In 1944, MGM debuted a new family classic for the ages. Centering on the Smith family of St. Louis, Missouri, the musical Meet Me in St. Louis follows a year in the life of the large, tight-knit clan as they navigate an auspicious year in the city’s history. Going season by season, the film’s focus is set on the Smith’s eager anticipation the arrival of the World’s Fair in their beloved hometown.
In the fall, after Mr. Smith accepts a work promotion in New York, the family prepares to leave the home they love for an uncertain future in an intimidating city. With the holiday festivities somewhat muddled by the melancholy move, the family struggles to find joy in the season as they prepare to leave the only home they’ve ever known.
On Christmas Eve, as the youngest Smith daughter, Tootie, sits near a frosty window awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus, a small music box nearby softly tinkles a familiar tune. As she waits, her older sister, Esther, portrayed by film legend, Judy Garland, ascends the stairs and discovers the child wide awake.
As they discuss their future and try to find reasons to be glad, the child becomes distraught as she struggles to imagine a life outside of St. Louis. As her spirit shrinks, her sister imparts some holiday wisdom, which she hopes will mollify the child’s fears. Winding up the music box, Esther begins to sing, urging the child to enjoy the holiday despite her sadness.
The song was. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and from the moment audiences heard it, delivered with hope and heart by Ms. Garland, coupled with the tear-streaked face of Margaret O’Brien as Tootie, the world fell in love.
Written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine, the song “began with the melody.”
Martin said. “I found a little madrigal-like tune that I liked but couldn’t make work, so I played with it for two or three days and then threw it in the wastebasket.”
“We dug around the wastebasket and found it,” Blaine recalled. “Thank the Lord we found…