A Valentine to the good old days, and all they stood for. Near-peak Judy Garland under the stylish direction of her future husband, Vincente Minnelli, in this wonderful period musical. It opens in 1903 in St. Louis, where Alonzo Smith (Leon Ames), a well-to-do businessman, lives with his wife (Mary Astor), daughters (Garland, Lucille Bremer, Joan Carroll, and Margaret O'Brien), son (Hank Daniels), capricious Grandpa (Harry Davenport), and maid (Marjorie Main). Daughter Rose (Bremer) is courted by one beau at home and corresponds with another away at college, while Esther (Garland) becomes engaged to the new boy next door. Little sisters Agnes (Joan Carroll) and Tootie (Margaret O'Brien) represent the timeless mischief of childhood. Trouble arises when Alonzo is promoted and ordered to New York, a move no one in the family wants to make. This is a peerless portrayal of America at the turn of the century and one family's struggles to deal with progress, symbolized by the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis (beautifully re-created for the film). Minnelli proves his eye for detail and captures the era and its values in richly colored, gentle images, displaying a startling balance of emotions from scene to scene, song to song. Among the songs included in this triumph of Americana are "The Boy Next Door," "Meet Me in St. Louis," the marvelous production number "The Trolley Song," and Garland's evergreen "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". An almost unbeatable musical. Note Garland's beauty in this film: a tribute to the overhaul given her by Dottie Pondell, whose services Garland had snatched from under the noses of every major star in Hollywood, upon the death of Carole Lombard.