Original Vs. Remake: Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) Vs. On Moonlight Bay (1951)

Maybe it’s just me, but this month seems like a good month for finding movies that are similar to others that I’ve reviewed previously! So, with that in mind, we’re back for another round of “Original Vs. Remake!” This time, we’re focusing on the two classic musicals Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) and On Moonlight Bay (1951)! As tends to be my practice, I will borrow the plot descriptions from my original reviews.

Meet Me In St. Louis: The story of the movie centers on the Smith family. Youngest daughters “Tootie” (Margaret O’Brien) and Agnes (Joan Carroll) are generally up to some mischief, especially on Halloween. Older daughters Esther (Judy Garland) and Rose (Lucille Bremer) are both eagerly looking forward to the upcoming St. Louis World’s Fair, while also trying to gain the attention of the men they are attracted to. Their father, Alonzo “Lon” Smith (Leon Ames), is offered a promotion with his law office that would require the family to move to New York, which he takes them up on, with plans to leave after Christmas.

On Moonlight Bay: It’s 1917, and the Winfield family has just moved into a new home. Most of them are unhappy with the move, as they miss their old friends and neighbors as well as their old house. However, head of the family George Winfield (Leon Ames) likes the new home, with its location closer to the bank he works at, and hopes that his older daughter, Marjorie (Doris Day), will meet some young men. Marjorie is a bit of a tomboy, but she attempts to be more feminine when she meets and takes a liking to her nextdoor neighbor, William “Bill” Sherman (Gordon MacRae). College man Bill, who is home for the summer, develops an interest in Marjorie as well, but his views on life (partially affected by the war raging in Europe) cause strife with Marjorie’s father. As a result, George tries to promote a romance between Marjorie and music teacher Hubert Wakely (Jack Smith), much to Marjorie’s annoyance. Meanwhile, younger son Wesley (Billy Gray) has trouble at school with his teacher, Mary Stevens (Ellen Corby). His tall tales (partially influenced by a movie he saw) get him out of trouble temporarily, but cause problems for his family.

While neither of these movies share the same source material, one can’t help but notice a number of similarities between them. One of the most obvious is the casting of Leon Ames in both films as the father figure. Both movies also feature a very forthright maid, who gets dragged into some of the family’s shenanigans. The younger child(ren) tend to be very mischievous in both instances, as they frequently get themselves into trouble. Even going beyond the stories themselves, we find that they both make use of mostly period music, some of which is handled by one of the respective studios’ bigger female singing stars, who portrays an older sister. We even find that both films take place throughout the year, pausing around Christmastime (with the actresses stopping to sing a holiday tune).

But, it’s hard to deny that these movies certainly do things a bit differently, too. As the father in both films, Leon Ames’ characters do not do things quite the same way. In On Moonlight Bay (OMB), he really interferes in his daughter’s love life, by both rejecting the guy she likes and trying to push somebody else on her that he finds more “acceptable.” In Meet Me In St. Louis (MMIST), he really doesn’t interfere (he threatens to once, but never actually follows through on it). Of course, the number of children varies between the two films, with only two in OMB and five in MMIST. Also, the older daughters in MMIST are quite feminine in nature, whereas Doris Day’s Marjorie in OMB is more of a tomboy (at least, until she tries to be a bit more feminine for her boyfriend). The overall situation and timeframe allows for some differences, as MMIST takes place (mostly) in 1903, with the family mainly looking forward to the upcoming World’s Fair in St. Louis, while the prospect of the first World War looms over OMB (with Gordon MacRae’s Bill Sherman eventually joining the armed forces).

Ultimately, when you get right down to it, I would take Meet Me In St. Louis over On Moonlight Bay. Judy Garland is, to me, the far better actress and singer. The music itself in MMIST is far better and far more memorable (especially for the Christmas segments). Just the way it is filmed seems better, with the way director Vincente Minelli did things (especially with Judy on camera). Now, all that doesn’t necessarily mean that On Moonlight Bay doesn’t have its advantages, either. I do think I prefer Mary Wickes to Marjorie Main in the maid’s role (but I would say that has more to do with the idea that I prefer Marjorie Main when she is a bit more loud and outspoken, and she seems tame in comparison in MMIST). And we also get to spend more time with the characters from On Moonlight Bay, since that film did receive a sequel (By The Light Of The Silvery Moon) that was able to bring back most of the cast of the first film. Regardless, it’s a fun experience with either film, and I certainly would recommend both as good films to just sit back and relax while watching!

Meet Me In St. Louis

Film Length: 1 hour, 53 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

On Moonlight Bay

Film Length: 1 hour, 35 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

The Winner (in my opinion): Meet Me In St. Louis

2019: Year In Review + Top 10 Movies Watched

OK, so originally, this was going to just be a “Top Movies Watched In 2019” list, like what I had done for last year, and that was going to be that. However, after thinking everything through, I thought I’d throw in a quick bit of “Year In Review” as well, just for the fun of it (and I’ve also gone back and altered last year’s as well to reflect that change). Starting off 2019, for my regular reviews, I continued on with some of the remaining Bing Crosby film reviews, as well as including various movies I had been given for both Christmas and my birthday (working in the handful of Errol Flynn movies that I have). In finishing off the year, I also started working my through Ginger Roger’s filmography (at least, those I own on disc), with more to come in 2020. And of course, I threw in a few film noirs for “Noir-vember,” along with some more Christmas oriented movies for most of December. Considering I was making up for a few newer releases from 2018 that I had gotten (but hadn’t reviewed yet), since doing this blog has certainly been a process of figuring out what I wanted to do and making those changes, I probably continued longer with those 2018 releases on Wednesdays than I normally would be doing. Plus, with 2019 being the 80th anniversary of 1939, that classic year considered by some to be one of Hollywood’s best years, I threw in one 1939 movie per month. While I am obviously not done yet with films from that great year, going forward they will be back to being amongst the regular Sunday reviews (or Wednesdays, when there are any new releases). Of course, among some of my special posts this year were my celebratory 100th post with my list of the Top 10 Dance Routines, a delayed post on the Crosby/Hope Road series, the screen teams of Frank Sinatra &Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire & Cyd Charisse, and a few comparisons of classic comedies and their musical remakes. About the only other thing I can think of is the switch for my video reviews (on FB) to my new YouTube channel (although those videos are me pretty much using my posts as a script, so there is little need for them unless you want to hear the sultry sound of my voice 😉 ). Of course, to truly keep up with what I am watching, I would definitely suggest keeping up with my FB fan page.

And with all that said, here’s my list, for what I think are some of the best movies I watched in the year 2019, culled from the list of 2019 Reviews, plus 2018 releases reviewed after January 1, 2019 and 2019 releases reviewed before December 30, 2019.  While I was able to enjoy watching a great many movies, some new and some I’ve seen before, the movies on this list are those I enjoyed the most, and would recommend to anybody that is interested!  And if any of these appeal to you, be sure to click on the movie titles to go to Amazon and support this site!

  1. Easter Parade (1948) (Warner Home Video, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In the only film that teamed up Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, Fred plays a dancer who tries to take on a new partner when his old partner decides to break up the act and go solo. A wonderful musical that’s fun to watch any time of the year, whether for Easter, spring, or just any time, with music by the incomparable Irving Berlin! Full review here.
  2. My Fair Lady (1964) (CBS Home Entertainment, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison star in this classic musical based on the Broadway show!With many wonderful songs, including “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “On The Street Where You Live,” you can’t go wrong with this movie! Full review here.
  3. Swing Time (1936) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The sixth Astaire-Rogers film, and one of their best-known! With music by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields including the classic Oscar-winning tune “The Way You Look Tonight,’ plus others, it’s hard to go wrong with this one, now that it looks better yet on Blu-ray! Full review here.
  4. The Story Of Vernon & Irene Castle (1939) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The ninth Astaire-Rogers film, and the final one for RKO Studios, finds them playing the real-life husband-and-wife dance team of Vernon & Irene Castle. A lot of fun seeing how that couple influenced a lot of things in the world of dance, with equally fun period music to go along with it! Full review here.
  5. Lovely To Look At (1952) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The second filmed version of the Broadway show Roberta, this film again deals with a man (played by Red Skelton) inheriting a French dress shop from his aunt. With the wonderful music of Jerome Kern, some fantastic dancing provided by husband-and-wife dance team Marge and Gower Champion, some great singing from Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel, plus Red Skelton’s comedy, it’s hard to go wrong with this wonderful movie! Full review here.
  6. Silk Stockings (1957) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Fred Astaire’s final musical for nearly a decade, and his second team-up with Cyd Charisse. She plays a Russian commissar sent to bring back a Russian composer who is working on an American film by producer Steve Canfield (Fred Astaire). With many wonderful Cole Porter tunes, including “All Of You,” Ritz, Roll And Rock” and many others, this is an absolutely wonderful movie! Full review here.
  7. Rose-Marie (1936) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The second film featuring America’s “singing sweethearts,” Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, finds her going after her convict brother (played by James Stewart, no less) in the Canadian wilderness, with a Canadian mountie (Nelson Eddy) close behind. With some classic music, including what is probably the BEST version of “Indian Love Call,” this class is a winner, and one of the best MacDonald-Eddy films! Full review here.
  8. Maytime (1937) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • For their third outing together, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson returned in a Viennese operetta first done on stage nearly twenty years before. With the one song returning from that show, “Will You Remember,” that alone makes the movie worth watching (but the rest of the movie is pretty good, too)! Full review here.
  9. Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The classic Judy Garland musical, all about the Smith family in 1903 St. Louis, with the then-upcoming World’s Fair! With classic music such as “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “The Trolley Song” and more, it’s hard to go wrong with this movie! Full review here.
  10. Footlight Parade (1933) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In this Busby Berkeley musical, James Cagney is a showman trying to put on short prologues to be shown on stage between movies. With several classic musical numbers, including “By A Waterfall” and “Shanghai Lil,” and a new restoration from Warner Archive, this movie is a lot of fun! Full review here.

Honorable mentions: Hello, Dolly! (1969) (20th Century Fox/Disney, Blu-ray), Vivacious Lady (1938) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD), The Thin Man (1934) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray)

So thank you all for sticking with me in 2019, and I wish you a Happy New Year as we head into 2020! And please let me know what movies you’ve enjoyed this year as well (whether those you’ve seen or whatever movies I’ve reviewed, whatever works for you)!

Previous Years:

2018

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2019) with… Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)

Now we have one last Christmas movie before the holiday itself, the classic musical Meet Me In St. Louis, starring Judy Garland!

The story of the movie centers on the Smith family. Youngest daughters “Tootie” (Margaret O’Brien) and Agnes (Joan Carroll) are generally up to some mischief, especially on Halloween. Older daughters Esther (Judy Garland) and Rose (Lucille Bremer) are both eagerly looking forward to the upcoming St. Louis World’s Fair, while also trying to gain the attention of the men they are attracted to. Their father, Alonzo “Lon” Smith (Leon Ames), is offered a promotion with his law office that would require the family to move to New York, which he takes them up on, with plans to leave after Christmas.

The film’s origins come from a series of short stories written by Sally Benson. There were eight stories originally published in the New Yorker magazine from June 1941 through May 1942, all based on Sally Benson’s childhood memories of the Smith family’s adventures. They proved so popular that they were compiled into the book Meet Me In St. Louis with four new stories in 1942. MGM producer Arthur Freed liked them, and wanted to do a film musical based on them. Vincente Minelli was brought in to direct (after George Cukor had to turn it down when he was called in to serve in World War II). The film was planned all along for Judy Garland, even though she was reluctant to go back to doing a juvenile role after having finally done a few adult roles. It took a bit of work, but she finally came around, and the movie would become one of her best-known roles.

And this is just such a wonderful movie, fun to watch at Christmas or any other time of the year! The music is a mixture of old and new, with the new tunes provided by songwriters Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin. Judy obviously gets some of the film’s best songs, such as “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “The Trolley Song” and “The Boy Next Door” (and the latter would be used again ten years later with altered lyrics to reflect a change in gender of the singer in the MGM musical Athena). But the rest of the cast is equally wonderful, with Marjorie Main a little dialed back (well, more than she usually seems to be) as the maid Katie, Lucille Bremer does well as older sister Rose in her film debut (before her career would go downhill very quickly with a few box office bombs), and Harry Davenport as the grandfather just feels like the grandfather you’d always want to have, he’s so wonderful! And I could easily get into more about the cast, but the story is so much fun! Yes, it is a bit episodic in nature, but it works, as it takes place over most of a year. It was already a period film at the time it was made, and boy, do some things seem different (especially like how they celebrated Halloween, which is so different now it’s not even funny)! This movie definitely rates high with me, and I have no trouble whatsoever in recommending it!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection.

So, to everybody, I hope you “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” (and for those that don’t celebrate it, I wish you happy holidays)! I wish you all peace on earth, and goodwill to ALL!

Film Length: 1 hour, 53 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #9 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2019

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List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Girl Crazy (1943) – Judy Garland – The Harvey Girls (1946)

The Palm Beach Story (1942) – Mary Astor

Lucille Bremer – Ziegfeld Follies (1945)

Another Thin Man (1939) – Marjorie Main – Murder, He Says (1945)