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page added: 12/14/11

Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Disc review by Barrie Maxwell of The Digital Bits

Meet Me in St. Louis (Blu-ray Disc)

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Meet Me in St. Louis
1944 (2011) - MGM (Warner Bros.)
Released on Blu-ray Disc on December 13th, 2011
Previously available on DVD


Film Rating: A+
Video (1-20): 19
Audio (1-20): 17
Extras: A+

Meet Me in St. Louis has arrived on Blu-ray. The film was a 1944 production of MGM's Arthur Freed unit and the one that really kicked the period of the classic MGM musical into high gear. The plot was based on twelve short stories by Sally Benson that appeared in "The New Yorker" magazine under the collective title "5135 Kensington".

They were vignettes of her early family life growing up in St. Louis at the start of the 20th century before the time of that city's World Fair and MGM felt they had potential for a musical film. How right MGM was!

The film is of course a showcase for the singing talents of Judy Garland. For many, her efforts on "The Trolley Song" represent the film's highlight, but I prefer "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", one of the Christmas season's most wonderful and enduring popular songs. Garland's rendition is sublime. Garland was at first reluctant to play the part of the teenaged daughter, Esther Smith, preferring not to return to a juvenile role after several more adult ones. Eventually she was persuaded by studio boss Louis B. Mayer and director Vincente Minnelli, and she later came to view the part as one of her favourites. The rest of the cast is a delight as well, with young Margaret O'Brien standing out as Garland's little sister, Tootie. (She won a juvenile best Oscar for her efforts.) The parents, Anna and Alonzo Smith, are warmly portrayed by Leon Ames and Mary Astor, with Harry Davenport turning in his usual reliable performance as Grandpa. The film is briskly directed by Minnelli and showcases Garland with great care and affection, reflecting the growing relationship between the two that would soon lead to their marriage (and eventually daughter Liza Minnelli). Using Technicolor to advantage, the production is a sumptuous-looking spectacle that offers the highest level of entertainment.

Warner Bros. has brought its Blu-ray edition of Meet Me in St. Louis to market just in time for Christmas. The Technicolor images are so crisp and colourful, they just jump off the screen. Flesh tones are right on and there are no edge effects. These are comments I also made about the film's 60th anniversary two-disc DVD release some 7 years ago. They still apply and in spades. Now, even better, the slight darkness that characterized that earlier release has been completely removed. Meet Me in St. Louis's transfer (correctly presented full frame) is overall simply a superb rendering of the film.

On the audio side, Warners offers a 5.0 DTS-HD Master audio mix derived from the original stems. The result is a clear, crisp, and lively track that complements the video admirably. Discrete surround activity is limited, but a nice enveloping feel is conveyed during the musical numbers. French and Spanish DD mono tracks are also provided as are subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.

Supplements mainly replicate those that appeared on the previous two-disc release. They include an introduction by Liza Minnelli and an audio commentary featuring mainly Garland biographer John Fricke along with occasional comments by Margaret O'Brien, composer Hugh Martin, screenwriter Irving Brecher, and Barbara Freed-Saltzman (daughter of producer Arthur Freed). There's also a gallery of eight trailers for various Vincente Minnelli films; a very good half-hour making-of documentary hosted by Roddy McDowall (originally made for the laserdisc box set); the TCM special Becoming Attractions: Judy Garland; an informative 50-minute MGM studio profile narrated by Dick Cavett (Hollywood: The Dream Factory); the pilot episode of the 1966 Meet Me in St. Louis TV series with Shelley Fabares; the Vitaphone short Bubbles with an early Garland performance as one of the Gumm sisters; a vintage Soundie of "Skip to My Lou" featuring songwriters Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane; the deleted song "Boys and Girls Like You and Me"; a music-only track; the 1946 Lux Radio Theater broadcast adaptation; and the theatrical trailer. The Blu-ray disc is packaged in a 40-page Blu-ray book format that contains plenty of production detail, stills, and some relevant trivia. It also holds a CD sampler of four songs ("Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis", "The Boy Next Door", "The Trolley Song", and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas").

Meet Me in St. Louis is truly one of those films about which it can be said - "they don't make them like that any more". On Blu-ray, all of its glories are firmly intact and it's very highly recommended.

Barrie Maxwell
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