Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
|Seven Brides for Seven Brothers|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Stanley Donen|
|Produced by||Jack Cummings|
The Sobbin' Women|
by Stephen Vincent Benét
Gene de Paul|
|Cinematography||George J. Folsey|
|Edited by||Ralph E. Winters|
|Distributed by||Loew's, Inc.|
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a 1954 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, 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."
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 (where it 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. In 2004, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
In 1850, backwoodsman Adam Pontipee comes to town in the Oregon Territory to shop and look for a bride. He eventually comes upon the local tavern, where he sees Milly chopping wood. After being convinced of her worth by the quality of her cooking and her insistence on finishing her chores before she would leave with him, he proposes and she accepts despite knowing him for only a few hours.
On the journey home, Milly talks about how she is excited to be cooking and taking care of only one man, visibly upsetting Adam. When they arrive at his cabin in the mountains, Milly is surprised to learn that Adam is the oldest of seven brothers living under the same roof. The brothers have been given Bible names "alphabetically": Adam, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank (short for frankincense—supposedly due to no Bible names beginning with F—and their mother thought he smelled sweet), and Gideon. All of the brothers have red hair, and all but Gideon are well over six feet tall. Milly is also shocked at how filthy dirty their house is, along with how bad-tempered and ill-mannered Adam and his brothers are. At first, Milly is angry and believes that Adam wanted a servant girl instead of a wife, but Adam tells her that living in the backwoods is a hard life, and men and women have to work alongside each other to survive.
The next morning, Milly decides to teach Adam and his brothers cleanliness and proper manners - especially at the table during meals. After the brothers wash and shave, Milly is shocked at how handsome they are, and that none of them got married. It turns out that the brothers rarely saw a girl or woman and never learned how to communicate with them. At first, the brothers have a hard time changing from their "mountain man" ways, but eventually come to see their only chance to get brides of their own is to do things Milly's way. They try out their new manners at a social gathering in the town (a dance and barn-raising), where they meet six women they like – Dorcas, Ruth, Martha, Liza, Sarah, and Alice. The girls take a fancy to the brothers as well. However, all of them already have suitors among the young men of the town, who taunt the brothers into fighting during the barn-raising. At first, the six brothers remember Milly's teachings and try to resist being drawn into a fight. The suitors finally go too far when they attack Adam, provoking Gideon into fighting back. A brawl ensues in which the brothers dominate their physically weaker town rivals. Although the Pontipee brothers did not start the fight, they are kicked out of the town by the townspeople.
Winter comes, and the six younger brothers are pining for the girls they had fallen in love with. Milly asks Adam to talk to the brothers as she fears they will want to leave because of missing the girls. Adam reads his brothers the story of "The Sobbin' Women" (taken from Plutarch's story of the Sabine Women), from the Bible Milly had brought to the homestead. He tells them that they should take whatever action is necessary to get their women.
Aided by Adam, the brothers kidnap the six girls, then cause an avalanche in Echo Pass so the townspeople can't pursue them. The Pontipee homestead is cut off from the town until the spring thaw opens Echo Pass again. The only problem: The brothers forgot to bring the parson along to perform the marriages. Milly is furious with Adam and his brothers for kidnapping the women, and she kicks both Adam and his brothers out of their house and sends them to the barn to "eat and sleep with the rest of the livestock," while the women stay in the house with her. Adam, angered by Milly's action, leaves for the trapping cabin farther up the mountain to spend the winter by himself. Gideon tells Milly and begs her to tell Adam not to leave, but Milly refuses, saying: "He's gotta learn that he can't treat people this way."
Winter slowly passes, and the women vent their frustrations by pulling pranks on the brothers. After Milly announces that she's going to have a baby, the women and the brothers come together as a family. Milly gives birth to a daughter, in the spring. The daughter is named as Hanna as a continuum to the names in alphabetical order, the last one being Gideon. 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 when the pass was open.
Adam does return home, when Echo Pass comes open, to reconcile with Milly and meet his new daughter. As a newly responsible father, he has become aware of how worried the townspeople would be about what has happened to the six abducted girls. Adam admits that he would have hung his daughter's kidnapper(s) on the nearest tree; Milly forgives him for his past behavior.
Adam tells his brothers they need to return the women to their families; the brothers are unwilling, believing their parents won't let them marry their daughters, and the other six women refuse to return to their families, lest their parents to force them to return to their former suitors; they ran away to hide. When Milly discovers that they are not in the house, Adam tells the brothers to find them and bring them back.
The townspeople arrive, intent on hanging the Pontipee brothers for the kidnappings. The fathers, who find the brothers trying to force the women to return to town, misunderstand their efforts as assautive, and charge to the girls' rescue.
Alice's father, Reverend Elcott (Ian Wolfe) -- the minister the brothers had forgotten to grab when they took the girls—hears baby Hannah cry in the distance, and worries that the baby might belong to one of the kidnapped girls. Elcott asks the girls whose baby he heard, and to not be afraid to tell. They each answer "Mine." This misinformation serves the women's and the brothers' needs: the townspeople, including the girls' fathers, insist on immediate shotgun weddings, which are performed by Reverend Elcott, while Adam and Milly watch and the fathers stand behind their respective daughters' grooms, guns over their arms. The film ends with the brothers kissing their respective brides in the living room of the Pontipee cabin.
The Brothers and their Brides:
- Howard Keel as Adam and Jane Powell as Milly
- Jeff Richards as Benjamin and Julie Newmar 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 dance numbers and action sequences, choreographer Michael Kidd wanted dancers to portray all six of Adam Pontipee's 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, using him in the dance numbers by exploiting his talents as a gymnast and tumbler.
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 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, and appeared, 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. 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. His singing voice for the film was dubbed by Bill Lee.
- 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'.
- 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 ballet role of the Starlight Carnival "barker" in the film Carousel (in which he partnered Susan Luckey in Louise's ballet). The Academy Award 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 and 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 was cast in the role of youngest brother Gideon. Tamblyn showcased his gymnastics training throughout the action sequences. He also had a starring role in the musical West Side Story as Riff.
Professional dancers played all seven of the brides.
The four girls whom 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, and Rich, Young and Pretty and also A Date with Judy. In the film, she marries Adam.
- Dorcas Gaylen: Julie Newmar (Newmeyer), wore a purple dress in the barn raising scene. Dorcas is one of the more confident girls, and has stated that she always wanted to be a June bride and have a baby right away. She is also the only girl shown to have a sibling, a younger sister. A classically trained ballerina, she 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. Her singing voice for the film was dubbed by Betty Allen. She marries Benjamin.
- Ruth Jepson: Ruta Lee (Kilmonis) enjoyed a long stage and television career, appearing in dozens of films and TV series, 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 for the film were dubbed in post-production by Betty Noyes. She is wearing a blue dress in the barn raising scene, and is shown to like baking pies. She marries Caleb.
- Martha: Norma Doggett performed in the 1940s-50s Broadway shows Bells Are Ringing, Fanny, Wish You Were Here, Miss Liberty, and Magdalena. Her singing voice for the film was dubbed by Bobbie Canvin. She wears a green dress during the barn raising scene. She marries Daniel.
- Liza: Virginia Gibson was nominated for a Tony Award in 1957 and performed regularly, as singer and dancer, on the Johnny Carson show. She wears a pink dress during the barn raising scene. She marries Ephraim.
- Sarah Kine: Betty Carr was also a Broadway veteran, dancing in Damn Yankees, Happy Hunting, Mask and Gown, and Fanny (alongside Norma Doggett). Her singing voice for the film was dubbed by Norma Zimmer. She wears a yellow dress during the barn raising. She marries Frank.
- Alice Elcott: Nancy Kilgas made her film debut in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The youngest of the girls in the story, she is especially close with Milly and wears a peach colored dress in the barn raising scene. Her father is the town reverend. Gideon falls in love with her at first sight. She danced in the film versions of Oklahoma!, Shake, Rattle & Rock!, and Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain. Her singing voice for the film was dubbed by Marie Greene. She marries Gideon.
- 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. A longtime Hollywood character actor, he is perhaps best remembered for his roles as Carter, chief clerk to "Wilfred the Fox," Sir Wilfred Roberts in Witness for the Prosecution; Mr. Atoz in the Star Trek episode "All Our Yesterdays"; as Father Joseph the Abbot in The Frisco Kid; and as "Hirsch," "Mrs. Carlson's" butler on WKRP in Cincinnati.
- Pete Perkins (Howard Petrie) is a leading citizen of the town where the Pontipees do their trading. Another longtime Hollywood character actor, he is also known for his role as Tom Hendricks in Bend of the River and as Mr. Lattimore, the prosecuting attorney in the Randolph Scott movie Rage At Dawn.
- Mrs. Bixby (Marjorie Wood), co-owner of the general store in the town. Perhaps best known for playing Lady Lucas opposite Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier in Pride and Prejudice, she was a Hollywood veteran of 34 films going back to the silent movie era. She died a year after shooting wrapped on the movie.
- Mr. Bixby (Russell Simpson), co-owner of the general store in the town. A longtime Hollywood actor with 244 movie and television credits to his name going well back into the silents in 1914, his best known roles are as Pa Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, and Red Kelly in San Francisco.
- Harry (Earl Barton)
- Matt (Dante DiPaolo)
- Carl (Kelly Brown)
- Ruth's Uncle (Matt Moore)
- Dorcas' Father (Dick Rich)
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."
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." 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.
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.
Most of the movie was shot on the MGM sound stages. One exterior sequence not filmed at the studio was shot on location at Corral Creek Canyon in Sun Valley, Idaho. It was here that the escape following the brothers' kidnapping their future brides and the avalanche that closed the pass was filmed.
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.
Songs and music
The "Main Title" is a medley of the songs "Sobbin' Women", "Bless Your Beautiful Hide" and "Wonderful, Wonderful Day".
In the film, Matt Mattox's voice is dubbed in by Bill Lee on "Lonesome Polecat". Mattox can be heard singing the song on the soundtrack album.
|Song / Music
(Singers and speakers etc.)
|Main Title||M-G-M Studio Orchestra|
|Bless Your Beautiful Hide||Adam||M-G-M Studio Orchestra|
|Bless Your Beautiful Hide (reprise)||Adam||M-G-M Studio Orchestra|
|Wonderful, Wonderful Day||Milly||M-G-M Studio Orchestra|
|When You're in Love||Milly||M-G-M Studio Orchestra|
|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|
|Barn Dance||M-G-M Studio Orchestra|
|Barn Raising||M-G-M Studio Orchestra|
|When You're in Love (reprise)||Adam||M-G-M Studio Orchestra|
|Lonesome Polecat||The Brothers||Bill Lee and the M-G-M Studio Chorus||M-G-M Studio Orchestra|
|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|
|Kidnapped And Chase||M-G-M Studio Orchestra|
|June Bride||The Brides||Virginia Gibson, Barbara Ames, Betty Allan,
Betty Noyes, Marie Vernon & Norma Zimmer
|M-G-M Studio Orchestra|
|June Bride (reprise)||Brides & Milly||Virginia Gibson, Barbara Ames, Betty Allan,
Betty Noyes, Marie Vernon & Norma Zimmer
& Jane Powell
|M-G-M Studio Orchestra|
|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|
|End Title||M-G-M Studio Orchestra|
Contemporary reviews from critics were positive. A. H. Weiler of The New York Times called the film "a wholly engaging, bouncy, tuneful and panchromatic package ... Although the powers at M-G-M are deviating from the normal song-and-dance extravaganza in 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,' it is a gamble that is paying rich rewards." Variety wrote: "This is a happy, hand-clapping, foot-stomping, country type of musical with all the slickness of a Broadway show. It offers songs, dances and romancing in such a delightful package that word-of-mouth could talk it into solid business at the boxoffice." Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post declared: "Dandy dancing, singable songs and the ozone of originality make 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' the niftiest musical I've seen in months." Harrison's Reports called it "A thoroughly delightful blend of songs, dances and romantic comedy" with "exceptionally good musical numbers." The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote that the dances "give the picture its remarkably spirited and exhilarating quality ... A minor weakness is the playing of Jane Powell, whose Milly is a somewhat colourless figure; Howard Keel, the brides and the brothers, however, are all admirable." John McCarten of The New Yorker posted a dissenting negative review, writing that the film "got on my nerves" and "struck me as desperately contrived and often witless," though he did concede that there were "some fine dances" in it.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was the 5th most popular film at the British box office in 1955. 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.
The film 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. In 2004, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." In 2006, it 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.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes awards Seven Brides for Seven Brothers an 88% "Fresh" rating based on 24 reviews, with an average rating of 7.7/10. The critics' consensus states: "Buoyed by crowd-pleasing tunes and charming performances, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers makes a successful transition from Broadway to screen that's sure to please the whole family," despite the fact that the movie was originally produced for film and debuted on Broadway over two decades later.
The following slogan was used to publicize the film in 1954:
- Adam abducted Milly
- Benjamin brought Dorcas
- Caleb caught Ruth
- Daniel detained Martha
- Ephraim eloped with Liza
- Frank fetched Sarah
- Gideon grabbed Alice
Awards and honors
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
Adaptations and remakes
- The 1978 stage musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is an adaptation of the film, with a book by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay. Four songs from the film ("Bless Your Beautiful Hide", "Wonderful Wonderful Day", "Goin' Courtin'", and "Sobbin' Women") were kept for the stage musical; the rest of the score consisted of new songs written by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn.
- The TV series Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, loosely based on the film, ran weekly on CBS from September 19, 1982 to March 23, 1983.
- The 1982 Bollywood film Satte Pe Satta ("Seven On Seven") was a remake of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
- "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers - Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
- For domestic figures see "All Time Domestic Champs", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
- Gold, Sylviane (March 2008). "DEATHS: Michael Kidd (1915-2007)". Dance Magazine. 82 (3): 88–89.
- Gilbert, Tom (March 3–9, 1997). "Kidd embraced by the Academy". Variety. p. 54.
- TCM's article about Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
- Silverman, 1996, p.194
- Filming notes in the DVD anniversary edition
- The Seattle Times - interview with Marc Platt
- Jacques d'Amboise - Ballet Encyclopedia
- Powell, Jane (1988). The Girl Next Door...and How She Grew (1st ed.). ISBN 0-688-06757-3.
- "Michael Kidd". The Independent. 29 December 2007. p. 44.
- Furia, Philip & Patterson, Laurie (2010). The Songs of Hollywood. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 188. ISBN 0195337085.
- https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047472/trivia?ref_=tt_ql_2. Retrieved December 28, 2015.
- Weiler, A. H. (July 23, 1954). "The Screen in Review". The New York Times: 8.
- "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers". Variety: 6. June 2, 1954.
- Coe, Richard L. (August 21, 1954). "Seven Big Cheers For Seven Brides". The Washington Post: 6.
- "'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' with Howard Keel and Jane Powell". Harrison's Reports: 90. June 5, 1954.
- "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 21 (251): 175–176. December 1954.
- McCarten, John (July 31, 1954). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 53.
- '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
- . "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 16th May 2017.
- "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-13.
- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers on IMDb
- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at Rotten Tomatoes
- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at AllMovie
- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the TCM Movie Database
- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Jacket Magazine: some background information