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Meet Me In St, Louis And The Aspect Of Sound

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The Aspect of Sound in

Meet Me In St. Louis

In 1904 Eugene Lauste successfully recorded sound onto a piece of photographic film. This invention was known as a "Sound Grate" the results where still far to crude to be used to public display.

The cameras used to film "The Talkies" as they where known, had to be kept in enormous soundproof casing. This immediately hindered directors creativity and made movies such as Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) much more rigid. Because of the fascination with the lip-syncing that this new technology achieved less attention was played to other attributes that silent films used such as the comedic elements in Charlie Chaplin's City Lights (1931.)

The invention of talking pictures also had severe repercussions on the censorship process. Initially the entire process was nearly impossible, as any cuts made would have an effect on the synchronisation of the sound and the film.

Minnelli's 1944 musical Meet Me In St. Louis:

"Serves to implicate the contemporary 1944 audience" (Mundy, J 1999.)

This because in many ways the film aims to personify a period of loss and change as was the case in America during the Second World War period. This can be witnessed through Rose Smith's (Lucille Bremer) loss of a possible fiancй in New York as well as the heartache the entire family feels of the possibility of moving away from St. Louis to New York.

John Mundy (1999) sums this up in the following quote:

"Like so many folk musicals, the film is suffused with a yearning nostalgia for a cultural past which is both desirable and as the text suggests attainable."

This also reflects upon the 1944 audience whereby they will be "yearning" for a happier past when there is no war. The film uses the device of music to make it seem as if this is attainable for the audience.

Andre Bazin saw the movement of film as a total progression towards:

"A progressive movement toward an ultimate goal a total and complete representation of reality... the reconstruction of a perfect illusion of the outside world in sound, colour, and relief" (

Bazin called this the "Myth of Total Cinema." He believed that a total representation of reality was an ideal. Musicals are popularly believed to be leading away from the ideal of total cinema. This is because they are filmed using non-diegetic sound. This is to say sound that originates from outside of the film. For example the backing track to the Trolley Song.

The use of songs in Meet Me in St. Louis is used in the following key way:

"It illustrates the central importance of music and song as an expressive vehicle."(R, Fehr 1993.)

This is to say that it allows the audience into the inner emotional life of a character. This can be witnessed in Esther Smith's (Judy Garland) song The Boy Next Door.

Music is also used to highlight the sense of who is the actual star. For example in the song "You and I" Mr Alonzo Smith (Leon Ames) the father of the family struggles to find the correct key. Whereas Judy Garlands songs are always in perfect key. This is to say that we are supposed to admire Judy Garland and think of her as the star of the musical.

The 'Trolley Song' clearly connotes expressions of heterosexual desire:

"Chug, chug, chug went the motor,

Pop, pop, pop went the wheels,

Stop, stop, stop went my heart strings,

As he started to go then I started to know how it feels,

When the universe reels."

The song takes place on a Trolley Bus in St. Louis. Esther Smith sings this song about her love for John Truett (Tom Drake) when she fears that he is going to miss the Trolley Bus and consequently not notice her. The words in the song have strong sexual



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