Saturday, October 31, 2020

Happy Halloween 2020

At A Shroud of Thoughts I am devoted to treats rather than tricks. This means every Halloween  I hand out a heaping of cheesecake to go along with your candy. Here then, are this year's Halloween pinups.
First up are Lillian Roth, Marion Shilling, and Rosita Moreno, three devilish actresses who have been pilloried.

Next up is director and actress Ida Lupino with a friend.

Here is Helen Parrish being witchy with a jack o' lantern.

Here is a very feline Paula Kelly.

Marie Wilson with a friend.

And last, but not least, here is the bewitching Ann Miller!

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2020

Five Movies Set at Halloween

When most people think of movies set at Halloween, they might think of Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), and Halloween (1978) and its various sequels and reboots. Younger people might think of the movie Hocus Pocus (1993). That having been said, there are more movies set at Halloween than these, and not all of them are either horror movies or family friendly films. Here are tive movies set at Halloween. 

1. Boy Friend (1939): Boy Friend is a comedy starring Jane Withers as Sally Murphy, whose boyfriend is a cop. When one of Sally's friends is murdered, she sets out to find the killer herself. Eventually she winds up at the Golden Parrot Club with gangsters on Halloween.

2. The Ghost of St. Michael's (1941): While it might surprise most Americans, Halloween would not be a major holiday across all of Great Britain until the late 20th Century. British films referencing Halloween in the early to mid-20th Century are relatively rare. When they do, it is inevitably as an old Scottish custom. This is the case with The Ghost of St. Michael's. Will Hays plays hapless teacher William Lamb,  who finds himself teaching at a school on the Isle of Skye and living in the haunted Dunbain Castle. During the film Mr. Lamb catches the students stealing food and drink (including whisky) for the celebration of "the old Scottish custom" of Halloween.

3. The Crow (1994): In some respects, The Crow is more of a Devil's Night movie than a Halloween movie (Devil's Night being another name for Mischief Night, the night before Halloween). That having been said, the plot extends well into Halloween. And while The Crow doesn't feature a lot of Halloween trappings, its plot certainly fits the holiday. The Crow centres on Eric Draven, a rock musician who rises from the dead to avenge the murders of his girlfriend and himself.

4. Monster House (2006): Monster House is an animated movie set in either the Eighties or Nineties. It centres on tween D. J. who comes to realize that the house across the street is not only sentient, but malevolent. Monster House is set at Halloween and features most of the trappings of the holiday, including trick-or-treating.

5. Trick 'r Treat (2007): Trick 'r Treat is a horror portmanteau movie, not only like the classic Dead of Night (1945) or many of Amicus Productions' horror films. What united the four stories (and the framing story) is the react that each one is set in Halloween , as well as a young trick-or-treater who appears in each story. To show you how much of a Halloween movie Trick r' Treat is, the horror emerges after some person violates a Halloween custom.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Old Time Radio Halloween Episodes

Anne Gwynne. Charlie McCarthy, and
Edgar Bergen
By the late 19th Century, Halloween had become widely celebrated throughout the United States. It would only grow in stature as the 20th Century progressed. By the time of Old Time Radio, Halloween was major enough a holiday that many, perhaps most, radio shows featured Halloween episodes. In fact, what might be the single most famous episode of a radio show was a Halloween episode. The Mercury Theatre on the Air's episode "Invasion from Mars (based on H. G. Wells's War of the Worlds)" aired on October 30 1938 and was described in Orson Welles's final words as "..our own radio version of dressing up in a sheet jumping out of a bush and saying 'Boo!'"

Not only did many radio shows feature Halloween episodes, but some featured multiple Halloween episodes. In the course of its long run, The Jack Benny Program featured at least six Halloween episodes, while the holiday was acknowledged in yet other episodes whose plots centred on other subjects. The episode "Jack Goes Trick or Treating with the Beavers," which aired on October 31 1948, contains one of the earliest references to trick-or-treating in American mass media.

Like The Jack Benny Program, Fibber McGee and Molly would feature more than one Halloween episode. The show centred on married couple Fibber and Molly McGee (played by real life married couple Jim and Martha Jordan) and a wide array of friends and acquaintances. Among these was the McGee's pompous neighbour and Fibber's rival Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve (played by Harold Peary). The first Halloween episode of Fibber McGee and Molly was simply entitled "Halloween Party" and aired on October 25 1938. The plot centred around the McGees throwing a Halloween party, at which Fibber's punch and a ghost story played central role. The show's second Halloween episode centred on Gildersleeve and was titled "Gildersleeve's Halloween Party." It aired on October 24 1939. In the episode the McGees attend a Halloween party at Gildersleeve's house at which Fibber decides to play a prank.

Sitcoms and anthology shows were not the only genres of radio shows to include Halloween episodes. Variety shows did as well. In fact, a Halloween episode of a variety show aired opposite The Mercury Theatre on the Air's notorious "War of the Worlds" episode on October 30 1938. The Chase and Sanborn Hour starred ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummy Charlie McCarthy. In the October 30 1938 episode, Edgar Bergen refused to let Charlie McCarthy have a Halloween party and later Mr. Bergen tried to  to tell a ghost story. The episode also guest starred Madeline Carroll and Don Ameche, who performed the play, "There's Always Julia." Judy Canova and her kin, told of their visit to a football game. Finally, Madeline Carroll presented Charlie with a letter from one of his French admirers. While The Mercury Theatre on the Air's "War of the Worlds" episode did not cause the mass panic as urban  legend would have it the fact that some listeners were convinced of an invasion from Mars led theatre critic Alexander Woolcott to write to Orson Welles, "This only goes to prove, my beamish boy, that the intelligent people were all listening to a dummy and all the dummies were listening to you." Indeed, as much of an uproar as The Mercury Theatre on the Air caused, it was soundly beaten in the ratings by The Chase and Sanborn Hour.

The October 29 1944 episode of The Chase and Sanborn Hour would actually feature Orson Welles as a guest on the show. In the episode Orson Welles gave Bergen and McCarthy a tour of a museum. In the episode Edgar Bergen also told Charlie McCarthy a ghost story, while Charlie invited another one of Edgar Bergen's dummies, Mortimer Snerd, to his Halloween party.

Among the most popular radio sitcoms during the Golden Age of Hollywood was The Aldrich Family. The radio show was based on the Broadway play What a Life by Clifford Goldsmith and in turn inspired a series of movies produced by Paramount, starting with What A Life in 1939. The Aldrich Family debuted on July 2 1939 on the NBC Red Network. Despite its title, The Aldrich Family centred on teenager Henry Aldrich (played by Ezra Stone). His best friend was Homer Brown (played by Jackie Kelk and later others). The Aldrich Family featured episodes centred on various holidays, including Mother's Day, Christmas, Valentine's Day, and even April Fool's. The episode "Halloween Pranks" aired on October 31 1940. At that time a common Halloween prank was to ring a house's doorbell and then run away. In the episode Henry and Homer decide to ring only one doorbell that year, but the prank goes horribly awry.

Another popular radio show was The Baby Snooks Show. The show featured legendary vaudevillian Fanny Brice as Baby Snooks, a precocious little girl. Fanny Brice had originated the character on vaudeville in 1912. The character proved popular, so it probably came as no surprise to listeners when the character debuted in 1936 as part of The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air. It would continue to be a segment of other shows (including Good News and Maxwell Coffee Time) until it finally became its own show in 1944.

On The Baby Snooks Show, Baby Snooks lived with her parents, Lancelot "Daddy" Higgins (initially voiced by the legendary Alan Reed) and his wife Vera "Mommy" Higgins. The Baby Snooks Show featured at least two Halloween episodes. In Halloween, which aired on October 31 1941, Daddy won't let Baby Snooks go out with her friends on Halloween, but she pesters him until he finally lets her go out. Daddy then decides to pull a prank on Snooks and her friends by donning a mask complete with tusks. The November 1 1946 episode, "Halloween Show," is significant in that Baby Snooks goes trick-or-treating, making it one of the earliest references to trick-or-treating in American mass media.

While Baby Snooks had originated on vaudeville, some radio shows were spun off from other radio shows. One of the earliest spin-offs, if not the first, was The Great Gildersleeve. Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve proved so popular on Fibber McGee and Molly that he was given his own show, which debuted on August 31 1941. On the show Gildersleeve moved from the Wistful Vista of Fibber McGee and Molly to Summerfield. There he was surrounded by a new ensemble of supporting characters, including Judge Horace Hooker (played by Earle Ross), pharmacist Richard Q. Peavey (Richard LeGrand) and barber Floyd Munson (played by Mel Blanc for one season, and then Arthur Q. Bryan). Along with Police Chief Donald Gates (played by Ken Christy), Gildersleeve, Judge Hooker, Richard Q. Peavey, and Floyd Munson formed the Jolly Boys Club in the show's fourth season.

Like Fibber McGee and Molly before it, The Great Gildersleeve featured more than one Halloween episode. The fist, "Halloween Party," aired on October 31 1943. In the episode Gildersleeve threw a Halloween party, but found himself with more tricks than treats. Another Halloween episode aired on October 29 1947. In the episode "Halloween Party with Doris," Gildersleeve is not particularly enthusiastic about attending a Halloween party where the Jolly Boys will be, so he creates a plot to get his current girlfriend Doris alone. In the October 31 1951 episode "Lost Boy on Halloween," Gildersleeve found his plans for a date and a party sponsored by the Jolly Boys put aside when he and his friends try to help a lost boy get home.

Just as Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve's Halloween plans sometimes go awry, so too did Archie Andrews's plans in the Archie Andrews episode "The Halloween Party." As readers might have guessed, Archie Andrews was based on the popular Archie Comics character of the same name. In "The Halloween Party," Archie convinced his mother to let him host a Halloween party at the Andrews residence. Unfortunately, for Archie he found himself so busy playing host that his rival Reggie was able to monopolize Veronica's time. It aired on October 29 1948.

While Archie wanted to hold a Halloween party, teacher Connie Brooks (played by Eve Arden) most definitely did not. In "Halloween Party" (which aired on on October 30 1948), Miss Brook initially turns down student Walter Denton's request that she host a Halloween party. Miss Brooks changes her mind when Walter tells her that Philip Boynton (played by Jeff Chandler), the shy biology teacher on whom Miss Brooks has a crush, is looking forward to it, she changes her mind.

While Halloween parties figure in many episodes of Old Time Radio shows, it should come as no surprise that haunted houses do as well. In the October 29 1944 episode of The Life of Riley, "Halloween Haunted House," Chester A. Riley (played by William Bendix) and his son Junior visited a haunted house on Halloween. The October 31 1948 episode of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, "The Haunted House," Ozzie and Harriet also visited a haunted house on Halloween.

Of course, the Halloween episodes I have listed are certainly not the only Halloween episodes of radios shows that aired during the Golden Age of Hollywood. They aren't even necessarily the only Halloween episodes of the individual shows I have cited. Halloween episodes were as common on Old Time Radio as they would later be on television. From the mid-Thirties to the Fifties, there probably wasn't a year when there weren't radio shows that featured Halloween episodes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Classic Hollywood Halloween Promotional Pictures

As long time readers of this blog know, every Halloween I post classic Halloween pin ups. That having been said, not every Halloween promotional picture taken in Hollywood were pinups. Here is a sampling of some of those Halloween promotional photos.
Here's Our Gang with a jack o' lantern. 
 
Martin and Lewis with pumpkins.
 
Shirley Temple and a jack o' lantern
 
Judy Garland and a spooky book.
 
Alfred Hitchcock and a jack o' lantern.
 
This photo of Cary Grant and Priscilla Lane is actually a promo for Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), but then the movie is set at Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Paul Lynde Halloween Special

Starting in the late Forties, Christmas specials were common on television into the Eighties. This was not the case with Halloween specials, which were unknown in the earliest days of television.  As strange as it might seem, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was among the earliest Halloween specials when it debuted in 1966. This began to change in the late Seventies when a number of Halloween specials were produced, including Halloween is Grinch Night, Fat Albert's Halloween Special, Bugs Bunny’s Howl-oween Special, Witch's Night Out, and The Devil and Daniel Mouse. While Halloween specials were rare for much of television's first few decades, variety specials were very common. It should come as no surprise that among the earliest Halloween specials was a variety special. The Paul Lynde Halloween Special aired on ABC on October 26 1976. Even today it has to be seen to be believed.

In the Seventies, as now, Paul Lynde was probably best known as Uncle Arthur on Bewitched and the centre square on The Hollywood Squares. In the Seventies he was under contract to ABC. With the end of Bewitched, ABC decided to give Mr. Lynde his own sitcom, The Paul Lynde Show. The Paul Lynde Show did not do particularly well in the ratings and was cancelled at the end of the season.  With the sitcom Temperatures Rising doing poorly in the ratings, ABC then decided to retool the show and replaced series lead James Whitmore with Paul Lynde. Ultimately The New Temperatures Rising did even more poorly in the ratings than Temperatures Rising had. After thirteen episodes the show was revamped again, with Paul Lynde in the lead. Debuting as a summer replacement, it only lasted seven more episodes before it was cancelled.

Having failed to find a series for Paul Lynde, ABC then decided to feature the actor and comedian in a series of variety specials. The first special, The Paul Lynde Comedy Hour, aired on November 6 1976. The Paul Lynde Halloween Special was the second of the specials. The special's head writer, Bruce Vilanch, thought that Paul Lynde's style of comedy was too grating for him to be a lead, and so he decided to give the special a large ensemble cast. The end result was that The Paul Lynde Halloween Special had what can accurately be described as an all-star cast. Margaret Hamilton, then as now best remembered for The Wizard of Oz (1939) appeared as Paul Lynde's housekeeper Margaret and the Wicked Witch of the West. Billie Hayes reprised her role as Witchiepoo from H. R. Pufnstuf. The Paul Lynde Halloween Special also featured appearances by Billy Barty, Tim Conway, Roz Kelly (reprising her role as Pinky Tuscadero from Happy Days), Betty White, and Florence Henderson, with a cameo by Donny and Marie Osmond. Among the most notable guest stars on The Paul Lynde Halloween Special were the rock band KISS in their first appearance on primetime television.

Here it must be stressed just how significant KISS's appearance on The Paul Lynde Halloween Special was at the time. In the Sixties it was not unusual for major rock groups to appear on variety specials, with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Doors, and others appearing on variety shows from The Ed Sullivan Show to The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. By the mid-Seventies, however, it was rare for major rock groups to appear on American television beyond such specialized shows as Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. KISS's appearance on The Paul Lynde Halloween Special was then very unusual at the time.

Given how rare it was for major rock groups to appear on American primetime television in the mid-Seventies, it should come as no surprise that KISS's manager Bob Aucoin initially turned the producers of The Paul Lynde Halloween Special down. It was after the producers explained how KISS would figure in the special that he finally agreed. KISS performed "Detroit Rock City," "Beth," and  "King of the Night Time World." Their appearance on The Paul Lynde Halloween Special would appear to have helped KISS's career. Their previous album, Destroyer, had done well on the charts, but peaked at no. 11 on the Billboard album chart. Their next album, Rock and Roll Over, was released on November 11 1976, around two weeks after the special aired. It became their first album to be certified a gold record. Their album following Rock and Roll Over, Love Gun, would go platinum.

Although there are summaries of its plot online, the plot of The Paul Lynde Halloween Special is secondary to the special's many guests and its various skits and songs. One gets to see Betty White as "Miss Halloween," Paul Lynde as a trucker with Tim Conway as his rival, Florence Henderson as Lady Cecily Westinghouse (with Tim Conway as Paul Lynde's rival for her hand in the skit), and more. Like many variety specials of the Seventies, The Paul Lynde Halloween Special managed to cram as many Seventies fads into one hour of television as possible, including truckers, CB radios, Happy Days, KISS, and even disco.

The Paul Lynde Halloween Special would prove popular enough (or perhaps notorious enough) to have been released on home video, a rarity for television specials. After KISS's appearance on the show had been featured on the DVD KISSOLOGY The Ultimate Kiss Collection Vol.1 1974-1977 in 2006, The Paul Lynde Halloween Special was released on DVD in 2007.

The Paul Lynde Halloween Special would be followed by five more Paul Lynde specials, the last one being Paul Lynde Goes M-A-A-A-AD in 1979. While Paul Lynde did seven specials for ABC in the late Seventies, The Paul Lynde Halloween Special remains the best remembered. And it seems likely that it would be the best remembered even if it had not featured the first primetime appearance of KISS. Even by the standards of the Seventies, The Paul Lynde Halloween Special was downright bizarre. In fact, of the many television specials that aired in the Seventies, only The Star Wars Holiday Special may be stranger. Of course, the difference between the two is that The Paul Lynde Halloween Special is much more entertaining.

Monday, October 26, 2020

The War on Halloween

For the past two decades there have been those in American society claiming that there is a war on Christmas. They point to the use of such time-honoured phrases as "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings"(both of which date back to the 19th Century) in the retail industry, among other things, as "proof" of this alleged war. While I do not believe there is a war on Christmas, I sometimes feel as if there is a war on Halloween. Oh, I don't believe that there is some conspiracy seeking to end Halloween. What I do believe is that Halloween, like Thanksgiving before it, might be falling victim to Christmas creep, the phenomenon whereby retailers rollout Christmas merchandise earlier and earlier in the year.

Indeed, it seems as if the past several years the majority of stores have been rolling out their Christmas wares anywhere from mid to late October. Now this would not be so bad, but some stores actually remove Halloween merchandise from the shelves to make room for the Yuletide goods. A case in point is our local Dollar General, which would remove some of the Halloween merchandise from the shelves in late October to make room for Christmas merchandise. This year come late September they actually devoted only one aisle to Halloween goods, instead of the usual two aisles. It should come as no surprise that the other aisle was devoted to--you guessed it--Christmas merchandise.

Now this seems wrong headed to me, as I think Halloween merchandise is still very much in demand in late October. Many children don't settle on their costume until late in the month, so that it is a good idea for retailers to keep costumes on the shelves until Halloween itself. Many people decorate for Halloween (I know I do) and it is sometimes the case that they have to replace Halloween decorations late in the month. This is particularly true here, where Missouri weather can wreak havoc on outdoor decorations. The past few days the Halloween aisle at our local Dollar General has been busy, as it has been the entire month. While people are looking to buy Halloween merchandise for the whole month of October, including those last few days, it seems to me that they aren't buying Christmas merchandise. At least at our Dollar General, the Christmas aisle has been dead all month. No one goes down the aisle and the Christmas merchandise just sits there on the shelves.

Another sign of Christmas creep having moved into October are commercials with Christmas themes airing before Halloween has even arrived. While I have yet to see any Christmas commercials this year, in past years I have noticed them airing in the last few days of October and sometimes even a full two weeks before Halloween. In 2012 there was even an animated Target commercial with a Christmas theme featuring a giant sized version of their dog mascot Bullseye. The commercial first aired on October 11. Target received such backlash from consumers that they pledged to never air a Christmas themed commercial that early again. From this I take it that I am not the only one who does not want to see anything Christmas oriented when it is still Halloween season.

Of course, this brings to me one of the worst offenders when it comes to Christmas creep: the Hallmark Channel and its related channels. The past few years the Hallmark Channel and its related channels have started showing their Christmas movies an entire week before it is Halloween. Last night I wanted to watch Murder, She Wrote on Hallmark Mysteries and Movies as I usually do on Sunday night, only to find a Hallmark made-for-TV Christmas movie on instead. Now I know that there are those who enjoy Hallmark's Christmas movies and who will watch them regardless of what time of year it is. I even know some who like it that the Hallmark Channel and its related channels start showing Christmas movies in October. That having been said, I know many more (like myself) who wish the Hallmark Channel would at least hold off until November 1. I have one friend who absolutely despises Hallmark's Christmas movies and griped every year when she could no longer watch The Golden Girls because "those movies" were on instead. Now I am not going to say that the Hallmark Channel should start showing Halloween movies or horror movies in October. Enough channels do that. That having been said, they could at least hold off on the Christmas movies until November 1 (which is still a bit early in my mind) and continue to air their typical programming. It would certainly please those of us who prefer their usual programming to their made-for-TV Christmas movies in October.

Here I have to say that I hope no one reading this has the impression that I hate Christmas. Christmas is actually my favourite holiday, even more so than Halloween (which I dearly love). Come December 1 I will put up our Christmas tree and decorate outside our house. I will also start playing Christmas songs non-stop. That having been said, I am also someone who fully believes in Ecclesiastes  Chapter 3, Verse 1, "To every thing there is a season,/A time for every purpose under the heaven." In October it is time for Halloween. In November it is time for Thanksgiving. In December it is time for Christmas.

While Thanksgiving has been showing signs of coming back, for many years in the late 20th Century and early 21st Century it seemed as if it was being treated as an extension of Christmas and not its own holiday. I don't think there is any danger of that happening to Halloween. That having been said, I think retailers are putting a crimp in the holiday for many by replacing Halloween merchandise with Christmas merchandise when there is still a demand for Halloween merchandise. While commercials with Christmas themes and the Hallmark Channel showing made-for-TV Christmas movies in October might seem harmless enough, they are yet more symptoms of Christmas creep in October. Fortunately, Target's experience with their 2012 Christmas commercial in October points the way to a solution to Christmas creep in October. Consumers should complain to retailers when they put Christmas merchandise out in October and complain even louder when they replace Halloween merchandise with Christmas merchandise. The Christmas merchandise doesn't seem to be selling anyway, so if customers complain maybe retailers will decide it is best to wait on the Christmas goods until November 1. At any rate, it seems to me that it is time for retailers to celebrate Halloween in October and Christmas in December.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) and Halloween

There are those people who think of the classic Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) as a Christmas movie. This is understandable given the movie features a sequence set at Christmas, complete with a now classic Christmas song ("Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas") sung by Judy Garland herself. That having been said, I tend to associate Meet Me in St. Louis more with Halloween. The movie features an extended sequence at Halloween, complete with Halloween customs practised in 1903. What is more, while I have not timed them, I think the Halloween sequence in Meet Me in St. Louis might be longer than the Christmas sequence is. While I would not go so far as to necessarily call Meet Me in St. Louis a "Halloween movie" any more than I would call it a "Christmas movie," it certainly has a strong link to Halloween.

Meet Me in St. Louis was based on a series of semi-autobiographical vignettes written by Sally Benson that ran under the title 5135 Kensington in The New Yorker from June 14 1941 to May 23 1942. The vignette "October 1903" was published in in the November 1 1941 issue of The New Yorker, and was included when the vignettes were collected into the book Meet Me in St. Louis in 1942. As might be expected from the title, "Octobr 1903," it dealt a good deal with Halloween.

It was on March 1 1942 that MGM bought the rights to Sally Benson's vignettes, 5135 Kensington. The movie would go through an extended period in development. Initially Arthur Freed had wanted George Cukor to direct, but he had enlisted in the United States Army Signal Corps. Mr. Freed then turned to Vincente Minnelli. Of the sequences it was the Halloween sequence that appealed to Mr. Minnelli the most. Quite naturally, he put a good deal of work in that entire sequence. Strangely enough, Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM, wanted to cut the Halloween sequence, maintaining that it didn't have anything to do with the plot, which hardly made Vincente Minnelli happy. Fortunately, Arthur Freed disagreed with Mr. Mayer. After watching Meet Me in St. Louis without the Halloween sequence, he said that it was not the same movie and decided it should be restored. Here it would seem that history has proven Vincente Minnelli and Arthur Freed right. The Halloween sequence remains one of the most beloved sequences in the film. Indeed, there is an important plot point that comes at the end of the sequence, without which the movie would not make sense. The Halloween sequence would also seem to be important in the development of the relationship between Esther (Judy Garland) and the boy next door, John (Tom Drake). While Louis B. Mayer was usually a very good judge of what made a good motion picture, in the case of Meet Me in St. Louis it would appear he was wrong.

Regardless, Meet Me in St. Louis captures Halloween, particularly as it was celebrated in 1903 very well. Some of the customs celebrated by the Smith family and their neighbours would seem familiar us today. Tootie and Agnes dress up in costumes before going out to celebrate Halloween, Tootie as a "horrible ghost" and Agnes as a "terrible, drunken ghost." The neighbourhood children build a bonfire in the middle of Kensington Avenue. While building bonfires for Halloween is less common now, it is a custom that has been practised on the holiday for centuries. Building a bonfire was still a common practice on Halloween at the start of the 20th Century.

Although it is less common now, pulling pranks while dressed in costumes on Halloween is also an old custom. It is attested as early as the 18th Century in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands. One particular prank pulled in Meet Me in St. Louis propels much of the plot of the Halloween vignette. If you have ever seen the movie, I think you'd have to agree that the prank is truly epic, if admittedly dangerous.

One Halloween custom that appears in Meet Me in St. Louis that must seem bizarre to many today is throwing flour on individuals, those individuals then being said to have been "killed." The custom appears in the vignette "October 1903" in 5153 Kensington more or less as it is portrayed in the movie. As strange as the custom must sound today, it was not an invention of author Sally Benson. The custom of dumping bags of flour on passers-by is described in Ruth Edna Kelley's 1919 book The Book of Hallowe'en.

A Halloween custom many will notice is missing in Meet Me in St. Louis is trick-or-treating. The first reference to trick-or-treating doesn't appear until the late Twenties and in Canada at that. It would not become common in the United States until the late Thirties and early Forties. In fact, what may be the first appearance of trick-or-treating in a movie may well be in another film closely connected to the holiday, Arsenic and Old Lace (released in 1944, but shot in 1942). Regardless, in St. Louis in 1903, it is safe to say that children would not have been trick-or-treating on Halloween.

Meet Me in St. Louis does a wonderful job of recreating Halloween in 1903. There are few movies that do as well a job of capturing the holiday. While some of the customs in Meet Me in St. Louis might seem unusual to us today, the Halloween sequence will still feel familiar to Americans of any age who have celebrated the holiday.