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Film 50: History of Cinema

Wednesday, February 11, 2009
3:00 p.m. Meet Me in St. Louis
Vincente Minnelli (U.S., 1944)

Lecture by Marilyn Fabe

Special admission prices apply: General admission, $11.50; BAM/PFA members, $7.50; UC Berkeley students, $5.50; Seniors, disabled persons, UC Berkeley faculty and staff, non–UC Berkeley students, and youth 17 and under, $8.50.

Vincente Minnelli’s classic musical follows the Smith family through the seasons of the year 1903, before they move from the innocence of life in provincial St. Louis to New York City. Minnelli captures the spirit of Sally Benson’s nostalgic memoirs of girlhood in another time and place by combining a blatantly dreamlike vision—in his fantastic and determined color stylization—with myriad homey details that create the physical and psychological atmosphere of ordinary reality, in all its warm splendor. Judy Garland is given one of her best roles as Esther Smith, while a young Margaret O’Brien almost steals the show with a cakewalk in a nightgown and her terribly terrifying Halloween adventures. As James Agee wrote, the film “makes the well-heeled middle-class life of some adolescent and little girls in St. Louis seem so beautiful that you can share their anguish when they are doomed to move to New York. . . . The solidest single achievement of the movie, in fact, is to give the Smiths something to be sorry about: the real love story is between a happy family and a way of living.”

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Irving Brecher, Fred F. Finklehoffe, based on the book by Sally Benson. Photographed by George Folsey. With Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Mary Astor, Lucille Bremer. (113 mins, Color, 35mm, From Warner Bros.)