Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 1944. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by Irving Brecher, Fred F. Finklehoffe, based on the book by Sally Benson. Cinematography by George J. Folsey. Produced by Arthur Freed. Music by Roger Edens, Conrad Salinger. Production Design by Lemuel Ayers, Cedric Gibbons, Jack Martin Smith. Costume Design by Irene Sharaff. Film Editing by Albert Akst. Academy Awards 1944.
The apex of good family viewing is this heartwarming and colourful musical, a career peak for director Vincente Minnelli. His soon-to-be-wife Judy Garland is Esther Smith, a teenaged girl in turn-of-the-century St. Louis who is in love with John Truitt (Tom Drake), the boy next door: literally! Lucille Bremer, Leon Ames, Mary Astor, Margaret O’Brien and Harry Davenport play other members of the Smith clan, whose many trifles and tribulations seem light but are never unimportant as Minnelli directs with a careful touch, never allowing the film to become too syrupy or lost in its own happy goo. Musical numbers are all brilliant, the most memorable being “The Trolley Song” and the “Skip To My Lou” party sequence. Garland didn’t want to play a teenager, as she felt it held her back from the adult roles she was just starting to get at MGM (like Girl Crazy), but this one ended up being one of her most remembered and beloved performances, not to mention the biggest hit musical MGM had ever had until that point.