TWO BOOKS, NEW to my shelves, offer tidbits about a classic movie, oft (and recently) enjoyed. One of the books is a collection of movie reviews; the other, a newly revised look at the history of musicals. At their intersection is Meet Me in St. Louis. Personal recollections are generated as well.
The NYT Book of Movies is subtitled “The Essential 1,000 Films to See,” though this could also be rendered as “The Essential 1,000 NYT Movie Reviews to Read.” That is, in selecting a thousand movie reviews appearing in The New York Times between 1920 and 2018, Dargis and Scott say that some of each year’s top movies “have been displaced by other films that from a current critical vantage point seem more important.”
“This book, then,” they say, “is a monument not only to the vitality of cinema, but also to changing consensus and canons, evolving social norms and larger historical forces.” What’s more, the reviews selected likely make for better reading.
The book Musicals covers its early era to 1939, the Golden Age 1940–1969, New Inventions 1970–1999, and A Musical Revival 2000–present (i.e., its 2015 publication date).
More than 200 musicals are included, with feature articles on 1927’s Showboat to 2015’s Hamilton as well as other highlighted productions.
Meet Me in St. Louis, 1944. Both books cite Bosley Crowther, movie critic, The New York Times, November 20, 1944: “The Smiths and their home, in Technicolor, are eyefuls of scenic delight, and the bursting vitality of their living inspires you like vitamin A.”
Musical writes, “As wholesome as apple pie, Meet Me in St. Louis, with its small-town setting in an idealized American past, brought color, romance, family togetherness, hope, and heart-warming songs to a war-weary audience.”
Musicals observes, “Judy Garland, in a radiant performance as Esther, steals the show, although she is almost upstaged by the seven-year-old Margaret O’Brien, playing the impossibly cute youngest sister Tootie, a role that won her a juvenile Oscar in 1945.”
Book of the Movies writes, “Vincent Minnelli, in his direction, has got all the period charm out of ladies dressed in flowing creations, gentlemen in straw ‘boaters’ and ice-cream pants, rooms lush with golden-oak wainscoating, ormolu decorations, and red-plush chairs.”
Meet Me in St. Louis was Minnelli’s first use of Technicolor. Musicals notes, “In the ‘Trolley Song’ scene, for instance, the vivid blues, greens, and reds of the passengers’ clothes leap from the screen and perfectly frame Judy Garland in her eye-catching black and white dress.”
By the way, Minnelli and Garland, both married to other people at the time, did not particularly get along at first. However, they married a year later, a marriage that lasted only until 1951 but produced star Liza Minnelli.
My Small-Screen Meet Me in St. Louis. I’ve stayed several times at the charming Brauereigasthof Hotel Aying in Aying, Germany, about 18 miles southeast of Munich. It has already been cited here at SimanaitisSaysfor its Aying Bräu-Weisse beer.
On one of my Aying visits, I enjoyed watching Meet Me in St. Louis on the minuscule (maybe 10-in.) screen of my room TV. The movie’s good spirits of life in 1903–1904 St. Louis contrasted with, yet somehow enhanced, Bavarian gemütlichkeit.