From childhood there are films from before your generation that simply everyone must see. From cinema favourites to cult classics, they transcend era’s in their appeal. In my household this was the musicals of the 40’s and 50’s. A select few of these were always watched at Christmas. These would be family films that boost a message of love and coming together. They had the instant effect of gathering my family around the TV screen.
For my Christmas favourite I’ve chosen a film that stars one of my first great loves, Judy Garland. From watching her in, The Wizard of Oz most youngster become fascinated by the little girl with the big voice and sparkling eyes. In the MGM musical, Meet Me in St.Louis, Garland stars in a great, feel good family film. The story follows a year with the Smilth family through winter and Christmas and also show cases one of the best Christmas songs ever performed.
Looking back the film is more known for the fact that Garland was initially hesitant about doing it as well as her later marriage to the director, Vincente Minnelli, (Yes, Liza’s father). The film was MGM’s highest grossing film of 1944, bar Gone With The Wind.
The most appealing thing about the film is that everything centres around a family. All the different worries and joys a family encounters. The parents think about the future, the older girls think about their education and marriage prospects. The two youngest girls worry about their school friends and Tootie worries about her dolls. Everyone can relate to a character and all the characters are lovable in their own way.
Theres something very innocent about the film which is hard to capture in modern cinema. The central love story is by far one of the most un-cliche romances for its time. Instead of a passionate, perfect story, Esther falls for the boy next door who doesn’t notice her. Esther resorts to playing games to gain his attention which seems ridiculous when your a child, (but you grow up and finally understand). John is not the typical romantic male lead either. Hes clumsy and regularly puts his foot in his mouth but this only adds to his charm. When he finally does confess his feelings for Esther, she realises that being with him means having to be apart from her family in New York. She makes the bold decision to go with her family but try to still be with her love. The romance is so much more realistic than the smoky rooms and lingering looks that the golden age of cinema is known for.
Although she is fantastic, as usual, the film is stolen by Margaret O’Brien who plays Tootie. From her constant concern for the well being of her dolls to her inappropriate jokes at the Smith’s dinner party. Its her sadness on Christmas night that makes Esther sing the films signature song to her. Her final breakdown prompts the father to think about the effects his decision will have on his family.
Being MGM the film has some great musical numbers, mainly from the impressive vocals of Miss Garland. From the humour of, ‘The Trolley Song’ to the longing of, ‘The Boy Next Door’. They’re all done with such glee and fun. By far the films musical jewel is, ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ sung as Esther finds an upset Tootie. The music gives the film its classic feel.
But what makes this such a good Christmas film, apart from its great story, lovable characters and wonderful music? The film highlights the seaosns and represents not just the joys of Christmas but the hopes of the coming year and future. Christmas is not just the festive season but the end of another year. Its a time to reflects upon what your greatful for and think to the future.
A great film to watch at Christmas and the whole year round. Also a great reminder of why we all adore Judy Garland.
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