Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

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Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Seven brides seven brothers.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Stanley Donen
Produced by Jack Cummings
Screenplay by Albert Hackett
Frances Goodrich
Dorothy Kingsley
Based on The Sobbin' Women
by Stephen Vincent Benét
Starring Howard Keel
Jane Powell
Jeff Richards
Matt Mattox
Marc Platt
Jacques d'Amboise
Tommy Rall
Russ Tamblyn
Julie Newmar
Ruta Lee
Norma Doggett
Virginia Gibson
Betty Carr
Nancy Kilgas
Ian Wolfe
Marjorie Wood
Russell Simpson
Howard Petrie
Music by Gene de Paul
Johnny Mercer
Adolph Deutsch
Saul Chaplin
Cinematography George J. Folsey
Edited by Ralph E. Winters
Distributed by Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer
Release dates
  • July 22, 1954 (1954-07-22)
Running time 102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2,540,000[1]
Box office $9,403,000[1][2]

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), is a musical film, photographed in Ansco Color in the CinemaScope format. The film was directed by Stanley Donen, with music by Saul Chaplin and Gene de Paul and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, and choreography by Michael Kidd. 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 set in Oregon in 1850, is particularly known for Kidd's unusual choreography, which makes dance numbers out of such mundane frontier pursuits as chopping wood and raising a barn. Film critic Stephanie Zacharek has called the barn-raising sequence in Seven Brides "one of the most rousing dance numbers ever put on screen."[3]

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers won the Academy Award for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture and was nominated for four additional awards, including Best Picture of the Year (which lost the award to Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront). In 2006, American Film Institute named Seven Brides for Seven Brothers as one of the best American musical films ever made.

Plot[edit]

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 (Ian Wolfe), 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.

Cast[edit]

Brothers and their Brides:

Brothers[edit]

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. Kidd said that he "had to find a way to have these backwoods men dance without looking ridiculous. I had to base it all around activities you would accept from such people --- it couldn't look like ballet. And it could only have been done by superbly trained dancers." However, he was able to integrate into the cast two non-dancer MGM contract players who were assigned to the film, Jeff Richards, who performed just the simpler dance numbers, and Russ Tamblyn, utilizing him in the dance numbers by exploiting his talents as a gymnast and tumbler.[4][5]

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.[6]

  • 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.[7]
  • 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 and who said that Ado Annie's pie had given him a 'three day bellyache'.[8]
  • 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).[9] 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.

Brides[edit]

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.

Townspeople[edit]

  • 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.

Production[edit]

Choreographer Michael Kidd originally turned down the film, recalling in 1997: "Here are these slobs living off in the woods. They have no schooling, they are uncouth, there's manure on the floor, the cows come in and out - and they're gonna get up and dance? We'd be laughed out of the house."[11]

Lyricist Johnny Mercer said that the musical numbers were written at Kidd's behest, as an example "of how a songwriter sometimes has to take his cue from his collaborators." [12] For example, Kidd explained to Mercer and dePaul his conception of the "Lonesome Polecat" number, the lament of the brothers for the women, and the two worked out the music and lyrics.[12]

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.[10]

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.

The dresses worn by the female cast were made from old quilts that costume designer Walter Plunkett found at the Salvation Army.[10]

Songs and Music[edit]

About the table[edit]

The information about the singers is based on that given in the CD booklet for the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

The "Main Title" incorporates the music for the songs: "Bless Your Beautiful Hide" and "Wonderful, Wonderful Day".

N/A is an abbreviation for 'not applicable' (for orchestral tracks - i.e. instrumental tracks without singers).

While Matt Mattox was the original singer for "Lonesome Polecat", his singing was replaced for this song in the movie by the singing of Bill Lee. Matt Mattox can be heard singing this song on the soundtrack CD.

Song / Music
Title
Characters Vocalists
(Singers and speakers etc.)
Instrumental
Music
Year
recorded
Main Title
N/A
N/A
M-G-M Studio Orchestra
1954
Bless Your Beautiful Hide Adam Pontipee
Howard Keel
M-G-M Studio Orchestra
1953
Bless Your Beautiful Hide (reprise) Adam Pontipee
Howard Keel
M-G-M Studio Orchestra
1954
Wonderful, Wonderful Day Milly Pontipee
Jane Powell
M-G-M Studio Orchestra
1954
When You're in Love Milly Pontipee
Jane Powell
M-G-M Studio Orchestra
1953
Goin' Courtin' Milly and Brothers Jane Powell, Tommy Rall, Russ Tamblyn, Marc Platt,
Matt Mattox, Jacques d'Amboise, Jeff Richards,
Howard Hudson, Gene Lanham & Robert Wacker
M-G-M Studio Orchestra
1953
Barn Dance
N/A
N/A
M-G-M Studio Orchestra
1953
Barn Raising
N/A
N/A
M-G-M Studio Orchestra
1954
When You're in Love (reprise) Adam Pontipee
Howard Keel
M-G-M Studio Orchestra
1953
Lonesome Polecat The Brothers Bill Lee and the M-G-M Studio Chorus M-G-M Studio Orchestra
1954
Sobbin' Women Adam & Brothers Howard Keel, Tommy Rall, Russ Tamblyn,
Matt Mattox, Alan Davies, C. Parlato, Marc Platt,
Robert Wacker, Gene Lanham & M. Spergel
M-G-M Studio Orchestra
1953
Kidnapped And Chase
N/A
N/A
M-G-M Studio Orchestra
1954
June Bride The Brides Virginia Gibson, Barbara Ames, Betty Allan,
Betty Noyes, Marie Vernon & Norma Zimmer
M-G-M Studio Orchestra
1954
June Bride (reprise) Brides & Milly Virginia Gibson, Barbara Ames, Betty Allan,
Betty Noyes, Marie Vernon & Norma Zimmer
& Jane Powell
M-G-M Studio Orchestra
1954
Spring, Spring, Spring Brothers & Brides Howard Keel, Tommy Rall, Russ Tamblyn,
Matt Mattox, Alan Davies, C. Parlato,
Robert Wacker, Gene Lanham, M. Spergel, Bill Lee,
Virginia Gibson, Barbara Ames, Betty Allan,
Betty Noyes, Marie Vernon & Norma Zimmer
M-G-M Studio Orchestra
1954
End Title
N/A
N/A
M-G-M Studio Orchestra
1954

Reception[edit]

The movie was the 5th most popular film at the British box office in 1955.[13] According to MGM records it made $5,526,000 in the US and Canada and $3,877,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $3,198,000.[1]

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers came in third in a BBC Radio 2 listener poll of the UK's "Number One Essential Musicals"[14] and was listed as number eight in the "Top 10 MGM musicals" in the book Top 10 of Film by Russell Ash. In 2004, this film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." In 2006, the film was ranked #21 on the American Film Institute's list of best musicals. In 2008, the film was ranked number 464 in Empire magazine's list of the 500 greatest films of all time.[15]

The film has been criticized by feminists for its favorable depiction of abduction and kidnapping. It has been described as an "incredibly sexist, misogynist" film which "romanticizes gender oppression."[16]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Awards
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients and nominees Result
Academy Awards March 30, 1955 Best Picture of the Year Jack Cummings Nominated
Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, and Dorothy Kingsley Nominated
Best Cinematography, Color George J. Folsey Nominated
Best Film Editing Ralph E. Winters Nominated
Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture Adolph Deutsch and Saul Chaplin Won
BAFTA Awards February 16, 1955 Best Film from any Source Stanley Donen (USA) Nominated
Directors Guild of America February 13, 1955 Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Stanley Donen Nominated
National Board of Review December 20, 1954 Top Ten Best Films of the Year 2nd place
National Film Registry December 28, 2004 Honored
Satellite Awards December 17, 2005 Best Youth DVD For the 50th Anniversary Two-Disc Special Edition DVD Nominated
Writers Guild of America February 28, 1955 Best Written American Musical Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, and Dorothy Kingsley Won

Spin-offs[edit]

London cast recording

Stage adaptation[edit]

Television adaptation[edit]

  • 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.

Bollywood adaptation[edit]

Main article: Satte Pe Satta
  • Inspired by Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Bollywood released the film Satte Pe Satta (Seven On Seven) in 1982.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ For domestic figures see "All Time Domestic Champs", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
  3. ^ Gold, Sylviane (March 2008). "DEATHS: Michael Kidd (1915-2007)". Dance Magazine 82 (3): 88–89. 
  4. ^ Gilbert, Tom (March 3–9, 1997). "Kidd embraced by the Academy". Variety. p. 54. 
  5. ^ TCM's article about Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
  6. ^ Silverman, 1996, p.194
  7. ^ Filming notes in the DVD anniversary edition
  8. ^ The Seattle Times - interview with Marc Platt
  9. ^ Jacques d'Amboise - Ballet Encyclopedia
  10. ^ a b c Powell, Jane (1988). The Girl Next Door...and How She Grew (1st ed.). ISBN 0-688-06757-3. 
  11. ^ "Michael Kidd". The Independent. 29 December r2007. p. 44.  Check date values in: |date= (help);
  12. ^ a b Furia, Philip and Patterson, Laurie (2010). The Songs of Hollywood. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 188. ISBN 0195337085. 
  13. ^ 'Dirk Bogarde favourite film actor', The Irish Times (1921-Current File) [Dublin, Ireland] 29 Dec 1955: 9.
  14. ^ Top ten musicals - BBC Radio 2
  15. ^ The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time
  16. ^ Kirk-Duggan, Cheryl A. (2002). Misbegotten anguish: a theology and ethics of violence. Chalice Press. p. 103. 

External links[edit]