St. Louis 1903. The well-off Smith family has four beautiful daughters, including Esther and little Tootie. 17-year old Esther has fallen in love with the boy next door who has just moved in, John. He however, barely notices her at first. The family is shocked when Mr. Smith reveals that he has been transfered to a nice position in New York, which means that the family has to leave St. Louis and the St. Louis Fair
Producer-lyricist Arthur Freed dubbed the singing for Leon Ames.
Van Johnson was supposed to play John Truett, but Tom Drake took over.
First intended as a duet for Alfred Drake and Joan Roberts in the Broadway production of "Oklahoma!", the Rodgers & Hammerstein song "Boys and Girls Like You and Me" had been discarded from that 1943 Broadway triumph. MGM producer Arthur Freed then purchased screen rights to the song, planning to interpolate it into the film score as a Judy Garland solo, but her rendition was cut from the picture. Miss Garland's Decca album of songs from the film included the song in an arrangement similar to her MGM prerecording. Later, the ballad was chosen to be crooned by Frank Sinatra to Betty Garrett in another Arthur Freed production, Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949), but again the tune was deleted. The footage of Judy singing the song to Tom Drake no longer exists, but on the Warner Home Video special-edition DVD, the original audio recording is played over Garland-Drake production stills. Only about two or three seconds of footage from this sequence may be seen on the trailer in which Tom Drake's name is screened. It shows a medium shot of Tom Drake, and in the background, you can see some buildings supposedly under construction as they would appear in the blue hour before nightfall. Actually, it was just a backdrop for the scene that was filmed on a sound stage.
Vincente Minnelli and Judy Garland met on this movie, and married soon afterwards.
Director Vincente Minnelli worked hard to make the movie as accurate to the times as possible. Not only did its novelist, Sally Benson, give explicit directions as to the decor of her home down to the last detail, but the movie's costume designer took inspiration for many of the movies costumes right out of the Sears & Roebuck catalog from the time period.
Judy Garland recorded "The Trolley Song" in a single take.
The movie was based on the real-life experiences of novelist Sally Benson. The character of Tootie was based on her own childhood; she was called Tootie as a little girl.
"The Trolley Song" was inspired by a children's picture book. The book had a page with a picture of a trolleycar, captioned "Clang! Clang! Clang! went the jolly little trolley."
The book on which the film is based originally ran as a weekly feature in the New Yorker Magazine in 1942. For the film many of the actions attributed to Tootie were actually done in real life by Sally Benson's sister Agnes. Also in reality, Benson's father moved the family to NYC and they never did come back for the World's Fair.
The success of the film had encouraged MGM to create further movies involving the Smith family and was to be based on further tales of Sally Benson's family. MGM wanted to make sort of a deluxe color group of serials in the spirit of the popular "Andy Hardy" series. A proposed sequel titled "Meet Me in Manhattan" was in the works in which the Smith family actually moved to New York. (This happened in real life to Sally Benson's family.) However, the project never got out of planning stages and the film was never made.
Judy Garland scoffed at the idea of portraying yet another teenager (she was 21 when filming began) and wanted nothing to do with the film. Her mother even went to MGM chief Louis B. Mayer on her behalf. However, Vincente Minnelli convinced her to play the part of Esther Smith, and Judy later fell in love with the story. In her later years she considered it one of her favorite roles.
"The Trolley Song" was ranked #26 and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" was ranked #72 by the American Film Institute in 2004 on the 100 Greatest Songs in American Films list.
In "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", Judy Garland refused to sing the grim original line, "Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last" to little Margaret O'Brien. The version she sang is the one everyone knows today.
Judy Garland missed 13 days of work causing the production taking 70 days to complete from the original budgeted 58 days.
Margaret O'Brien's mother wanted more money for her to play "Tootie" in the film. The studio then cast the young daughter of a lighting man working on the film, going so far as to even fit her with costumes. They then changed their minds and decided to go ahead and cast Margaret O'Brien. O'Brien was playing a scene when that lighting man intentionally dropped a heavy spotlight to the sound stage, narrowly missing the young actress. He was taken away and actually admitted to a mental institution for a time for his deed.
The Halloween sequence on the street outside of the Smith home was primarily filmed from low angles, so that the movie audience would experience the Halloween night as though they were seeing it through the eyes of a child. When Tootie (Margaret O'Brien) embarks on her adventure to the Braukoff home, the houses appear to be large and looming.
The street on which the Smith home stood was built specifically for "Meet Me in St. Louis." Located on MGM's vast Backlot #3 that was at Jefferson and Overland Boulevards in Culver City,it was known at the studio as "St. Louis Street" and all of the houses that were on it were used in various film and television shows throughout the next 27 years, until Lot 3 was demolished to make way for an apartment and condominium project. Even in 1970, the last year of Lot 3's existence, the Smith home still looked like it did in 1944, minus the set dressings, of course.
Hugh Martin of Martin and Blaine - composers of the film's original songs, did not enjoy his MGM experience. Although Martin greatly admired Garland and the talent of those he was working with, he did not appreciate Producer Arthur Freed's volatile temperament, or the one-upsmanship and self important attitudes shared by the MGM hierarchy. He has said that he found all that showing off and competing for attention "depressing". A devout Christian, in later years he adapted “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas” into “Have yourself a "Blessed" Little Christmas” for a popular Gospel singer.
After Tootie crashes Lon's going-away party, Esther asks her if she would like to recite "Did You Ever See a Rabbit Climb a Tree?" for the company. This is a nonsense poem by L. Frank Baum, author of the book "The Wizard of Oz" (from "Father Goose: His Book", 1899).
This film was a box-office smash, grossing more money than any prior MGM release in 20 years -- with the exception of David O. Selznick's Gone with the Wind (1939).
The Broadway stage version of "Meet Me In St. Louis" opened at the George Gershwin Theater on November 2, 1989, ran for 252 performances and for nominated for the 1990 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Book and Score.
* Continuity: In an early scene you can see feathers and down floating all over the set, left over from the upcoming winter scenes.
* Continuity: Just before "Boy Next Door," Esther keeps shifting positions when sitting on her front porch with Rose Smith.
Anachronisms: The family sings "Meet Me In St.Louis" in 1903, but it wasn't published until 1904
Revealing mistakes: There are no footprints in the snow in the winter scene, and there is not enough snow to have allowed the children to have made snowmen without leaving any trace of the snow being rolled into place.
Incorrectly regarded as goofs: It is often incorrectly claimed that an off screen male voice calls out "Hiya, Judy" (referring to actress 'Judy Garland', not her character, Esther). The voice actually says "Hiya, Johnny". This refers to Tom Drake's character, John Truett, who has been trying to catch the trolley and apparently just made it. As soon as the line is delivered Esther looks expectantly screen right but we do not see John until the end of the trolley song sequence.
Continuity: The piece of cake that Mr. Smith eats for Halloween dessert starts out flat and later grows into a wedge.
Continuity: As Esther comes down the stairs to the party in the parlor (with John Truett as one of the guests), she passes by the grandfather clock on the landing. In the shot just before coming to the landing, the pendulum is swinging. In the next shot, Esther is on the landing, and the pendulum is stopped.
Continuity: When Esther and Tootie perform "Under the Bamboo Tree", Tootie's bedroom slippers are pink at the beginning of the number...but change to blue in the "cake walk" finale.
Continuity: When the cake is first cut, it is two layers. When they return and start eating around the piano, one of the pieces is three layers.
Continuity: After Esther sits down during the corset scene, Rose's position changes from standing next to Esther's chair in one shot to kneeling on the chair in the next.
Factual errors: During the Trolley Song the location of the Fair was mentioned as at Huntington Park. The actual location of the Worlds Fair was Forest Park.
Continuity: The amount of tears on Tootie's face changes as she listens to Esther singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas".
Errors in geography: Various scenes include views of mountains. However, St. Louis does not have any mountain ranges.
Anachronisms: Although set at the turn of the century, and with very authentic sets and costumes, all of the women inexplicably have mid-'40s hairstyles.
Continuity: When Esther and John are looking out over the fair at the end, John remarks that he liked it better when it was a swamp and it was just the two of them. They didn't actually meet until the night before the trolley trip to see the fairgrounds, already in progress.
Continuity: In the supper scene when they are trying to rush the meal so that Rose can take her long distance call in private, Katie the maid serves Mr. Smith his soup. The bowl looks completely empty through the whole scene until Katie comes to pick up the bowl. At that point, it is full of brightly-colored soup.
Katie the Maid: Would it start a minor revolution in this household if dinner was served an hour early today?
Mrs. Anna Smith: Mr. Smith hates to eat early on a hot day.
Katie the Maid: Eating early on a hot day gives you more time to digest your food before retiring. Besides, I'm due at my sister's at seven o'clock on a family matter.
Mrs. Anna Smith: Is there something wrong with your sister?
Katie the Maid: She's having trouble with her husband. Him bein' a man.
Mrs. Anna Smith: Well, eating early is all right with me, but you'll have to explain it to Mr. Smith.
Katie the Maid: Oh, he won't mind, seein' as how tonight's corn beef night.
Rose Smith: Oh, Es, isn't he simply enchanting? And so mature!
Esther Smith: Well, how did it happen? Where did you meet?
Rose Smith: I was coming out of the shop and he was coming in. We bumped into each other!
Esther Smith: Accidentally?
Rose Smith: Almost!