AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Meet Me in St. Louis
Director: Vincente Minnelli (Dir)
Release Date:   Jan 1945
Premiere Information:   World premiere in St. Louis, MO: 22 Nov 1944; New York opening: 28 Nov 1944
Production Date:   early Dec 1943--early Apr 1944
Duration (in mins):   112-113
Duration (in feet):   10,150
Duration (in reels):   13
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Cast:   Judy Garland (Esther Smith)  
    Margaret O'Brien ("Tootie" Smith)  
    Mary Astor (Mrs. Anna Smith)  
    Lucille Bremer (Rose Smith)  
    Leon Ames (Mr. Alonzo ["Lon"] Smith)  
    Tom Drake (John Truett)  
    Marjorie Main (Katie, maid)  
    Harry Davenport (Grandpa [Prophater])  
    June Lockhart (Lucille Ballard)  
    Henry H. Daniels Jr. (Lon Smith, Jr.)  
    Joan Carroll (Agnes Smith)  
    Hugh Marlowe (Colonel Darly)  
    Robert Sully (Warren Sheffield)  
    Chill Wills (Mr. Neely)  
    Donald Curtis (Dr. Girard)  
    Mary Jo Ellis (Ida Boothby)  
    Ken Wilson (Quentin)  
    Robert Emmet O'Connor (Motorman)  
    Darryl Hickman (Johnny Tevis)  
    Leonard Walker (Conductor)  
    Victor Kilian (Baggage man)  
    John Phipps (Mailman)  
    Major Sam Harris (Mr. March)  
    Mayo Newhall (Mr. Braukoff)  
    Belle Mitchell (Mrs. Braukoff)  
    Sidney Barnes (Hugo Borvis)  
    Myron Tobias (George)  
    Victor Cox (Driver)  
    Kenneth Donner (Clinton Badger)  
    Buddy Gorman (Clinton Badger)  
    Joe Cobb (Clinton Badger)  
    Music Maids    
    Seckler Group    

Summary: In St. Louis, in the summer of 1903, seventeen-year-old Esther Smith fantasizes about meeting John Truett, the shy boy-next-door, while her older sister Rose frets about her beau, Warren Sheffield, who is off at Yale. Sure that Warren, who is calling Rose at 6:30 that evening, is finally going to propose to her sister, Esther arranges with Katie, the Smiths's housekeeper, for the family to eat dinner early, so that Rose will have some privacy while talking on the telephone. Esther's cantankerous father Alonzo, who has not been told about the expected call, ruins her plan, however, when he insists on eating at the usual time. During dinner, everyone, including Esther's five-year old sister "Tootie," tries to hurry Lon along, but the phone rings just as the main course is being served. As her family eavesdrops on the entire conversation, Rose attempts to prod Warren into a proposal, but he gets mired in small talk and hangs up without uttering a single romantic word. Later, at Esther's urging, Rose invites John to a farewell party for her older brother Lon, Jr., who is going to Princeton. At the party, Esther at first feigns indifference to John, but hides his hat to keep him at the house and then asks him to help her turn off all the lights. Although John is clearly attracted to the flirtatious Esther, he is too shy to kiss her, and instead gives her a hearty handshake. Before he leaves, Esther invites him to join her family that Sunday for a tour of the St. Louis Exposition fairgrounds, and he tentatively accepts. On Sunday, Esther waits eagerly for John at the trolley stop, but he has not arrived by the time the trolley is scheduled to leave. As the trolley is pulling away, however, John appears and, to Esther's joy, hops on next to her. Months later, Tootie and her slightly older sister Agnes dress up as goblins and go out to celebrate Halloween with the neighborhood children. Anxious to prove herself, Tootie, who is preoccupied with death, insists on calling feared neighbor Mr. Braukoff to his door and, following the local custom, blows flour in his face. After Tootie is declared the "most horrible," she throws her family into a panic when she returns home, crying, bruised and cut. Tootie claims that John hit her by the trolley tracks, and although Esther at first refuses to believe her, she changes her mind when a clump of hair is discovered in Tootie's hand. Enraged, Esther storms over to John's house, accuses him of being a bully and then beats and bites him. Later, however, Tootie and Agnes confess that John actually saved them from being arrested after they almost caused an accident on the trolley tracks. Esther rushes back to John's house to apologize, and John not only forgives her, but flirts with her as well. Later that evening, Lon, a lawyer, returns home to announce that his firm is transferring him to New York. Although Lon is enthusiastic about the transfer, which involves a promotion, Anna and the children react with shock and worry. Eventually, however, Anna agrees to the move, and the Smiths plan to leave St. Louis after Christmas. Weeks later, on Christmas Eve, Rose is upset because the visiting Warren has invited Lucille Ballard, an Easterner, to the local Christmas dance instead of her. Back from Princeton, Lon, Jr., also is frustrated because he wanted to ask Lucille to the dance. After Katie convinces Lon, Jr., to escort Rose to the dance, Esther's plans are disrupted when John is forced to break his date with her because he did not get to the tailor's soon enough to pick up his tuxedo. Although Esther assures John she is not upset, she later breaks down in tears and refuses to be escorted by Lon, Jr. When Esther's grandfather, however, offers to take her, she gratefully accepts. At the dance, Esther and Rose scheme against Lucille, whom they have never met, by filling out her dance card with the names of clods. Their plan backfires when Lucille turns out to be nice and insists that Rose be with Warren, while she goes with Lon, Jr. Embarrassed, Esther gives Lucille her dance card, then braves the clods. To her delight, John eventually shows up and, under a wintery moon, kisses her and proposes. As soon as Esther starts to think about being separated from her family, however, she has second thoughts about marrying. Later, at home, Tootie cries to Esther about the impending move and, as her bewildered father watches from a window, runs outside and angrily begins smashing the snow people she helped build. After calling the family together, Lon then announces that that they are staying in St. Louis. Months later, the Smiths and John head for the just-opened Exposition and are thrilled by the thought that such incredible sights are in their very own town. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Vincente Minnelli (Dir)
  J. E. Jennings (Asst dir)
Producer: Arthur Freed (Prod)
Writer: Irving Brecher (Scr)
  Fred F. Finklehoffe (Scr)
Photography: George Folsey (Dir of photog)
  Robert Bronner (2d cam)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Lemuel Ayers (Art dir)
  Jack Martin Smith (Art dir)
Film Editor: Albert Akst (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
  Paul Huldschinsky (Assoc)
Costumes: Irene (Cost supv)
  Sharaff (Cost des)
Music: Roger Edens (Mus adpt)
  Georgie Stoll (Mus dir)
  Conrad Salinger (Orch)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
  Joe Edmondson (Unit mixer)
  Standish J. Lambert (Re-rec and eff mixer)
  Frank B. MacKenzie (Re-rec and eff mixer)
  Robert W. Shirley (Re-rec and eff mixer)
  Newell Sparks (Re-rec and eff mixer)
  William Steinkamp (Re-rec and eff mixer)
  Michael Steinore (Re-rec and eff mixer)
  John A. Williams (Re-rec and eff mixer)
  M. J. McLaughlin (Mus mixer)
  Herbert Stahlberg (Mus mixer)
Special Effects: Warren Newcombe (Matte paintings)
  Mark Davis (Matte paintings, cam)
  A. Arnold Gillespie (Miniatures and transparency projection shots)
  Don Jahraus (Miniatures asst)
Dance: Charles Walters (Dance dir)
Make Up: Jack Dawn (Makeup created by)
Production Misc: Dave Friedman (Unit mgr)
Stand In: Rose Paidar (Voice double for Mary Astor)
  Eileen Wilson (Voice double for Mary Astor)
Color Personnel: Natalie Kalmus (Technicolor col consultant)
  Henri Jaffa (Assoc)
Country: United States

Songs: "The Trolley Song," "The Boy Next Door" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," words and music by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane; "Skip to My Lou," traditional, arranged by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane; "Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis," words by Andrew B. Sterling, music by Kerry Mills; "You and I," words by Arthur Freed, music by Nacio Herb Brown; "Over the Bannister Leaning," words undetermined, music by Conrad Salinger; "Under the Bamboo Tree," words and music by Robert Cole and J. Rosamond Johnson.
Composer: Ralph Blane
  Nacio Herb Brown
  Robert Cole
  Arthur Freed
  J. Rosamond Johnson
  Hugh Martin
  Kerry Mills
  Conrad Salinger
  Andrew B. Sterling
Source Text: Based on the novel Meet Me in St. Louis by Sally Benson (New York, 1942).
Authors: Sally Benson

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 2/11/1944 dd/mm/yyyy LP12965 Yes

PCA NO: 10050
Physical Properties: col: Technicolor
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Musical
Sub-Genre: Historical
 
Subjects (Major): Children
  Courtship
  Family relationships
  St. Louis (MO)
 
Subjects (Minor): Christmas
  College students
  Dances
  Death and dying
  Flirtation
  Grandfathers
  Halloween
  Housekeepers
  Lawyers
  Neighbors
  Parties
  Proposals (Marital)
  St. Louis Exposition, 1904
  Shyness
  Snow
  Telephone
  Trolley buses

Note: In addition to the above-listed songs, Margaret O'Brien sings the anonymous ditty "I Was Drunk Last Night" in the film. Sally Benson's story first appeared in the New Yorker magazine between 21 Jun 1941 and 23 May 1942. The twelve installments were published under the collective title "5135 Kensington," the fictional address of the "Smiths's" house. After she sold M-G-M the rights to the stories in early 1942 and was hired to work on the screenplay, Benson published the stories as a novel, titled Meet Me in St. Louis . Each chapter of the novel covered a month of the year. According to modern sources, Benson's story was based on her own experiences growing up in St. Louis. "Tootie" was based on Benson, while "Esther" was inspired by her older sister.
       According to HR , Paramount Pictures competed with M-G-M for the screen rights to Benson's popular stories. William Ludwig, and Victor Heerman and Sarah Y. Mason, who won Academy Awards for their 1933 version of Little Women , also worked on early drafts of the script, which, according to modern sources, included a kidnapping/blackmail plot line. Modern sources also note that while producer Arthur Freed was particularly anxious to make the film, Judy Garland, who was reluctant to return to teenage parts after successful appearances in adult roles in For Me and My Gal and Presenting Lily Mars , had to be persuaded by studio head Louis B. Mayer. George Cukor, who directed the 1933 version of Little Women , was first hired to direct the picture, according to modern sources, but bowed out after he was drafted into the Army.
       In Sep 1943, HR announced that Van Johnson had been cast in the lead male role. Robert Walker was also mentioned in news items as a cast member, and Gloria De Haven is listed in both news items and HR production charts as a cast member, but neither performer appeared in the final film. Lucille Bremer, a former New York nightclub singer, and Henry H. Daniels, Jr., a former tennis star, made their screen acting debuts in the film. Ruthe Brady, Tommy Batten, Wells Wohlwend, Joyce Tucker, Mickey Roth and Pamela Britton are listed as cast members in HR news items, but their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. According to HR new items, Freed "returned" to his former career as a songwriter to write the lyrics for "You and I" with his frequent collaborator, Nacio Herb Brown. "Boys and Girls Like You and Me," a song that was dropped from the 1942 Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II musical Oklahoma , was shot for Meet Me in St. Louis , but cut from the final film. According to modern sources, the song, which was sung by Garland after the trolley scene, was removed at the insistence of Freed, who felt that it slowed the story. Meet Me in St. Louis was the first film on which Lemuel Ayers, who was the set designer on the Broadway production of Oklahoma , worked as an art director.
       Modern sources add the following information about the production: Although M-G-M wanted to use its "Hardy family" street set for the film, art director Jack Martin Smith and director Vincente Minnelli convinced the studio to build an entirely new set, which cost a significant $208,275. Most of the fair set was shot with miniatures, including two bisons sculpted by Henry Greutart. Minnelli noted in a television interview that in order to provoke anger and tears during O'Brien's emotional Christmas Eve scene, her mother told her, in private, that her dog had died. Principal photography went over schedule partially because of the many illnesses of the cast, as well as Garland's frequent absences and lateness. Lela Simone, a former recording pianist at M-G-M, worked as a music sound cutter on the film, and Dottie Ponedel was assigned as Garland's personal makeup artist. Ponedel, who changed Garland's onscreen look for the picture, became her regular makeup artist for the remainder of her career at M-G-M. The final cost of the picture was over $1,500,000. During its initial release, it grossed $7,566,000.
       Meet Me in St. Louis was the first of five films on which Minnelli and Garland worked together, and is considered one of Garland's best films. She and Minnelli married in 1945 and divorced in 1951. By the time of the film's national release, "The Trolley Song," sung by Garland, ranked "number one" on the Hit Parade radio show. According to modern sources, composers Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin at first balked at the idea of writing a song about a trolley, and instead came up with the song "Know Where You're Goin' and You'll Get There." When Freed insisted that the number be about a trolley, Blane went to the Beverly Hills Public Library for inspiration and found a photograph of a 1903 trolley, with the caption "Clang, Clang, Clang Went the Trolley" on it, words that were later incorporated into the song's famous chorus. At the time of the film's release, Garland's recording of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" was being shipped to American troops overseas. The song soon became a holiday standard. A soundtrack album of the film was released in Dec 1944.
       Meet Me in St. Louis was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Cinematography (color); Best Music Score; and Best Song ("The Trolley Song.") The National Board of Review named Meet Me in St. Louis as its seventh best film of the year, and gave O'Brien an acting award for her work in the picture. In Jun 1945, the Library of Congress selected the film, along with six others, to be the first for inclusion in the Library's film collection. Garland, O'Brien and Tom Drake reprised their roles in a Lux Radio Theatre version of the film, broadcast on 2 Dec 1946. On 29 Apr 1959, George Schaefer directed Jane Powell, Tab Hunter, Walter Pidgeon, Jeanne Crain, Myrna Loy and Patty Duke in a CBS network broadcast of Irving Brecher and Fred F. Finklehoffe's screenplay. A situation comedy based on the picture, starring Peggy Ann Garner, aired on the NBC television network between 1950 and 1951. On 9 Jun 1966, a stage version of the film, with new songs by Martin and Blane, was presented at the St. Louis Municipal Opera. In 2005, Meet Me in St. Louis was ranked 10th on AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals list. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   11 Nov 1944.   
Daily Variety   1 Nov 44   p. 3, 5
Film Daily   1 Nov 44   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Jan 42   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Mar 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   21 May 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Aug 43   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Sep 43   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Oct 43   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Nov 43   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Nov 43   p. 10
Hollywood Reporter   19 Nov 43   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Nov 43   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Dec 43   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Mar 44   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Mar 44   p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Mar 44   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Apr 44   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Apr 44   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Oct 44   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Nov 44   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Nov 44   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Dec 44   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Dec 44   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Dec 44   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Dec 44   p. 1, 16
Life   11 Dec 1944.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   15 Jun 44   p. 1715.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   4 Nov 44   p. 2165.
New York Times   29 Nov 44   p. 20.
New York Times   3 Jun 1945.   
Variety   1 Nov 44   p. 10.

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