MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS ($27) is oftentimes referred to as a cinematic valentine from director Vincente Minnelli to the film’s leading lady Judy Garland. Looking at how meticulously photographed is photographed and how MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS is perfectly crafted around her, Minnelli’s infatuation with Garland become rather obvious. Although this collaboration between Minnelli and Garland also ignited a spark that lead to matrimony for the pair, MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS was an artistic and commercial success that eventually became one of best loved classic movies of all time. Additionally, MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS provided Judy Garland with her most memorable screen role at MGM, next to Dorothy Gale in that enduring classic- THE WIZARD OF OZ.
Garland’s performance in MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS as Esther Smith is the perfect combination of maturity and innocence- Garland deftly playing the dramatic moments, the intertwining comedy and the movie’s delightful musical numbers (including The Trolley Song, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Under the Bamboo Tree and The Boy Next Door. Set at the turn of the century in the title city, MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS follows the lives of Smith family over the course of a year. While little actually happens to the Smiths during that period of time, a series of seasonal vignettes sets up the impending arrival of the World’s Fair, various romantic entanglements, as well as how the family deals with the news that a job opportunity for the family patriarch will transplant them from their beloved home in St. Louis to New York City. The cast of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS also features Margaret O'Brien, Mary Astor, Lucille Bremer, Leon Ames, Tom Drake, Marjorie Main, Harry Davenport, June Lockhart, Henry H. Daniels Jr., Joan Carroll, Hugh Marlowe and Chill Wills.
Warner Home Video has made MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS available on DVD in an utterly superb looking transfer that frames the film in its proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. For this release, Warner has employed their ultra-resolution process, which pulls as much detail and vibrancy out of the original three strip Technicolor elements as possible. I have never seen MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS look anywhere near as good as it does on this DVD; in fact, previous home video and broadcast versions are pale imitations of this marvelous release. The image is usually rather sharp and nicely defined, although there are places where the cinematography appears mildly filtered and just a hair soft. Colors really pop during the presentation, yet they are rendered with complete stability and no fuzziness. Blacks are velvety, whites are very clean and the contrast is wonderfully smooth. The film elements have been well scrubbed in the digital domain, with only the most minor of blemishes remaining. There is a bit of a noticeable grain structure left to the image, but it serves to create a nice, film-like quality for the picture. Digital compression artifacts are always nicely concealed.
For this presentation, MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS comes with a remixed Dolby Digital 5.0 channel soundtrack. The remixed track does maintain the integrity of the film’s monaural origins, but it does open up the sound across the entire soundstage, without introducing artificial directionality or overt pseudo-stereo effects. In 5.0, MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS has more depth, breath and warmth than monaural, which certainly helps the musical numbers. Speaking of the music, the fidelity is excellent for nearly six-decade-old recordings, certainly not up to modern recording standards, but still very pleasant to listen to. Additionally, Judy Garland vocals are really well rendered in this presentation, as are the film’s completely understandable speaking voices. Background hiss and surface noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process, leaving a generally smooth quality to the sound. The film’s original monaural soundtrack is also provided, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the nice array of supplemental materials, which are spread across both disc of the set. Starting things off is An Introduction By Liza Minnelli, who spends five minutes talking about the film that brought her parents together. Next, we have a running audio commentary track by Judy Garland biographer John Fricke, as well as additional comments from actresses Margaret O'Brien & June Lockhart, plus composer Hugh Martin, screenwriter Irving Brecher, Barbara Freed-Saltzman. This is an interesting and very detailed track that will appeal to movie buffs and Garland fans. Disc one also features a Music Only Track, as well as a Vincente Minnelli Trailer Gallery that includes the following films: MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, FATHER OF THE BRIDE, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE’S FATHER, GIGI, THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, BRIGADOON, DESIGNING WOMAN.
Moving on to disc two, we find the remainder of the supplemental programming. Meet Me in St. Louis: The Making of an American Classic is a thirty-minute program, created several years back, which looks at the film’s production through a series of vintage and newer interviews with the participants. Hollywood: The Dream Factory is a fifty-minute profile of MGM Studios and its stars that is narrated by Dick Cavett. Hosted by Robert Osborne, Becoming Attractions: Judy Garland is a forty-six minute program from Turner Classic Movies that interweaves thirteen of the actress’s movie trailers with biographical information on her life and career. From 1966, is the pilot episode of a short-lived TV version of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS. Bubbles is a 1930 Vitaphone short that features one of the earliest of Judy Garland’s film performances (as one of The Three Gumm Sisters). Songwriter Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane are featured in Skip To My Lou, 1941 "Soundie" in which they perform as part of a quartet called The Martins. The Audio Vault provides the Garland’s rendition of cut musical number Boys And Girls Like You And Me, as well as the Lux Radio Theater broadcast of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS from December 1946. Lastly, disc two offers up a rather nice Still Gallery of production photos.
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS is indeed one of the best-loved classic movies of all time. Warner has done a tremendous job with the film’s presentation on DVD, as well as including an excellent complement of supplemental materials. Absolutely recommended.
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