Books And Films About Saint Louis Missouri

Copyright 2008-2013, 2015-2020 by Richard J. Ballard -- All Rights Reserved.

An incomplete list of books and films about Saint Louis Missouri, enhanced by Richard's photographs and videos. Richard's MySpace webpage links additional photographs and videos depicting Saint Louis city, the Saint Louis Zoo, Tower Grove Park and the Missouri Botanical Garden.


Book Listing

The WPA Guide to 1930s Missouri

The primarily textual history of Missouri written by impoverished clients of the (Federal) Work Projects Administration during the 1930s economic depression.

Catfish and Crystal

by Ernest Kirschten

A c1989 textual history of Saint Louis Missouri.

Thomas Hart Benton original illustrations c1944 by The Mark Twain Company

Life on the Mississippi

by Mark Twain, illustrations by Thomas Hart Benton

Life on the Mississippi is an adult's book, a mixture of midwestern charm and southern comfort. From Chapter 22:

"The first time I ever saw St. Louis I could have bought it for six million dollars, and it was the mistake of my life that I did not do it. It was bitter now to look abroad over this domed and steepled metropolis, this solid expanse of bricks and mortar stretching away on every hand into dim, measure-defying distances, and remember that I had allowed that opportunity to go by. Why I should have allowed it to go by seems, of course, foolish and inexplicable to-day, at a first glance; yet there were reasons at the time to justify this course. I was young and heedless, and naturally more given to pleasure-seeking than to providing for the future; it was impossible to foresee that out of that smutty village would grow the imperial city of to-day; and besides, I had only thirty-five dollars, anyway. Still, if I had known then what I know now, I would have borrowed."

And from Chapter 53:

"There ain't any accounting for it, except that if you send a damned fool to St. Louis, and you don't tell them he's a damned fool, they'll never find it out. There's one thing sure - if I had a damned fool I should know what to do with him: ship him to St. Louis - it's the noblest market in the world for that kind of property. Well, when you come to look at it all around, and chew at it and think it over, don't it just bang anything you ever heard of?"

Many Life on the Mississippi published versions are available, but the listed c1944 version is particularly nice because renowned Missouri artist Thomas Hart Benton provided the illustrations. The listed c1944 version also contains an Appendix titled The Suppressed Passages, an appendix with historical comments that provides approximately fifteen thousand words of Samuel Clemens' original manuscript that did not appear in previous published versions, passages usually omitted for late 19th Century and early 20th Century politically correct reasons.

Picture Postcards of Old St. Louis

edited by Louise French Foster

These 24 postcards are photographs of old Saint Louis.

Henry Shaw: His Life and Legacies
A Gift To Glory In: The First Hundred Years of the Missouri Botanical Garden (1859-1959)

by William Barnaby Faherty, S.J.

Henry Shaw: His Life and Legacies is the c1987 primarily textual biography of a Saint Louis major benefactor, a hardware merchant who developed and then gave the city both a botanical garden (Shaw's Garden) and also 276 acre arboreal Tower Grove Park. A Gift To Glory In: The First Hundred Years of the Missouri Botanical Garden (1859-1959) is the c1989 primarily textual history of the Missouri Botanical Garden (Shaw's Garden) and of Tower Grove Park.

A World Of Plants: The Missouri Botanical Garden

by Charlene Bry, Marshall R. Crosby and Peter Loewer with photographs by Kiku Obata

A World Of Plants: The Missouri Botanical Garden is a c1989 profusely illustrated (including wonderful photographs) coffee table book that discusses the Missouri Botanical Garden's educational, horticultural and scientific programs.

Photographs c2016 by Richard J. Ballard -- All Rights Reserved

Play the Missouri Botanical Garden 1:57 scenic video
Video c2011 by Richard J. Ballard -- All Rights Reserved
(Click browser BACK button after viewing video.)

Walking In Tower Grove Park

by Robert E. Knittel

A c1978 descriptive history of Saint Louis's arboreal Tower Grove Park.

Play the Aalim Belly Dance troupe's free performance at the Old Playground Shelter 1:42 video
Video c2011 by Richard J. Ballard -- All Rights Reserved
(Click browser BACK button after viewing video.)

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

by Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley

This c1964 work also discusses comedian (nightclubs and the television series Sanford and Son) Redd Foxx's life growing up in Saint Louis and the Midwest. Redd Foxx grew up in west Saint Louis (City) on Cabanne Avenue east of Skinker Boulevard.


by Newton Thornburg

A c1980 novel about grubbing for sustenance after eastern Missouri society goes renegade. Thornburg's c1973 novel To Die In California depicts an Alton Illinois farmer investigating why his vacationing son died in California. And Thornburg's c1978 novel Black Angus mirrors life in The Great Recession's Wake: a former Saint Louis account executive struggles to save his new life and to save his Ozark plateau cattle ranch from bankruptcy.

Sidestreets St. Louis

by M. M. Constantin

c1981 collection of neighborhood lifestyle essays by a former St. Louis magazine writer.

Blue Highways

by William Least Heat Moon

The c1982 memoir of a Columbia Missouri man who circumnavigates the continental United States by van, and learns about people and himself.

Mississippi Solo -- A River Quest

by Eddy L. Harris

The c1988 memoir of a Kirkwood Missouri man who canoes from the Mississippi River's headwaters to New Orleans and learns about himself.

White Palace

by Glenn Savan

A c1987 novel [and IMO a particularly nice R-rated 1990 film starring Susan Sarandon and James Spader, with scenes shot at the White Castle(TM) 18th and Olive Street restaurant and at Cousin Hugo's Maplewood Missouri tavern] about a Saint Louis County preppy who reluctantly falls in love with a Saint Louis (City) working class waitress.

Viets' Guide to Sex, Travel and Anything Else That Will Sell This Book

by Elaine Viets

c1989 collection of humorous essays about Saint Louis and Midwestern life by a former St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist.

Joe Pollack's Guide to St. Louis Restaurants

by Joe Pollack

c1992 descriptive listing of the Saint Louis region's quality restaurants by a former St. Louis Post-Dispatch restaurant critic.

The Mole People: Life In The Tunnels Beneath New York City [1993]
Orphans of the Living: Stories of America's Children in Foster Care [1997]

by Jennifer Toth

I include investigative journalist Jennifer Toth's books on this webpage because Ms. Toth attended Washington University in Saint Louis before beginning her graduate studies at New York City's Columbia University. Ms. Toth's books are extremely well-researched and well-written, and IMO are relevant to Saint Louis: downtown Saint Louis has its own MetroLink tunnels and multiblock steam tunnel system, and the Saint Louis metropolitan area IMO has its own foster care social service difficulties.

The St. Louis Veiled Prophet Celebration: Power on Parade, 1877-1995

by Thomas M. Spencer

c2000 discussion of the Saint Louis Veiled Prophet organization's parades, formal balls, civic goals and the VP Fair. Little discussion of the organization's mystical tradition or its meetings.

Beginning A Great Work: Washington University in St. Louis, 1853-2003

by Candace O'Connor

Beginning A Great Work: Washington University in St. Louis, 1853-2003 is a c2003 profusely illustrated (including many historic photographs) 150th anniversary commemorative volume that discusses my alma mater's history. This nice coffee table book features many snippets (short self-contained articles) for fun, easy browsing.

Jazz on the River

by William Howland Kenney

Author William Howland Kenney's c2005 scholarly book addresses a big subject: the evolution of jazz along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Saint Louis plays a pivotal role because Saint Louis-based Streckfus Steamers, Inc. spread riverboat jazz throughout the river valley and also provided reliable employment possibilities for aspiring musicians. As the railroads siphoned cargo traffic from packet boats, the Streckfus family purchased unprofitable packet boats and converted them to excursion boats, complete with chair-filled upper decks from which to watch the river pass, and with live bands and with wooden large dance floors where passengers could dance to hot dance music. Streckfus' riverboat jazz was New Orleans jazz detempoed to a cadence suitable for genteel dancing, with an occasional waltz added for good measure. The excursion boats provided passengers with a four-hour-long visit to Mark Twain's romantic river kingdom.

For decades Fate Marable led the most famous of the Streckfus hot dance bands, developing musical skills and professionalism within his musical hires. His growing reputation helped Marable locate the best river city musicians, and he taught them the expectations of riverboat jazz performance, including the ability to sight-read sheet music. The Streckfus riverboats served as a school and stepping stone for many jazz musicians, but the curriculum sometimes was controversial. Louis Armstrong played three years on Streckfus steamboats before moving on to Chicago, but Louis Armstrong resisted learning to sight-read sheet music because he believed that sight-reading would hobble his improvisations. Author Kenney also discusses the career of cornetist Bix Beiderbecke of Davenport Iowa, the career of pianist Jess Stacy of Cape Girardeau Missouri, and depicts the music cultures in Memphis Tennessee and in Cincinnati Ohio. Author Kenney attributes the maturation of jazz piano to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.

The riverboat jazz business dwindled in the mid-Twentieth Century. Plagued by safety concerns, wooden-hulled excursion boats were replaced by fewer, costlier steel-hulled excursion boats. And general availability of private automobiles, air conditioning and television dimmed the appeal of excursion boats and riverboat jazz.

Gaslight Square: an oral history

by Thomas Crone

Reminiscences about the 1960s rise and fall of Saint Louis's Bohemian entertainment district. Worthwhile References section.

City of Gabriels: The History of Jazz in St. Louis, 1895-1973

by Dennis Owlsley

Packed with historic photographs, author Dennis Owlsley's c2006 history contains encyclopedic detail; sometimes its performance discussions read like baseball past World Series reviews. Owlsley's major contribution IMO is explaining Saint Louis jazz's evolution: the downtown and Metro East clubs, the Streckfus Steamer Company riverboats on the Saint Louis riverfront, Gaslight Square, the midtown clubs, the DeBaliviere Strip, and the Black Artists Group's Artists in Residence program. Except for Grand Center's Sheldon Concert Hall and Jazz At The Bistro, comparable jazz Saint Louis venues no longer exist. Saint Louis has a jazz great history, and to be a jazz musician from Saint Louis is a great reputation, but Owlsley documents that musicians in Saint Louis continually struggle to find work.

Fantasies Made Fresh

by Scott Eden

Dennis Owlsley's City Of Gabriels discusses Metro East music club history but says little about Metro East today. River cities are predictable: polite society lives on one side of the river; the other side of the river is industrial, lacks a strong tax base, and often welcomes businesses shunned elsewhere. These shunned businesses generate dependable revenue that can be reinvested on either side of the river. Gambling came to Saint Louis Missouri with the Casino Queen when East Saint Louis Illinois was revenue-starved; Metro East smaller cities (Sauget, Brooklyn, Washington Park and Centreville Illinois) fund themselves by taxing strip clubs. Scott Eden's essay is the best overview discussing the Metro East sporting life that I have found.

St. Louis Flavors: The Loop

by Jim Hunstein

A c2002 history of the University City Loop business district and its attractions, plus a 21st Century picture of its merchants and their favorite recipes. The recently constructed Loop Trolley running between the Loop's west end and the Saint Louis History Museum in Forest Park is an unpublished postscript to this volume.

Joy of Cooking

by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker

The all purpose cookbook. Ms. Rombauer and her daughter were long-time Saint Louis residents.

A Taste of the Hill: Our Favorite Recipes

presented by the Friends of St. Ambrose Parish

A collection of Saint Louis's best Italian recipes. [Private press, no ISBN]

Saint Louis Days -- Saint Louis Nights

presented by the Junior League of St. Louis

A collection of Saint Louis's best (non-Italian) recipes.

Back to Sections list

Film Listing

Meet Me In St. Louis

starring Judy Garland

This happy 1944 musical film depicts prosperous Saint Louis family life during the 1904 Saint Louis World's Fair -- great period costumes.

The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery

starring Steve McQueen

This is Steve McQueen's second film appearance (after The Blob; his performance is not comparable to James Dean). The best part of this crudely acted 1959 film is its setting in the south Kingshighway neighborhood.

The Raven

starring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson and Hazel Court

Vincent Price, a Granite City (named after a former line of Graniteware dishes) Illinois native, starred in innumerable magick / horror films. In director Roger Corman's 1963 film The Raven (loosely based upon Edgar Allen Poe's poem) Vincent Price plays a troubled magick dilettante.

Escape From New York

starring Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Isaac Hayes and Adrienne Barbeau

Director John Carpenter filmed scenes for this 1981 film in Saint Louis's Fox Theatre, on the Chain of Rocks Bridge and inside Union Station's Great Hall before its renovation. The production company thought that Saint Louis looked like Manhattan Island after being overrun by penitentiary inmates -- quite a difference.

National Lampoon's Vacation

starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo

This 1983 comedy film includes aerial views of the Gateway Arch and the Saint Louis riverfront, plus an unplanned excursion into a north Saint Louis urban neighborhood.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

starring Steve Martin and John Candy

Writer/director John Hughes' 1987 comedy film has two themes: the discomfort of male bonding; and everything goes wrong during travel. John Candy's boorish character victimizes Steve Martin's sensitive character in this humorous film that includes a (pre-9/11 security) winter stranding at Saint Louis Lambert International Airport.

The Glass Menagerie

starring Joanne Woodward and John Malkovich

This 1987 film is based upon former Saint Louisian Tennessee Williams' semi-autobiographical play about a Saint Louis working class family's hopes and dreams. Playwright Tennessee Williams attended Washington University in Saint Louis.

Larger Than Life

starring Bill Murray

Director Howard Franklin and Bill Murray are partially successful mixing sensitivity with comedy in this 1996 family film. (Bill Murray succeeded in director Richard Donner's 1988 non-Saint Louis film Scrooged.) But watching Bill Murray being chased by an elephant through an old south Saint Louis riverside neighborhood's plain, red brick residences is funny.

King Of The Hill

starring Jesse Bradford and Jeroen Krabbe

I am not familiar with Saint Louisian A. E. Hotchner's memoirs, but the 103 minute VHS film version contains no clue to the film title King Of The Hill. [The hill depicted in the runaway car sequence IMO exists nowhere in Saint Louis (City).] Nevertheless, screenwriter / director Steven Soderbergh's 1993 well-made film highlights midtown Saint Louis good architecture as it depicts two brothers growing up in 1933 Depression-era Saint Louis. The film's ambience is everything either is disappointing or is scary. This film IMO is relevant to the coronavirus era: the brothers must maintain proper social distancing from their mother because she is a a patient in a tuberculosis sanitarium, while the only work their father can find is as an itinerant salesman in Iowa.

The Big Brass Ring

starring William Hurt, Nigel Hawthorne, Miranda Richardson and Irene Jacob

Director George Hickenlooper's 1999 R-rated film, based upon an Orson Welles screenplay, is an angst-ridden political drama exploring a Missouri gubernatorial candidate's dark past. The Saint Louis riverfront and other Saint Louis area landmarks are interwoven into the film's intrigue.

Henry Shaw: The Good Neighbor

Historically illustrated with paintings by Missouri artist Thomas Hart Benton, this 2000 video is an introduction to Henry Shaw, an English businessman who was drawn to frontier Saint Louis, who sold hardware (ironworks) to westbound settlers, who made a fortune early in life, and who decided he had sufficient wealth to spend the rest of his life indulging his passion for botany and formal gardens. The video concentrates on Henry Shaw's legacy: the scientific but beautiful Missouri Botanical Garden; the adjacent Tower Grove Park; and the adjacent residentially-affordable Shaw Neighborhood. Saint Louisians consider these institutions just another part of the Saint Louis landscape, but Saint Louisians forget that elsewhere (e.g., around NYC's Central Park) people pay premium prices to live within a green environment. The video highlights Henry Shaw's 21st Century legacy: a world-class botanical research institution situated within a beautifully green setting. Readers seeking additional detail about Henry Shaw's life should consult Henry Shaw: His Life and Legacies.

Modern Marvels: St. Louis Arch

This 2001 History Channel program on DVD discusses the challenges that were overcome in the Saint Louis Arch's conceptualization, design and construction. Laced with photography and movie cuts, the program features people who participated in building the Arch.

The Saint Louis Arch is awesome upon initial viewing, but thereafter Saint Louisians consider the Arch just another part of their urban environment. This DVD explains the incredible effort that produced a one-of-a-kind monument: acquiring the site took decades; architect Eero Saarinen (who died before the Arch was constructed) produced a visionary design within a postwar monumental competition; Saint Louis construction engineers developed new technology allowing Saarinen's vision to be built; and Saint Louis construction workers built the Arch under pre-OSHA conditions without incurring fatalities. One interviewee muses that building the Arch under today's OSHA safety regulations might be impossible; that's another reason to appreciate this monumental gem sitting on Saint Louis's riverfront.

Only Intermission: A Fabulous Fox Theater 4K video

When the Fabulous Fox Theater halted productions due to 2020 coronavirus concerns, they provided this YouTube 4K video to remind Saint Louisians about their in-town theater gem and We'll be back!

Back to Sections list

Visit Richard's Home webpage.

Comments? Send Richard a message at