Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
|Seven Brides for Seven Brothers|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Stanley Donen|
|Produced by||Jack Cummings|
|Story by||Stephen Vincent Benét (short story)|
|Editing by||Ralph E. Winters|
|Running time||102 minutes|
|Box office||$5.6 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)|
The screenplay, by Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, and Dorothy Kingsley, is based on the short story "The Sobbin' Women", by Stephen Vincent Benét, which was based in turn on the Ancient Roman legend of The Rape of the Sabine Women.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, which is based in Oregon in 1850, is particularly known for the unusual choreography by Michael Kidd, which makes dance numbers out of such mundane frontier pursuits as chopping wood and raising a barn.
A backwoodsman named Adam Pontipee comes to town to search for a bride. He and Milly agree to marry despite knowing each other for only a few hours. On returning to his cabin in the mountains, Milly is surprised to learn that Adam is one of seven brothers living under the same roof. The brothers have been named alphabetically from the Old Testament and in chronological order are: Adam, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank (short for Frankincense, the Old Testament having no names beginning with F), and Gideon. All of the brothers have red hair and are well over six feet tall, except Gideon, who is younger and shorter than his brothers.
Milly teaches Adam's rowdy, ill-behaved younger brothers manners and social mores. She also shows them how to dance. At first, the brothers have a hard time changing from their "mountain man" ways, but eventually each comes to see that the only way he will get a woman of his own is to do things Milly's way. They are able to test their new manners at a barn-raising, where they meet six women they like — Dorcas, Ruth, Martha, Liza, Sarah and Alice — and the women take a fancy to the brothers as well. The women, however, already have suitors from the town, who jealously taunt the brothers into fighting during the barn-raising. At first the brothers try to resist and remember Milly's teaching, but Adam refuses to let himself be pushed around by the rival suitors, whom he sees as cowards taking advantage of his younger brothers. The rival suitors finally go too far when they attack Adam, which provokes Gideon into fighting back. A fierce brawl ensues in which the brothers dominate their physically weaker rivals. Although the brothers do not start the fight, they are banished from the town after destroying the barn in the process of fighting.
Winter arrives, with the six younger brothers pining for the women. Adam reads his brothers the story of "Sobbin' Women" (taken from Plutarch's story of the Sabine Women) and tells them that they should stop moping around and take whatever action is necessary to get the women back. Aided by Adam, the brothers kidnap the women, then cause an avalanche so that they cannot be followed by the townspeople. They have, however, forgotten to kidnap a preacher. Milly is furious at Adam, as are the women at having been kidnapped. Milly consigns the brothers to the barn "with the rest of the livestock" while the women live in the house. Adam, surprised and offended by Milly's reaction, leaves for the trapping cabin further up the mountain to live out the winter by himself. Soon after, Milly realizes that she is pregnant with Adam's child.
Months pass, and the women vent their frustration and resentment by playing pranks on the brothers, such as hitting them with rock-filled snowballs. The men fall in line. By spring, the women have forgiven and fallen in love with the brothers, who are now allowed to court them. Milly gives birth to a daughter, Hannah. Gideon rides to the cabin to inform Adam of his daughter's arrival and asks him to come home. Adam refuses, saying that he had said he would return home only when the snow had melted enough and the pass was open once more to traffic. Having time to think about his baby daughter, Adam returns home in the spring just as the pass is opening and reconciles with Milly. As a newly responsible father, he has become aware of how worried the townspeople would be about what has happened to the women. Adam realizes he was wrong to tell his brothers to kidnap the women. He tells his brothers they need to take the women back to their homes in the town, but his brothers are unwilling.
The women also do not want to return to their homes; they all want to stay at the farm with their new suitors and thus hide so they will not be taken back home. When Milly discovers that the women are not in the house, Adam tells his brothers to go after them and bring them back. The townspeople arrive, with the intention of taking vengeance against the brothers for the kidnappings. Upon finding the brothers trying to force the women to return, the fathers believe their daughters are being assaulted, and charge to their rescue. Alice's father, a preacher, hears baby Hannah cry in the distance, and worries that the baby might belong to one of the women. The fighting is finally sorted out and the fathers, and other townsmen, round up the brothers and announce that they intend to hang them.
Alice's father asks the women whose baby he heard. They all decide, simultaneously, to claim the baby as their own. This misinformation gives the women and the brothers their wish: the townspeople insist that all six couples marry immediately in a shotgun wedding.
In his introduction to a showing on Turner Classic Movies on January 17, 2009, host Robert Osborne, as well as Jane Powell in her autobiography, The Girl Next Door, both say MGM was much less interested in Seven Brides than it was in Brigadoon which was also filming at the time, even cutting its budget and transferring the money to the Lerner and Loewe vehicle.
On the 2004 DVD commentary, Stanley Donen states that the film was originally shot in two versions, one in CinemaScope and another in normal ratio, because MGM was concerned that not all theaters had the capability to screen it. Despite the fact that it cost more than the widescreen version to make, he says, the other version was never used. However both versions are available on the 2004 DVD release.
- Main Title (Bless Your Beautiful Hide / Wonderful, Wonderful Day) - MGM Studio Orchestra
- Bless Your Beautiful Hide - Howard Keel
- Bless Your Beautiful Hide (Reprise) - Howard Keel
- Wonderful, Wonderful Day - Jane Powell
- When You're in Love - Jane Powell / Howard Keel
- Goin' Courtin' - Jane Powell & Brothers (Jeff Richards, Matt Mattox, Tommy Rall & Russ Tamblyn)
- Social Dance - MGM Studio Orchestra
- Barn-Raising Dance - MGM Studio Orchestra
- Lonesome Polecat - Brothers (Matt Mattox, Bill Lee, Jeff Richards, Tommy Rall & Russ Tamblyn)
- Sobbin' Women - Howard Keel & Brothers (Tommy Rall, Jeff Richards, Matt Mattox & Russ Tamblyn)
- Sobbin' Women (Reprise) - Howard Keel
- June Bride -Virginia Gibson- Brides (Ruta Lee, Julie Newmar, Norma Doggett & Nancy Kilgas)
- Spring, Spring, Spring - Brothers & Brides (Julie Newmar, Jeff Richards, Ruta Lee & Tommy Rall)
- Goin' Courtin' (Reprise) - Jane Powell, Brothers & Brides
- End Credits - MGM Studio Orchestra
Brothers and their Brides:
- Howard Keel as Adam and Jane Powell as Milly
- Jeff Richards as Benjamin and Julie Newmar (Newmeyer) as Dorcas
- Matt Mattox as Caleb and Ruta Kilmonis as Ruth
- Marc Platt as Daniel and Norma Doggett as Martha
- Jacques d'Amboise as Ephraim and Virginia Gibson as Liza
- Tommy Rall as Frank and Betty Carr as Sarah
- Russ Tamblyn as Gideon and Nancy Kilgas as Alice
To perform the electrifying dance numbers and grueling action sequences, choreographer Michael Kidd wanted dancers to portray all six of Adam Pontipee's rough and tumble brothers.
MGM Studios, however, wanted actors already under contract to MGM — Jeff Richards (a former baseball player), and Russ Tamblyn (a gymnast) — to be cast as two of the brothers.
The other four brothers were portrayed by professional dancers — Matt Mattox, Marc Platt, Tommy Rall, and Jacques d'Amboise. All four balanced on a beam together during their famous barn-raising dance.
The wood-chopping scene in Lonesome Polecat was filmed in a single take.
- Adam (light green shirt): Howard Keel, a professional singer, appeared as the eldest of the seven brothers. He also appeared as Petruchio in the film version of Kiss Me Kate, as well as appearing, in leading roles, in other musical films including Rose Marie and Show Boat.
- Benjamin (orange shirt): Jeff Richards was a former professional baseball player who topped out at the AAA level of the minor leagues. Although obviously athletic, he is noticeably in the background, seated, or standing during the dance numbers so as to not expose his lesser dancing skills. Unfortunately this often relegated his partner, the classically-trained ballet dancer Julie Newmar, to the background as well.
- Caleb (yellow shirt): Matt Mattox, a professional dancer, appeared on stage on Broadway and also danced in many Hollywood musical films.
- Daniel (mauve shirt): Marc Platt, a professional dancer, danced the role of Chalmers / Dream Curly in the original 1943 Broadway production of Oklahoma! and also had a dancing / speaking role in the 1955 film version of Oklahoma! as the friend of Curly who bought Curly's saddle for $10 at the auction.
- Ephraim (dark green shirt): Jacques d'Amboise, a principal dancer with New York City Ballet, was given special leave for the filming of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" (although he was recalled before filming was completed). He also danced in other musical films, including the role of the Starlight Carnival "barker" in the film Carousel (in which he partnered Susan Luckey in Louise's ballet). The Academy Award winning, and Tony Award winning documentary film, He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin' is about Jacques d'Amboise and his teaching children how to dance.
- Frank (red shirt): Tommy Rall, a professional dancer and singer, appeared on stage on Broadway, as well as in many musical films. These included the role of Bill Calhoun (Lucentio) in the film version of Kiss Me Kate — and as one of the Gallini brothers in the film Merry Andrew (including him being one of the three featured acrobatic dancers in the circus engagement scene – Tommy Rall is the dancer in the center wearing the red shirt). He was also in the film Funny Girl, in the role of the Prince who partnered Barbra Streisand in a parody of the ballet Swan Lake.
- Gideon (blue shirt): Russ Tamblyn beat Morton Downey Jr. for the role of youngest brother Gideon. Tamblyn showcased his gymnastics training throughout the action sequences.
Professional dancers played all seven of the brides.
The four girls, who Adam sees in the Bixby store when he first goes into town, are Dorcas, Ruth, Liza and Sarah.
- Milly: Jane Powell, channeled her experiences growing up in Oregon to create Milly. She and Howard Keel would later reprise their roles in a Seven Brides for Seven Brothers stage revival. She also appeared in dancing and singing roles in many other musical films, including Royal Wedding, Rich, Young and Pretty and A Date with Judy.
- Dorcas: Julie Newmar (Newmeyer), a classically trained ballerina, would later rise to fame as Catwoman in the 1960s TV version of Batman. She also won a Supporting Actress Tony Award for The Marriage-Go-Round (starring Claudette Colbert). She appeared on her neighbor James Belushi's sitcom According to Jim after the two settled a highly publicized lawsuit.
- Ruth: Ruta Kilmonis enjoyed a long stage and television career, working with Lucille Ball, Sammy Davis, Jr., Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, and Frank Sinatra. Lee appeared in the sitcom Roseanne as the first girlfriend of Roseanne's mother. Her singing parts were dubbed in post-production by Betty Noyes.
- Martha: Norma Doggett performed in the 1940s-50s Broadway shows Bells Are Ringing, Fanny, Wish You Were Here, Miss Liberty, and Magdalena
- Liza: Virginia Gibson was nominated for a Tony Award in 1957 and performed regularly, as singer and dancer, on the Johnny Carson show.
- Sarah: Betty Carr was also a Broadway veteran, dancing in Damn Yankees, Happy Hunting, Mask and Gown, and Fanny (alongside Norma Doggett).
- Alice: Nancy Kilgas made her film debut in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. She danced in the film versions of Oklahoma!, Shake, Rattle & Rock!, and Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain.
- Reverend Elcott (Ian Wolfe) is the local preacher and father of Alice, one of the brides. He is the officiant in both wedding ceremonies in the movie.
The movie was the 5th most popular film at the British box office in 1955.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers came in third in a BBC Radio 2 listener poll of the UK's "Number One Essential Musicals" and was listed as number eight in the "Top 10 MGM musicals" in the book Top 10 of Film by Russell Ash.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers has been described as an "incredibly sexist, misogynist" film which "romanticizes gender oppression."
- In 1979, an adaptation with a book by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay, and new songs by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn were developed for the stage.
- From September 19, 1982 to July 2, 1983, CBS broadcast a weekly television series of the same name, which was loosely-based on the film.
- Inspired by Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Bollywood released the film Satte Pe Satta (Seven On Seven) in 1982.
- "All Time Domestic Champs", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
- Powell, Jane (1988). The Girl Next Door...and How She Grew (1st ed.). ISBN 0-688-06757-3.
- TCM's article about Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
- Filming notes in the DVD anniversary edition
- Jacques d'Amboise - Ballet Encyclopedia
- 'Dirk Bogarde favourite film actor', The Irish Times (1921-Current File) [Dublin, Ireland] 29 Dec 1955: 9.
- Top ten musicals - BBC Radio 2
- The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time
- Kirk-Duggan, Cheryl A. (2002). Misbegotten anguish: a theology and ethics of violence. Chalice Press. p. 103.
- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the Internet Movie Database
- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at allmovie
- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the TCM Movie Database
- Jacket Magazine: some background information