By Morgan Roberts
“Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944) is not strictly a Christmas film, but it does leave an everlasting imprint on the holiday.
“Meet Me in St. Louis” has always been a Christmas Eve staple in my household. We very much live our own version of “The Family Stone.” The film holds so much nostalgia. It does not hurt that the absolutely divine Judy Garland takes center stage as Esther Smith, a young woman living in St. Louis with her family in the year leading up to the 1904 World’s Fair.
We see Esther bond with her sisters, fall in love, and become a young woman. Towards the end of the film, Esther’s father informs the family that they will be moving to New York City where he has gotten a job. Esther and her family attend their final Christmas Eve ball in St. Louis. Saddened by their impending departure, Esther returns home to her equally distraught youngest sister who, while impatiently waiting for Santa, hopes that Santa will be able to find them next year.
That is when Garland sings the quintessential Christmas song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The song, composed by Hugh Martin with lyrics by Ralph Blane, has become a staple on many a Christmas playlist. The song had a few rewrites prior to the film. Originally, the song was a bit more melancholy. For instance, instead of the lyric, “Next year all our troubles will be out of sight,” the original lyric was “Next year we may all be living in the past.” In its revised form, the song became popular amongst U.S. troops serving in World War II. Reportedly, Garland’s performance at the Hollywood Canteen brought many soldiers to tears.
In the context of the film, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” sure tugs at the heartstrings. An older sister lamenting to a younger sister about the magic of the holiday and the uncertainty of the future.
“Through the years, we all will be together/If the fates allow/Hang a shining star upon the highest bough/And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”