As someone who grew up in St. Louis, I have known about the film Meet Me in St. Louis pretty much my whole life, just as I was forced to learn about the St. Louis World’s Fair from elementary school on. But I actually never saw the film until much later, long after I had moved away from the town. It was a good thing to put it off, as I am sure I would have hated it and never given it a second chance.
Like Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons, Meet Me in St. Louis was filmed during WWII in the 1940s, and set four decades earlier, during the beginning of the 20th century. But St. Louis has none of the dark, foreboding tone of Ambersons. Indeed, Meet Me in St. Louis is one of the most idealized views of family life ever produced for the screen. But that is the whole point—in the dark days of 1944, when Americans had no idea how long WWII would drag on, they would rush to see a take on family life from the past when the worst thing that could happen was a boy couldn’t get his tuxedo from the cleaners to take a girl to a Christmas dance. It has been pointed out that the film presents an innocent view of life that didn’t exist even in 1904, but, again, that is the whole point of the film.
There are moments of the film that are so corny, they are a pain to watch, including the whole “Skip to My Loo” number, but this is also the film that gave the world the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and you have to take it as a whole.