"Meet me in St. Louis aimed straight at America's nostalgic heart and centered on a year in the life of the perfect all American family. The Smiths of St. Louis," said one commenter on a dvd extra of Meet Me in St. Louis. The perfect American family, or perfect any family - because that can only be a work of Hollywood magic right?
America was at war in 1944 when the film came out. America in 2011 just ended a war and still has a shaky economy. I wish Hollywood produced more feel good fare. Entertainment is about escapism but it's also psychological. To me, too much entertainment is about vicarious living, numbing ourselves, and shock value.
I love watching these old films and considering the dialogue then and in the context of the present day. Like when Katie the housekeeper declares, "Personally I wouldn't marry a man who proposed to me over an invention." I think about how much courtship occurs over the internet (even meeting on dating sites), exchanging e-mails and texts and such. All over an "invention." Steve and I have been together for six years and we've never exchanged a single text message, which makes us "young" old fogies, I guess. I do long for romance and courtship, which I think is a dying art. I've never wanted a laundry list of men like in shows like Sex and the City. I think there's something sweet and enduring about Esther's love of the boy next door. Are we too cynical for that?
There's a scene where Rose declared, "Money. I hate loathe, despise and abominate money" to which her father responds, "You also spend it." Well that's a universal line for the ages if I ever heard one. I feel the same way about money. But no money - no trips to the Southwest, no vintage dresses from the thrift shop, no meals out. I also recall what Ben Stein said in his commentary about instead of buying our parents a sweater for Christmas we should give thanks that they spent the heart of their lives caring for us. Rose's father seems worried how he would pay for their education which was behind the family's move to New York City from their beloved St. Louis. My parents paid for my college at a state university and I don't have the crippling debt many of my colleagues still have a decade into their career. And just thinking about starting a family, I consider how our own parents were at that same place once, dreaming about the future, making sacrifices, nervous about how they would pay for it, wondering how it would all turn out. Maybe Ben Stein is right, giving thanks is the greatest gift of all. Thanks Mom and Dad.
I now have new meaning when I hear "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," which was written with the troops in mind, "Faithful friends who are dear to us, will be near to us, once more. Someday we will all be soon together, if the fates allow." And I so hope next year "all our troubles will be miles away." Wouldn't that be nice? Aren't you tired of bad news from the media? Any glimmer of hope from a jobs report seems trampled on. Where's a modern day Judy Garland to lift our spirits? Thank goodness we have her on her film.
Confession, until this year, I'd never seen Meet Me in St. Louis. Just mentioning it to people who love it, I've seen their eyes light up and a smile go check to check. That's what great entertainment should do. My eyes are lit and a smile is on my face just thinking about Judy Garland's jolly hour on the trolley. I know some people who shun old movies and boy, are they missing out. Don't miss out on our great American film history. This year I decided to explore old films and I've seen more than in my entire life. There's a running joke in the Partridge Family where Shirley Jones will mention an old movie star and singer, say Ruby Keeler (of the great Busby Berkeley film's of the thirties) and the youngest children will say, "Who?!?") I now know who Ruby Keeler is, and why she, Dick Powell, Joan Blondell are so worth seeing in his pictures, which are works of art. I've fallen in love with the music of Elvis Presley after watching Viva Las Vegas and Simon and Garfunkle's melodic tunes in The Graduate. I've now seen almost every film Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire did together. My life feels richer for it. I consider my riches (not the monetary kind) and am grateful for them this Christmas.
And I hope you have yourself a Merry Little Christmas.