The Music of “Meet Me In St. Louis”

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2019 marks the 75th anniversary of the 1944 MGM musical masterpiece, Meet Me In St. Louis.  One of the biggest reasons for its success and lasting legacy is the glorious combination of songs and music which is as important as the direction of (and attention to detail by) director Vincente Minnelli and, of course, Judy Garland’s glowing performance.  For this reason, I thought it would be nice to honor the film’s anniversary by focusing on its music.



The Smith family home set on the recently built "St. Louis Street" on MGM's Backlot #3, built specifically for Meet Me In St. Louis.
The Smith family home set on the recently built “St. Louis Street” on MGM’s Backlot #3, built specifically for Meet Me In St. Louis.

A QUICK HISTORY OF THE FILM

The genesis of Meet Me In St. Louis began with the publication of articles written by Sally Benson about her childhood in St. Louis, Missouri, in the early years of the 20th century.  Published by the New Yorker magazine as “5135 Kensington Avenue” in 1941 the charming articles were compiled into book format in 1942 titled “The Kensignton Stories.” 

Meanwhile, the similarly themed “Life With Father” had premiered on Broadway in 1939 and was a smash.  MGM producer Arthur Freed was unable to secure the film rights so he went in search of something similar.  Any film version of “Life With Father” wouldn’t happen for several years due to the play’s hugely successful run so any adaptation was a way off.  It still holds the record as the longest-running non-musical show on Broadway. 

Freed had served as an uncredited co-producer on 1939’s The Wizard of Oz.  Before that film was finished he was made a producer and immediately put Babes in Arms into production.  For the next several years Freed built his own “musical unit” at MGM, bringing in talent from the Broadway scene, mostly making screen adaptations of Broadway musicals.  By 1943 when Meet Me In St. Louis went into production, everything was in place.  Freed was ready to move into making original film musicals with integrated scores, whether in full or in part.

It took some doing to convince the studio and Judy Garland that the film “with no plot” could be a hit and could advance her career.  Judy was rightfully concerned that playing another teenager would be a setback in her career.  She had just begun the tricky transition into adult roles and didn’t want to backtrack.  Freed and director Vincente Minnelli was able to convince the studio and Judy that the film if made right, would be a success.  The story goes, whether true or not, that Judy went to Minnelli and said “It’s not very good, is it?” to which Minnelli replied, “I think it’s magical.”  Judy’s response, “Oh, I’ve already done ‘magical.’”  Minnelli was able to help Judy see how the role was perfect for her and that it would advance her career.  He also assuaged her fears that it would become “Margaret O’Brien film” (O’Brien played younger sister “Tootie”).



Lucille Bremer and Judy Garland sing
Lucille Bremer and Judy Garland sing “Meet Me In St. Louis.”

THE SONGS

Once work began on the film, Freed, along with his right-hand man, Roger Edens, and Minnelli, decided on the music.  The first decision was to create an “integrated” musical in which the songs advanced the character and the plot in an organic way.

Four songs were written specifically for the film: “The Trolley Song,” “The Boy Next Door,” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” and “You and I.”  The first three were written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, the fourth was written by Freed and his longtime songwriting partner Nacio Herb Brown.  The fact that Freed entrusted the bulk of the song score to Martin and Blane is a good example of his willingness to take chances on relatively unknown musical talent.  Martin & Blane came to MGM via the Broadway stage when Freed produced the film version of “Best Foot Forward,” the popular musical for which they provided the songs including the minor hit “Buckle Down Winsocki.”  At any other studio, a project as delicate as Meet Me In St. Louis would have been given to a more proven songwriter or team, such as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, or possibly Al Dubin & Harry Warren.  But Freed had autonomy over his “unit” of musical filmmakers at MGM.  He was almost a genius in his ability to pick the right people for the right projects. 

Martin and Blane delivered the goods.  All three of their songs have become enduring standards.  They might not be perfect Victorian era popular songs but they’re close enough to be believable and they fit perfectly in context of the film and were popular enough for success on The Hit Parade, especially “The Trolley Song,” which was covered by singers and bands including The Pied Pipers whose single actually outperformed Judy Garland’s.

Freed decided to include the Rodgers & Hammerstein song, “Boys and Girls Like You and Me” in the score.  The song was an outtake from their score for “Oklahoma!”  That mega-stage hit was a property that Freed wanted to film and one that helped move the stage musical to the integrate score format which is precisely what Meet Me In St. Louis would do for the screen musical.  “Oklahoma!” was years away from being available for a film adaptation, and perhaps Freed’s decision to include this Broadway outtake was due to his admiration for the show and his friendship with the songwriters.  The truth is unknown, but the song does fit perfectly in the segment in which it was placed, the visit to the World’s Fair fairgrounds by Esther Smith (Garland) and her beau, John Truett (Tom Drake). 

The inclusion of the Rodgers & Hammerstein song did not sit well with Martin and Blane.  They deduced that a Rodgers & Hammerstein song would overshadow their contributions.  These concerns make sense.  At the time, Martin & Blane were not well known and the songs they provided were not known yet.  Years later, Blane incorrectly remembered that the song was planned for the end sequence of the film when the family attends the World’s Fair.  He confused that with the World’s Fair visit sequence earlier in the film.  He said that he told Martin, “Let them have their fun with their prodigious Rodgers and Hammerstein; the song is placed too late in the picture – people will already be reaching for their hats – it’ll come out – you watch and see!”

Oscar Hammerstein, who wrote the lyrics for “Boys and Girls Like You and Me,” was also concerned, but for a different reason.  In surviving correspondence between him and Freed, Hammerstein wrote:

Dick [Richard Rodgers] and I happened to look at communication from your music department to our publisher.  It contained this description:

“The trolley arrives at the place where the World’s Fair is to be built and the people get off the trolley.  Esther wanders by herself and Jon tries to find her so she won’t be late for the return trolley.  John sees Esther in a romantic setting – he comes up and they walk and talk.  As they come to a mud puddle John picks up Esther in his arms, then she sings ‘Boys and Girls Like You and Me.’”

We wouldn’t presume to make any criticism three thousand miles away, but for whatever the comment is worth, we were disturbed by the incongruous feeling of going into a song which talks about girls and boys walking through the world with a girl held in the arms of a boy and the public distracted by marveling at his feat of strength, listening to the lyric and music and being enthralled thereby.

For all we know, the number may never have been shot like this or maybe hasn’t been shot at all yet.  In case it hasn’t been, we are hereby recording our fears for this way of going into it.

I hear you are coming to town soon.  Am looking forward to seeing you.

As ever,
Oscar

Freed replied with:

I patent to reply to your letter about the rendition of “Boys and Girls,” and also to allay your fears that the song was shot according to the notice sent to the publishers, which you quoted. 

I am sure that you will be very happy when you see the rendition which we have photographed.  It is done very simply, without any superhistrionics, by Judy Garland to her boyfriend.  The camera is on Judy’s face throughout the whole rendition and all she does is sing the tender philosophy of your lyrics.

Again I repeat that I am sure you and dick will feel very gratified at the manner in which Vincente Minnelli so simply and eloquently presented this wonderful song.  I am anxious for you to see it.

As always,
Arthur

The footage no longer survives so it’s impossible to know if the camera was on Judy’s face for the entire song.  It can be assumed that Minnelli probably filmed it with the focus on Judy while she and Tom Drake walked around the unfinished fairgrounds in a variety of camera setups.

The Trolley Station
The set design still of the “Trolley Station” utilizing MGM’s standing set on Backlot #2, the “train depot” set which was used in many MGM films.

The drama surrounding the inclusion of “Boys and Girls Like You and Me” wasn’t the only difficulty Martin & Blane faced when writing the songs.  Freed asked the duo to provide a song about a trolley for Scene 90 which was described as:

TROLLEY DEPOT – ST. LOUIS – LATE AFTERNOON

A trolley is there.  Some youngsters on it, but a good number are still outside, chatting gaily.

Quentin (shouts) Let her go, motorman!

The trolley starts and the crowd starts to sing.

Martin & Blane wrote “Know Where You’re Going and You’ll Get There” that according to Blane was “a marvelous song that would be great to sing on the trolley.”  They felt a song about a trolley would have been too corny.  Freed pushed back, telling them he wanted a song about a Trolley.  Blane reported that each time they went to Freed with a new song  for the spot (four total according to Blane), each time Freed told them he’d use them “in the Follies” (his pet project that became Ziegfeld Follies of 1946) and told them to go back and write a song about a trolley.  Blane was frustrated, so he went to the Beverly Hills Public Library to research old St. Louis and found a photo of a trolley, “Believe it or not, under the picture was written ‘Clang, Clang, Clang, Went the Trolley.’  Well, I dashed back – told Hugh the title and we wrote it in about ten minutes.”  The story has been told many times over the years with slight variations such as the photo caption being “Clang, Clang, Clang went the jolly little trolley.”  Whatever the truth is, the photo provided the right inspiration for the song and Freed was finally happy, exclaiming “That’s the song for Judy!”

Screen Shot 2018-12-23 at 3.16.21 PM
Judy Garland sings “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” to Margaret O’Brien.

Another obstacle faced another one of their songs, specifically for Martin.  He had written some very depressing lyrics for “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”  Those lyrics are now almost as famous as those used in the film due to anecdotal interviews done by Martin for articles and documentaries.  Martin’s original lyrics were:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
It may be your last.
Next year we may all be living in the past.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yuletide gay.
Next year we may all be many miles away.

No good times like the olden days, happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who were dear to us will be near to us no more.

But at least we all will be together,
If the fates allow.
From now on we’ll have to muddle through somehow.

So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

As Martin noted, the lyrics fit the mood of the scene.  The family was leaving their beloved St. Louis right after Christmas.  It’s Christmas Eve and Esther (Judy Garland) finds herself consoling younger sibling Tootie (Margaret O’Brien).  Esther begins to sing in an effort to make Tootie feel better, trying to be hopeful in the face of a seemingly hopeless situation.  Judy loved the melody but was concerned that the lyrics were too sad, afraid that audiences would think she was “a monster” singing such sad lyrics to Margaret O’Brien.  The lyrics were too on the nose in their sadness, on top of a melancholy (and lovely) melody, on top of that seemingly hopeless situation.  It really was too much sadness for audiences to endure and Judy’s instincts knew it. 

Years later, Martin said that he was stubborn and refused to change the lyrics.  At that time Martin had little clout.  His stubbornness to a star of Judy’s caliber was bold.  He later attributed it to his youthful arrogance.  Martin told Judy he would write another song for her for that spot in the film and that she said: “but I liked that one.”  Tom Drake, who played boy-next-door John Truett, took him aside and told him to stop being a “son of a bitch” and rewrite the lyrics.  Martin finally did and a Christmas classic was born.  Years later, at Frank Sinatra’s request, Martin revised the lyrics again, this time to be more holiday sounding rather than script-driven.  For example, “Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow” became “Hang a shining star upon the highest bow.”  In 2001 an older Martin was wrongly influenced to co-write some banal secular and overtly religious lyrics that are best forgotten, as is the updated tile “Have Yourself A Blessed Little Christmas.”  Thankfully, the original and the Sinatra versions are the two that prevails, which is as it should be. 

“The Boy Next Door” and Judy Garland on set.

The third original song Martin & Blane wrote for the film, “The Boy Next Door,” luckily did not experience any issues in its creation.  The duo also revised their adaptation of the folk song “Skip To My Lou” for the film.  The song was originally written in the 1840s and had become a party standard in the years since.  Martin & Blane created their own arrangement in the early 1940s and can be seen performing it as “The Martins” in a 1941 “Soundie” short film titled appropriately, Skip To My Lou.  The arrangement is basically the same as it is in Meet Me In St. Louis.  That short is available as part of the extras with the film’s DVD and Blu-ray releases.

Although Blane is listed as co-composer, and throughout Blane’s life Martin never said a word, the fact of the matter is that Martin wrote the lyrics and the music for all of their original songs in Meet Me In St. Louis.  It wasn’t until after Blane’s death that Martin revealed the truth, “. . . all of the so-called Martin and Blane songs, (except for Best Foot Forward), were written entirely by me (solo) without help from Ralph or anybody else.”  He went on to explain, “”I was reasonably content to let him receive equal screen credit, sheet music credit, ASCAP royalties, etc., mainly because this bizarre situation was caused by my naive and atrocious lack of business acumen.”



CONRAD SALINGER

Once the songs had been decided on, the task of scoring the film went to Conrad Salinger.  His knowledge of music and ability to provide arrangements that were unique and brilliant in their “simple complexity” made him a legend in his own time among film arrangers and composers.  His compositions were deceptively simple to the general public because they added layers of music that accompanied and enhanced the vocals but were actually quite complex.  Officially, Salinger was the orchestrator of the music with Georgie Stoll and Lennie Hayton providing the task of conducting those orchestrations,  under the guidance of Roger Edens who provided the musical adaptation (and was an uncredited associate producer).  But it’s Salinger who, via his orchestrations, provided the unique sound for this and all of the musicals he worked on.  That distinctive sound that MGM musicals had can be attributed chiefly to Salinger.

Unfortunately, during Salinger’s tenure at MGM, it was the musical directors and conductors who received the Academy Award nominations for the scoring of musical films, not the “orchestrators” which ignored the fact that orchestrators of Salinger’s caliber were responsible for the sound of the scores that received the nominations in the first place.  Salinger was only nominated once, for 1951’s Show Boat.  That film lost to another big mom musical, An American in Paris.  Salinger worked on both, but in the case of Paris, only the film’s music conductor, Johnny Green, received the nomination and eventual win. 

Salinger preferred to work with an orchestra half the size of the usual studio orchestra, feeling that the standard studio orchestra was too large.  He was more than capable of creating the same sound with half the musicians.  This made a difference in the pre-tape era when film music was recorded on optical film.  Optical film had a low fidelity the result of which sometimes created some distortion on the soundtrack.  They were just too big and loud.  Salinger’s music sounded better because of his insistence on using the smaller orchestra and chorus.



Download the complete set of Daily Music Reports here (pdf).

PRE-RECORDINGS

The first pre-recording session took place on November 30, 1943.  Three songs were pre-recorded, “Boys and Girls Like You and Me,” “Over The Bannister,” and “You and I.”  Judy soloed on both “Boy and Girls” and “Over The Bannister,” with Tom Drake on hand to provide his spoken intro.  Producer Arthur Freed and singer Denny Markas provided the vocals for “You and I.”  Freed co-wrote the song with Nacio Herb Brown and it was decided that his untrained voice would sound better for Leon Ames’s father character, “Alonzo Smith,” and the scene.  Three takes of “Boys and Girls Like You and Me” were printed (kept for use in the final mixing for the playback discs) and four were printed for “Over The Bannister.” 

On December 1, 1943, Joan Carroll and Harry Davenport pre-recorded their vocals for the title song that opened the film.  The following day, Judy went in to pre-record “The Trolley Song.”  The original title of the film, per the Daily Music Report, was “Clang, Clang, Clang Went The Trolley.”  Takes 1 & 2 were printed.  In his definitive book about The Freed Unit, “The World of Entertainment! Hollywood’s Greatest Musicals” (republished as “MGM’s Greatest Musicals – The Arthur Freed Unit”), author Hugh Fordin relayed the story that day’s pre-recording session:

Even after the Orchestra’s first reading of [Salinger’s] arrangement of “The Trolley Song,” an excitement spread among those playing and listening.  Then, when Judy came in with her dead-sure instinct of what she was to deliver, the ceiling seemed to fly off the stage.  Take 1 was a print!  Blane interfered.  “But Roger, Judy sang a wrong lyric!”

“She’ll never do it like that again,” replied Edens.  “No one will ever know the few words she changed – she’ll simply synchronize them!”

Salinger’s arrangement was a masterpiece.  It conveyed all the color, the motion, the excitement that eventually was going to be seen on the screen.  With the remaining numbers and the background scoring for this film as well as al the work to do thereafter, Salinger always maintained sonority and texture in his writing, which made his a very special sound and type that has never been equaled in the American movie musical.

Salinger’s brilliant arrangement is still used and recorded today.  In 1957 MGM Records, via their “Verve” label, released an instrumental LP titled “A Lovely Afternoon – The Conrad Salinger Orchestra” which included his arrangements of “The Trolley Song” and “The Boy Next Door” newly recorded in stereo for the first time.

The rest of the songs were pre-recorded as follows:

December 3, 1943:  “Skip to My Lou” and “Meet Me In St. Louis (Rose and Esther)”

December 4, 1943:  “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “The Boy Next Door”

December 17, 1943:  “Under the Bamboo Tree”

January 13, 1944:  “You and I” (no vocalists are noted so it’s unclear if this was another session with Freed and Markas or not)

It was standard, as it is now, for most (if not all) of the underscoring for films to be recorded after principal photography was completed and a rough cut of the film was available.  The bulk of the underscoring sessions for Meet Me In St. Louis took place on May 25 & May 26, 1944.  Additional sessions took place on May 29, June 24, July 27, and August 18, 1944. 

Songs from the era portrayed in the film (the early 1900s) were used as background scoring.  These included “Goodbye My Lady Love,” “Under the Anheuser Bush,” “Hiawatha,” “Little Brown Jug,” and “Auld Lang Syne.”  The use of public domain songs from the era was common practice in period films.  The general public’s familiarity with them added another layer of nostalgia.



On-the-set
Judy on the set between takes of filming the “Boys and Girls Like You and Me” sequence.

BOYS AND GIRLS LIKE YOU AND ME

Blane turned out to be correct when he postulated that the Rodgers & Hammerstein song, “Boys and Girls Like You and Me,” would end up on the cutting room floor.  When a rough cut of the film was ready it was clear that it was too long.  Something had to be cut.  The non-musical Halloween sequence, which was a tour de force for Margaret O’Brien, was almost cut.  Freed and Minnelli fought to keep it.  It came down to deciding whether to cut “Boys and Girls Like You and Me” or “The Boy Next Door.”  “The Boy Next Door” was more integral to advancing the plot, specifically by establishing Esther’s crush on, and subsequent romance with, John Truett.  “Boys and Girls Like You and Me” was redundant in that respect and the sequence slowed down the film’s flow.  Removing the song meant that the entire sequence of Esther and John at the fairgrounds would also be cut, which was longer than “The Boy Next Door.”  That might have helped in keeping the lengthy Halloween sequence intact as well.

Frank Sinatra’s name is curiously linked to Meet Me In St. Louis even though he was never a part of the project.  He famously requested new lyrics to “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”  He also recorded his own version of “The Boy Next Door” with an obvious gender change.  “Boys and Girls Like You and Me” was resurrected for him to sing to Betty Garrett in the 1949 MGM musical Take Me Out To The Ball Game.  It was filmed but ultimately cut, again because it slowed down the flow of the film.  The footage remains and it’s nice enough but it’s obvious that as lovely as the song is, it doesn’t work on screen.  The lyrics are such that the only way it can logically be filmed it is to have the singer walking along singing it to the object of their affection.  It could possibly be sung in a more intimate way with the singer singing to a photo of their love interest.  Either way, it slows down the narrative.  The footage of Judy singing the song in Meet Me In St. Louis has been lost but the pre-recordings remain, in stereo.



THE CAST ALBUM

Meet Me In St. Louis was made before the soundtrack album market opened (thanks to MGM Records) in 1947.  At the time it was standard for film musical stars to make studio singles of songs from their films.  These singles were usually completely different than the versions introduced in the films.  Judy had a recording contract with Decca Records and recorded the film’s songs, including “Boys and Girls Like You and Me,” for their “Cast Album” to the film.  As was the standard at the time, the album consisted of four 78 rpm records featuring a total of eight songs:  “Meet Me In St. Louis,” “The Boy Next Door,” “Boys and Girls Like You and Me,” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “The Trolley Song,” and “Skip to My Lou.”

This was the second of Decca’s Judy Garland cast albums.  It reached the #2 spot on Billboard’s new “Best Selling Popular Record Albums” chart in early 1945.  The single of “The Trolley Song” peaked at the #3 spot on the singles chart.  These Decca versions feature slightly different orchestrations conducted by the film’s conductor Georgie Stoll.  The exception is “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” which is nearly identical to the film version.

Louis-Decca-Inside-COMBO
Inside the front and back covers of the Decca Records “cast album.”

No soundtrack recordings were released until 1962 when MGM Records released the compilation record “The Judy Garland Story Vol. 2 – The Hollywood Years!  That release included predominantly previously unreleased Garland soundtrack performances featuring two songs from Meet Me In St. Louis, “The Boy Next Door” and “The Trolley Song.”  These performances were derived from the actual film soundtrack and not the pre-recordings.  Oddly enough, the record did feature three pre-recordings from other Garland films, each one an outtake.  The film soundtrack version of ‘Under the Bamboo Tree” was part of the 1974 MCA soundtrack to That’s Entertainment! and an abridged version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” was released on the sequel soundtrack in 1976, That’s Entertainment, Part Two

Louis-LP-FIXED-2

The first Meet Me In St. Louis soundtrack album appeared in 1981 on the bootleg label, “Hollywood Soundstage” (image above).  That record was also recorded directly from the film’s soundtrack.  The sound quality was decent for a bootleg album of that era.

Louis-CD-MGM-Records

In 1994, MGM/UA released a special 50th-anniversary edition of Meet Me In St. Louis in the laserdisc and VHS tape formats with an accompanying CD soundtrack in stereo (image above).  The set featured an alternate audio track of the isolated music-only track for the entire film (including music-only tracks of the songs) and the option to listen to the existing prerecording sessions for the songs.  These features have been copied over to the subsequent DVD and Blu-ray releases of the film.

Louis-CDs-MGM-Records-&-RhinoThe stereo CD was on the MGM Records label and was the next-to-last soundtrack ever released by that label (Ziegfeld Follies of 1946 also released in 1994 was the last).  Miraculously, all of the prerecordings of the songs and music for the film survived in stereo allowing the film to be remastered in true stereo.  The CD was also in stereo.  It was re-released the following year on the new Rhino Records “Turner Classic Movies” music label, the first in a long line of MGM soundtrack CDs released by Rhino.  The only difference between the two CDs is the removal of the MGM Records and Turner logos, the disc artwork, and inner tray artwork and the addition of the Rhino Records and Turner Classic Movies Music logos.  The contents and the booklet remained the same.  That’s the last official release of the soundtrack although there have been bootleg CD copies (most with poor sound and some inexplicably mixed down to mono) from European labels that are not worth purchasing.  The Rhino soundtrack is currently available on iTunes.

In 2017 the marvelous “Soundtracks” 2-CD set featured newly remastered versions of “The Boy Next Door,” “The Trolley Song,” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”

Newly expanded complete soundtrack!
Download Part One here  |  Download Part Two here
Includes illustrated booklet!
01-Meet-Me-In-St-Louis-Cover



Meet Me In St. Louis premiered, naturally, in St. Louis, Missouri, on November 22, 1944.  It was an instant hit, becoming MGM’s biggest hit of the year and their top moneymakers for several years afterward.  The film cost $1,707561.14 to make and grossed over $7,566,000 on its initial release.

“The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” were the breakout song hits.  The latter has become the second most recorded holiday song of all time, behind “White Christmas.”  When the Oscar nominations were announced, Meet Me In St. Louis was nominated for Best Song (“The Trolley Song”) and Best Scoring of a Music Picture and Best Cinematography, Color.  Oddly enough the film did not get nominated for Best Art Direction, Color or Best Sound Recording.

There were twelve songs (!) nominated for Best Song of 1944.  The competition was stiff, what with songs written by the likes of  Jerome Kern, Ira Gershwin, Harold Arlen, James Van Heusen, Jimmy McHugh, and more.  This was the heyday of the movie musical and there were quite a lot of musicals to choose from.  The winner was “Swinging on a Star” written by James Van Heusen and Johnny Burke for the Bing Crosby hit Going My Way.  That’s not surprising when one considers that Going My Way was the big Oscar winner that year snagging Best Picture, Actor (Crosby), Supporting Actor (Barry Fitzgerald), Director (Leo McCarey), Screenplay (Frank Butler and Frank Cavett, based on a story by Leo McCarey), and Best Original Motion Picture Story (Leo McCarey)among other wins.

Meet Me In St. Louis has endured over the decades as a timeless masterpiece.  It’s not dissimilar to Judy’s previous masterpiece, The Wizard of Oz.  Both make brilliant use of Technicolor.  Both transport the viewers to another world of beauty and music and song with just enough conflict to be resolved before the happy ending where our heroine ends up back home (whether being sent back or being able to remain) and exclaiming that “There’s no place like home,” or specifically “. . . right here where we live, right here in St. Louis!”).  It’s safe to assume that the film will continue to cast its magic spell on audiences as long as it’s available for people to see.



Judy Garland in
Judy Garland and cast during the “Skip To My Lou” sequence.

MUSIC CREDITS
Note:  Although Hugh Martin later admitted that he wrote the music and lyrics to the original songs in Meet Me In St. Louis, Ralph Blane is still listed as a co-author as that is the official credit on the songs.  All of the Martin and Blane songs were written in 1943, copyrighted in 1944.

“Meet Me in St. Louis”
Music by Kerry Mills, Lyrics by Andrew B. Sterling (1904)

“The Boy Next Door”
Music and Lyrics by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane

“Skip To My Lou”
Traditional folks song, original music, lyrics, and arrangements written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane

“I Was Drunk Last Night”
Traditional folk song

“Under the Bamboo Tree” (1902)
Music and Lyrics by Bob Cole

“Over the Bannister” (1944)
Music and Lyrics by Conrad Salinger and Roger Edens

“The Trolley Song”
Music and Lyrics by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane

“Boys and Girls Like You and Me” (Outtake) (1943)
Music by Richard Rodgers, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

“You and I” (1944)
Music by Nacio Herb Brown, Lyrics by Arthur Freed

“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
Music and Lyrics by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane

Incidental songs used in the background scoring:

“Under the Anheuser Bush” (1903)
Music by Harry von Tilzer

“Good-bye My Lady Love” (1904)
Music and Lyrics by Joe Howard

“Little Brown Jug” (1869)
by Joseph Eastburn Winner

“Home Sweet Home” (1823)
Music by Sir Henry Bishop, Lyrics by John Howard Payne

“Auld Lang Syne” (c 1788)
Scottish folk song

FILM MUSIC CREDITS
Musical Director: George Stoll
Uncredited Musical Director: Lennie Hayton
Musical Adaptation: Roger Edens
Orchestration: Conrad Salinger
Original Songs & Music:   Hugh Martin, Ralph Blane; Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown

Check out The Judy Room’s Extensive Spotlight on Meet Me in St. Louis here.

Check out The Judy Garland Online Discography’s Meet Me In St. Louis (Decca versions) here.

Check out The Judy Garland Online Discography’s Meet Me In St. Louis (Soundtracks) here.

Director Vincente Minnelli and producer Arthur Freed pose with the cast of
Director Vincente Minnelli and producer Arthur Freed pose with the cast.

MGM PRODUCTION No. 1317
Cost: $1,707,561.14
Includes:
$208,275 to build the new “St. Louis Street”.
$86,616.67 for the screenwriting process
(including early drafts and treatments dating back to 1942)
$62,225 for the lower floor of the Smith home.
$16,625 for the miniature of the exterior of the World’s Fair.
$15,625 for the trolley depot.
$5,091 for the trolley tracks.

Premiere: November 22, 1944
Domestic Gross: $7,566,000
(as of August 31, 1957 – does not include 16 mm. rentals, double-bill playoffs, or the film’s share when sold for television as part of a package and subsequent home video sales)

Running Time: 113 minutes (10,147 ft)

CAST:
Esther Smith:   Judy Garland
“Tootie” Smith:   Margaret O’Brien
Mrs. Anna Smith:   Mary Astor
Rose Smith:   Lucille Bremer
Alonzo Smith:   Leon Ames
John Truett:   Tom Drake
Katie the maid:   Marjorie Main
Grandpa:   Harry Davenport
Lucille Ballard:   June Lockhart
Lon Smith Jr.:   Henry H. Daniels Jr.
Agnes Smith:   Joan Carroll
Colonel Darly:   Hugh Marlowe
Warren Sheffield:   Robert Sully
Mr. Neely:   Chill Wills
Dr. Terry:   Donald Curtis
Ida Boothby:   Mary Jo Ellis
Quentin:   Ken Wilson
Motorman:   Robert Emmett O’Connor
Johnny Tevis:   Darryl Hickman
Conductor:   Leonard Walker
Baggage Man:   Victor Killan
Mailman:   John Phipps
Mr. March:   Major Sam Harris
Mr. Braukoff:   Mayo Newhall
Mrs. Braukoff:   Belle Mitchell
Hugo Borvis:   Sidney Barnes
George:   Myron Tobias
Driver:   Victor Cox
Clinton Badgers:   Joe Cobbs, Kenneth Donner, Buddy Gorman
Girl on Trolley:   Helen Gilbert
Singing voice of Alonzo Smith:   Arthur Freed
Singing voice of Anna Smith:   Denny Markas

PRODUCTION:
Producer:   Arthur Freed
Director:   Vincente Minnelli
Assistant Director:   Wallace Worsley
Screenplay:   Irving Brecher, Fred F. Finklehoffe from the novel by Sally Benson
Uncredited script contributions:   Sally Benson, Doris Gilbert, Sarah Y. Mason, Victor Heerman, William Ludwig
Photography (Technicolor):   George Folsey (uncredited: Harold Rosson for “The Trolley Song” sequence)
Technicolor Color Director:   Natalie Kalmus
Associate Technicolor Color Director:   Henri Jaffa
Musical Director:   George Stoll
Uncredited Musical Director:   Lennie Hayton
Musical Adaptation:   Roger Edens
Orchestration:   Conrad Salinger
Songs & Music:  “The Trolley Song”, “The Boy Next Door”, “Skip To My Lou”, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” by Hugh Martin, Ralph Blane; “Under The Bamboo Tree” by Bob Cole, J. Rosamond Johnson; “Meet Me In St. Louis” by Andrews B. Sterling, Kerry Mills; “You And I” by Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown; “I Was Drunk Last Night,” “Over The Banister” (traditional) arranged by Conrad Salinger; “Brighten The Corner” by Charles H. Gabriel Jr.; “Summer In St. Louis”, “The Invitation” by Roger Edens; “All Hallow’s Eve”, “The Horrible One”, “Ah, Love!” by Conrad Salinger, “Good-bye My Lady Love” by Joe Howard; “Under The Anheuser Bush” by Albert von Tilzer, “Little Brown Jug” by R. A. Eastburn, arranged by Lennie Hayton, “The Fair” by Lennie Hayton, “Boys And Girls Like You And Me” (recorded and filmed but deleted prior to release) by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein III
Dance Director:   Charles Walters
Editor:   Albert Akst
Art Directors:   Cedric Gibbons, Lemuel Ayers, Jack Martin Smith
Set Decorator:   Edwin B. Willis
Associate Set Decorator:   Paul Huldchinsky
Costume Designer:   Sharaff
Costume Supervisor:   Irene
Make-up:   Jack Dawn
Recording Director:   Douglas Shearer
Sound Recording:   Joe Edmondson



Newly expanded complete soundtrack!
Download Part One here  |  Download Part Two here
Includes illustrated booklet!
01-Meet-Me-In-St-Louis-Cover

Information in this article was provided in part by:

“The World of Entertainment! Hollywood’s Greatest Musicals” written by Hugh Fordin (republished as “MGM’s Greatest Musicals – The Arthur Freed Unit”)

“Meet Me In St. Louis” (BFI Film Classics) written by Gerald Kaufman

“Judy Garland The Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Legend” written by Scott Schechter

The MGM Daily Music Reports from the author’s personal collection.

Photos from the author’s personal collection

Screen Shot 2019-03-31 at 4.01.09 PM
Judy Garland and Tom Drake.



6 comments

  1. Wow, it didn’t even occur to me until I read your new post that 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of “St. Louis.”

    Thanks for such a well-conceived piece. It’s funny, just last weekend, I watched 1969’s “Hello, Dolly!” for the first time in years. I had forgotten how entertaining it is on one level, yet how empty and overblown the film is on another. Kelly borrows heavily from both “The Trolley Song” and “Topeka and the Santa Fe” for one big number, and clearly much of the rest is borrowed from other superior MGM films. As Astaire once estimated, film art is the result, not something you can aim for. Kelly was clearly trying too hard.

    Curiously, right after “St. Louis”, other studios tried to steal its magic. Fox had a forgettable film called “Centenial Summer”, and Warner Brothers released “On Moonlight Bay” with Doris Day, as well as its sequel, “By the Light of the Silvery Moon”, two overly-sugary, unmemorable films.

    “Stl. Louis” truly is one of a kind.

    Like

  2. About those 12 songs being nominated-from the book Inside Oscar “From 1938 through 1945, each studio’s music department submitted a single song which would automatically be nominated. Omissions during these years are therefore the responsibility of the studios and not the Academy.” For example, in 1944 RKO, Universal, Fox, Columbia, RKO. PRC, Republic, Monogram, Warner Bros, Paramount, UA and MGM all had one song nominated.

    Like

  3. Thank you so much for this very detailed and revealing history of this film! I only recently found your website and I’m so glad I did! Last year, Profiles in History ran an auction for Liza Minnelli. There were two main huge lots in the auction, one for Liza memorabilia, and the other for all the Judy Garland memorabilia that Judy herself owned and left to Liza upon her death. I was lucky enough to win the bid on Judy’s very own copy of the movie poster for “Meet Me in St. Louis” that the studio gave to her!! According to the auction house, it was never framed by Judy or Liza, but was kept, folded up (!), in Judy’s files and papers. I spent a small fortune having it ironed out and restored (quite a bit of foxing on the paper), and it is currently between two pieces of acid-free cardboard in storage (with magnets all over it to keep the paper from slipping down). I’ve been saving up the money to have it framed the way it should be. I can’t believe its 75 years old! I won several other items in the auction, mostly bunches of Judy’s photo collections of her own career, but this was definitely the prize and the most expensive of what I obtained (at least after I had to return the concert program that was listed as being from her legendary Carnegie Hall concert, but turned out, upon receiving and opening it, that it was really from subsequent concerts after that in Australia – those concerts just used the same cover image on the program that was used on the Carnegie Hall program).

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  4. You’re welcome! I’m glad you like it.

    It sounds like you got some wonderful treasures from the Liza auction. Feel free to share scans of the photos. We would all love to see them.

    I was lucky enough to get the Daily Music Reports from Judy’s films as well as one of Liza’s Halston outfits (one of the cheaper ones!). There were so many wonderful things in that auction.

    I imagine that MMISL poster will look wonderful once it’s framed and on the wall. It sounds like it found the right home. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love Judy in “Meet Me in St Louis”. I will never forget the first time I saw her sing “Have Yourself a Merry little Christmas ” in the movie. A touching moment.

    Like

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