Icebox Moment #1: Bullying in Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)

Sometimes you notice a movie's plot hole long after you've seen the film. Alfred Hitchcock called this the Icebox Syndrome, because you think of it after you've gone home and are looking in the fridge.

Most of us have seen Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) lots of times and believe we know every part of it intimately, even its quirks. Well, recently this icebox moment occurred to me. When Esther apologizes for slapping John around, he accepts her apology but - and here's the kicker -  he never asks her why she hits him in the first place.

The audience knows why since we're there when little sister Tootie claims the boy next door hit her. Esther runs over to 5133 Kensington Avenue and gives the guy what for. After discovering that her sociopathic sister has lied, she asks John's forgiveness (without explanation) and he gives it. They then chat about nothing and he plants a great big smooch on the woman who just assaulted him, asking her, "if you're not busy tomorrow night, could you beat me up again?"

What is going on in this character's head? How does he rationalize her behavior? She's clearly angry, but does he consider the slaps gestures of romantic interest? If smacking and such turns him on, he'll fit right in with this crazy family.

What's your icebox moment in a film?


  1. If I remember the scene correctly, Esther lights into John immediately, and he never gets a chance to ask Esther why she's pummeling him, as he's so surprised she's doing so in the first place.

    Before he can respond, Esther rants: "What do you mean hitting a 5 year-old child?" so John quickly figured out she was referring to Tootie, since he'd helped Tootie and Agnes elude the police after they masterminded the trolley accident.

    But, since Esther's so furious and beats and berates him the entire time, John figured it wasn't worthwhile trying to defend himself until she'd calmed down.

    At least that's how I always saw it.

    Great scene, in any case.

  2. Hi Mark,

    You're right that John Truett doesn't have time to ask while Esther Smith is beating him up.

    The oddity - and the reason for writing this blog post - occurs during her 2nd visit that night after she's punched him, run home to tell the family that she "just took care of him," realizes her mistake and returns to the Truett household.

    Meanwhile, John checks his injuries as she arrives the 2nd time. She says, "John, I'm awfully sorry. It's just that I thought...[seeing his bruises] Oh! Did I do that?" She says she's sorry again and he accepts her apology.

    They've both calmed down and are chatting but that's as close as she gets to giving him as reason [not that he ever asks].

    The audience doesn't notice [I didn't] because we already know Esther's motivation, it's a complicated thing to explain, and retelling what we all just saw and heard in the Smith house would be dull and interrupt the mood for that inevitable kiss that ends the scene and begins their courtship.

  3. Very interesting idea for a post, Java. Hitchcock was so clever. Icebox moment - perfect phrase. I think one of mine is in the Ghost and Mrs. Muir. I actually did a little late-night rumination post about it on my blog a while back. Of course, it's a gorgeous fantasy and I love it, and suspension of disbelief has to be part of every movie lover's mindset. But there was no explanation of how Mrs. Muir paid her bills for the 50 years after the Captain's book was published. I mean, nobody can live on the royalties of ONE book for their entire life! But, who cares really -- what a beautiful, romantic story with one of Bernard Herrmann's best music scores!

  4. ClassicBecky,
    Thanks for pointing that out about The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. I just assumed the book sold that well for that long. Silly me. :)

    - Java


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