The original lyrics for this lovely and bittersweet holiday song—written for the 1944 musical Meet Me in St. Louis—were too depressing for the movie’s famous star and director.
A wonderful movie classic, Meet Me in St. Louis tells the story of a close-knit family living in St. Louis in the early 1900s. The family is devastated when the father announces that they will soon be moving to New York City—the news hitting his daughters especially hard. In a memorable scene towards the end of the film, Esther (played by Judy Garland, five years after The Wizard of Oz) tries to console her younger sister Tootie (Margaret O’Brien) with a song.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was supposed to paint a picture of fragile hope and optimism. Hugh Martin wrote the song and his first attempt concerned both Garland and the movie’s director (and her future husband) Vincente Minelli—they found the words much too depressing and asked him to rewrite a few lyrics. Martin balked, but eventually relented—there’s a mournful tone in the version we know and love, but one tempered by the we’ll-get-through-this-together line about finding the strength “to muddle through” adversity.
Click on this link to read a terrific article about the sad and strange history of the song.