer.
Each actor employed here seems perfectly attuned to their roles. Mary Astor and Leon Ames as Judy`s parents never seem to be acting. They just are in the moment. Marjorie Main (Ma Kettle) plays her familiar role of the house keeper with a rough exterior the way we would expect. Briefly turning up we can catch a young Hugh Marlowe and even Chill Wills.
I can`t say enough about little Margaret O`Brien and she brings a depth to the role that`s just hard to fathom coming from a little girl born just a few years earlier in 1937. It`s no wonder she was awarded a special Academy Award for her work here.
As for Judy, it`s her film all the way through and on one hand makes me want to watch some of her other titles that have eluded me and on the other I am saddened by her early demise having heard her tale more often than seeing the films she left us.
On the blu ray edition I watched the beauty of the technicolor production come through in stunning detail. The costumes and colors are so vibrant that I am reminded of the one film I often refer to when talking of early color productions. The Adventures of Robin Hood. It`s no wonder St. Louis won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography.
Of all the films Kristina handed me this year to watch for the first time, this is one I know I`ll be catching again. In what has become a battle of the hankies, head over to see what I assigned Kristina to watch this month starring Cameron Mitchell. You heard me right the first time. Cameron Mitchell. It`s no Meet Me in St. Louis but then, my goal was rather a selfish one. Just want to see if I can get her tearing up a little.
Meet Me in St. Louis is a wonderful family film where the importance of loved ones and those near to us make for a powerful viewing.