That's Entertainment

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Meet Me in St. Louis is part of the rare club in That’s Entertainment  that has THREE numbers included, which means it must be good.

“The Trolley Song” is one of those great movie moments where, after growing up inherently knowing the song, you realize… so that’s where that comes from. Unless, of course, you watched Meet Me in St. Louis a lot as a kid, in which case you were probably the one spreading it around on the playground and teaching it to kids like me who would have a late-in-life epiphany moment like this. So, really, we’re all a part of the cycle.

Anyway, I’m not sure if it’s just the previous familiarity with the song, but I’m not a huge fan of the song itself. Perhaps because it gets stuck in my head so easily? But the staging of the number is very sweet, and I love the exasperated trolley conductor who just wants all these damn kids off his vehicle.

I’d never heard “Under the Bamboo Tree” before, but the song is very cute. I was mostly struck by a severe bout of second-hand embarrassment, because oh my god I can’t even imagine performing a cutesy song-and-dance number with my little sister in front of all my cool teenage friends!!?! They all seem into it–especially Ukelele in the corner–but I guess that’s just a factor of the time.

On that note: I think it’s interesting that, though I’ve been having a grand old time with 90% of the musicals I’ve watched so far from the list, a lot of the ones I haven’t been entirely keen on were set (or had significant portions set) in the 1890s-1910s era. Considering the time period these movies were made, it’s the same as setting a movie made today in an idealized version of the 1950s. But to go back a century or more is a huge leap for the modern viewer, and I think there’s an assumption that the viewer does have that cultural familiarity with the era–the equivalent of me making “I Love Lucy” references, because I’d assume that people my age would have seen at least a few reruns on Nick at Nite, even though the show’s been off the air for 50 years. But 50 years from now, viewers will probably have to pause and look up what this “Woodstock” thing is that people keep talking about, just like I had to Wikipedia when the St. Louis World’s Fair actually took place to figure out what its deal was. (It was a centennial celebration of the Louisiana Purchase held in 1904, and claimed to have been the origin of, among other things, peanut butter, iced tea, and cotton candy–which explains the momentary wink when the girls appear eating cotton candy.)

Incredibly simple but effective staging of the song, which really works–I love that there’s only about 5 cuts throughout the whole number, like a dance number shown in a single take to demonstrate the skill of the dancers. But here, it’s like, we’re giving you Judy, calmly breaking it down–what else could you possibly need?

Overall, Meet Me in St. Louis is a light, charming, classic musical that I can respect, but I think the inherent tameness of this idyllic time period held me back from loving it completely. I think I prefer a little more sexy, a little less sterile–not overt, obviously, but there’s a way that other musicals get their wink-and-a-nod in that I didn’t quite see here, and I think a big part of it is from the nostalgia of 1944 looking back to 1904.

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