"Just when St. Louis was going to be the center of attention of the entire universe..."
Clang, clang, clang went the trolley
Ding, ding, ding went the bell
Zing, zing, zing went my heartstrings
As we started for Huntington Dell.
— "The Trolley Song"
A classic 1944 musical adapted from the stories of Sally Benson, Meet Me in St. Louis
was directed by Vincente Minelli and starred his future wife, Judy Garland
. It follows the lives of the Smith family, who live in St Louis
during the turn of the century. In particular, it follows the second-eldest daughter, Esther, her youngest sister Tootie, and Esther's crush, John. Everyone is excited with the coming of the 1904 World's fair; however, that all changes when Mr. Smith announces that the family might be uprooted to New York.
This film features examples of:
- Ambiguous Innocence: Tootie and Agnes, the youngest in the Smith family, certainly qualify. When Katie, the family's cook, tells Agnes that she kicked her cat down the cellar stairs, Agnes cries, "If you've killed her, I'll kill you! I'll stab you to death in your sleep and tie you to two wild horses 'til you're pulled apart!" It's obvious that she would never actually attempt this, but while she is a sweet and mostly ordinary girl, she seems to have a keen interest in gore and graphic violence, and it's rather troubling at times. She even hopes that Rose got her a hunting knife for Christmas. Tootie, meanwhile, loves to play with her dolls like any normal child, but she also likes to say that they have "four fatal diseases" so that they can "die" and she can give them "beautiful funerals" and bury them in the graveyard. When Mr. Smith announces that they'll be moving, she comments, "It'll take a week to dig up all my dolls from the cemetery!" She also apparently has a plan to dig a tunnel into a neighbour's yard just so that she can grab her legs when she's walking past. Their mischievousness crosses into the territory of Enfant Terrible when they stuff a dress to make it look like a body and put it on the streetcar tracks to see what will happen. Tootie gets injured when Esther's crush, John, tries to hide her and Agnes from the police. Then Tootie even tries a Wounded Gazelle Gambit to get out of trouble, claiming that John tried to kill her. Even when the family discovers what really happened from Agnes, both the girls get off scot-free. Tootie doesn't even get punished for lying about John. Their behaviour and interests are a bit unsettling even by today's standards, so considering that this takes place over a century ago, it's a little surreal that their family doesn't seem at all concerned by it.
- Anachronism Stew: While mostly faithful to its 1903-1904 setting, the hairstyles are very 1940s, and the title song (which the characters sing in 1903) was written in 1904.
- Betty and Veronica: Subverted. While she certainly is "alluring and exotic", Lucille turns out to be a nice and mature person, and lets Rose have Warren. (It really doesn't hurt that Lucille is much more interested in Rose's brother Lon.)
- Christmas Songs: Introduced that standard, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas."
- Crappy Holidays: The Smiths' Christmas is under a pall due to the family's imminent move to New York. Ultimately subverted when Mr. Smith announces they're staying in St. Louis after all, followed by Warren proposing to Rose.
- Girl Next Door: Inverted, as the girl is the main character and sings about "The Boy Next Door."
- Dawson Casting: Judy Garland was 21 playing a 17 year old (She almost didn't do the film because of that).
- Happily Married: Lon and Anna Smith, played by Those Two Actors Leon Ames and Mary Astor.
- Have a Gay Old Time: The line, "Make the Yuletide gay", from "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas".
- Karma Houdini: Neither Tootie nor Agnes receive any punishment whatsoever for almost causing a streetcar accident on purpose, and anyone with the least bit of sense would've severely punished Tootie for falsely claiming that John Truitt tried to kill her, but she doesn't get so much as a spanking because everyone decides it's funny. Because reckless endangerment and defamation are hilarious.
- Love at First Sight: "The moment I saw him smile, I knew he was just my style / My only regret is we've never met, though I dream of him all the while…"
- Love Triangle: Between Rose, Warren, and Lucille. It doesn't last long, though.
- Lyrical Dissonance: Subverted for "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas;" the original lyrics were quite depressing as per the slow song it is. The song-writer later said it was written with a eye to the soldiers fighting in WW 2. The opening lines where: Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas / It might be your last.'
- Of Corsets Sexy / Of Corset Hurts: One scene features Rose lacing a reluctant and complaining Esther into a corset in preparation for a party.
- Public Secret Message: "The plans have changed."
- Time To Move
- Titled After the Song: The title tune was written well before the film.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: There's never any answer given for how John got a tuxedo for the Christmas dance.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Tootie tries this to avoid admitting how she hurt herself and getting in trouble.