"For I live at Fifty-one Thirty Five Kensington Avenue
And he lives at Fifty-one Thirty Three..."

Sally Benson (1899-1966) originally wrote the stories that comprise Meet Me In St. Louis as short vignettes for The New Yorker magazine entitled "5135 Kensington." These were published in the magazine from June 14, 1941 through May 23, 1942. Originally 8 vignettes, the stories were so popular that Ms. Benson would add 4 more stories and compile them in book form, each chapter representing a month of the year from 1903 - 1904. The book was published by Random House as "Meet Me In St. Louis" in 1942, titled after the film which was in the very early stages of script writing at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. During this time, Sally was at MGM working on an early draft of the screenplay. Although her work on the screenplay would not be used, Sally continued to write screenplays for the movies.

Sally based "5135 Kensington" after her life on that street in St. Louis, Missouri where she and her family lived ("the Smith family", Benson was her married name). Far from the gingerbread Victorian beauty depicted in the film, the home was a typical turn-of-the century city home (closer to the Victorian and Edwardian homes one sees today in San Francisco). Unfortunately the house was demolished in December 1994, after falling into decay. Five hundred bricks were saved from the site for historical purposes and are probably located at the St. Louis Missouri History Museum.

Sally was a popular author and screenwriter, contributing to the screenplays for Hitchcock's Shadow Of A Doubt (1943), Anna And The King Of Siam (1946 - for which she was nominated for an Academy Award), Bus Stop (1953), and National Velvet (1944) among others. Her other series of short stories entitled "Junior Miss" were extremely popular as well.

The film, of course, took a few liberties with the stories. First and foremost the film keeps the family in New York to live happily ever after. And "boy next door" John Truett was actually closer in age to Agnes (the second youngest sister), and the Agnes character was based on Sally herself. In the movie, one gets the idea that the family lives far from town, in some suburb of large Victorian homes. In reality, as noted above, Sally's home was basically a part of the city (this was long before St. Louis sprawled and the downtown area went downhill) on a typical street with 2 - 3 story homes of the period.

If "The Kensington Stories" had not been made into such a popular film as Meet Me In St. Louis, Sally would probably be best remembered today for her "Junior Miss" stories and her work on film screenplays.

 Main photo
Vintage postcard of the 1903 World's Fair

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