Locus Focus: Take Ninety-One!
Now Showing: May at the Movies, Part 3!
The first time I did May at the Movies, I was also thinking a lot about mothers, so I found settings from movies that were also about motherhood. The theme premiered with a scene from one of the most famous almarum matrum from a movie: Shermer High School Library.
When I produced the sequel, I decided to tie the twist to my usual literary routine and feature movie settings full of books, like pretty much the only good thing about the Sabrina remake.
This year, since May's theme is actually May I Have Some Music?, I'm taking all the settings from movie musicals. Preferably settings that are also romanticised in the musical numbers.
Meet Me in St. Louis
"Don't tell me the lights are shining any place but there!"
For an opening number to a big-budget MGM musical, Meet Me in St. Louis is hardly a show stopper. The first singer hollers as much as she sings, and even sneezes some of the words. The second singer "forgets" half the lyrics and dodders through silly choreography. Only then do we get Judy Garland . . . but she just closes the number and begins the build up to another song.
We soon get a second performance of the title song which is all Garland. But she's wearing what seems to be underwear and a robe. And her grand finish is interrupted by someone telling her "to stop that screeching."
Oh, director Vicente Minnelli was a genius, wasn't he?
The point of this unorthodox opening is that St. Louis isn't some utopian Shangri-la where everything is absolutely perfect. (Well, okay, pitch perfect: I'll grant you that.) St. Louis is just a regular town that a regular family thinks of as home. Like all families, the Smiths are not always dressed for company, and they let their hair down in embarrassing ways when alone with each other. They're also very happy where they are--and St. Louis being scheduled to host the World's Fair the very next year is just the cherry on top. The whole movie is a series of episodes highlighting what they love about their home and climaxing with the fair.
Oh, to be young and in love at the most glorious fair in the world!
Now, you can argue that any family which includes a member with Judy Garland's star quality (but none of her nuttiness) can hardly be described as "regular," and therefore, the illusion spoils itself. But I'm a bigger sort of wet blanket than that these days and would rather talk to you about Ota Benga.
Long before Hollywood's finest asked audiences to suspend disbelief for the "regular" Smith family, the organisers of the St. Louis World Fair asked audiences to suspend empathy and collective decency for its human zoo exhibit.
I blog about these things because I'm a walking buzzkill.
But a buzzkill working toward a point, which is that many hometowns that do not share turn-of-the-century St. Louis's backlot beauty still share its spirit--while many families that do not share the Smith family's star power still share its heart. But the happiness of anyone's home should never be at the expense of those of others.
Question of the Week: Do only picture perfect places have shadow sides, or are dark underbellies inevitable?
Image Sources: a) Meet Me in St. Louis screen cap, b) "I went to the Igorot Village in the St. Louis World's Fair and all I got was this dumb souvenir"