Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Released:  1954

Cast:  Howard Keel, Jane Powell, Jeff Richards, Matt Mattox, Marc Platt, Jacques d’Amboise, Tommy Rall, Russ Tamblyn, Julie Newmar, Ruta Kilmonis, Norma Doggett, Virginia Gibson, Betty Carr, Nancy Kilgas

Oscar Wins:  Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture (Adolph Deutsch, Saul Chaplin)

Oscar Nominations:  Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay (Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, Dorothy Kingsley), Best Cinematography, Color (George J. Folsey), Best Film Editing (Ralph E. Winters)

SUMMARY:  Adam Pontipee (Howard Keel) lives in the backwoods, but comes in to town one day to find a bride.  Despite the amusement of the townspeople, Adam persuades Milly (Jane Powell) to marry him almost on sight.  Unbeknownst to Milly, Adam has six younger brothers, who all live with him:  Milly is expected to cook for and clean up after all of them.  The brothers are named for Old Testament characters, in alphabetical order:  Adam, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank (short for Frankincense) and Gideon.  The brothers live like pigs, but Milly soon changes that.  In addition, she teaches them manners, and how to dance.  The boys get a chance to use Milly’s lessons at a local barn-raising, where each of them (except Adam) meets a girl he likes – all of whom already have suitors.  Although the suitors try to provoke a fight with the brothers, they refuse to get involved:  that is, until Adam is attacked.  A melee ensues, and the brothers are banished from the town.

As winter begins, the six unmarried brothers begin to get lonely for the women.  Milly asks Adam to talk to them (to keep them from leaving), but instead Adam tells his brothers about the “Sobbin’ Women” (really Plutarch’s story of the Sabine Women), and encourages his brothers to go get the women.  Led by Adam, the brothers ride into town during the night, kidnap the women, and cause an avalanche on the way back so that the townspeople cannot follow them.  There is only one flaw in the plan:  the brothers have forgotten to kidnap a preacher to marry them.  A furious Milly makes the brothers sleep in the barn, while the women live in the house.  Adam is angry at Milly’s reaction, and instead takes off to spend the rest of the winter in the trapping cabin, alone.  Not long after he leaves, Milly realizes she’s pregnant.

As winter continues, the women fall in love with the brothers, and Milly gives birth to a daughter.  Gideon uses this information to persuade Adam to come home.  Adam realizes that kidnapping the women was a mistake, and tries to get his brothers to take the women back to town.  Neither the brothers nor the women like this plan; the women go so far as to hid, so that they cannot be taken back to town.  The snow having melted, the townspeople arrive, bent on revenge.  When they see the brothers trying to forcibly remove the women from their hiding places, they think that the women are being attacked.  On top of this, one of the fathers hears a baby cry (it’s Hannah, but the townspeople don’t know this).  Having rounded up the brothers, the fathers announce their intent to hang them; first, though, they demand to know whose baby had been crying.  In a fit of inspiration, each of the women claims the baby; this leaves their fathers no choice but to let them marry the brothers immediately.

MY TAKE:  I will admit that this movie is cheesy (and according to many people, sexist, though I think the women did a pretty good job of fighting back).  I still love it.  The music is great, and the dancing, especially by the brothers, is incredible.  The basis for the story is a bit scandalous, as the Women of the Sabine that Adam refers to (which is the legend that inspired the short story that inspired the movie) were actually kidnapped and raped.  Obviously, this being 1954, that little detail was left out of the plot; however, when you listen to Milly read the story to the women, you hear about it.  I have seen this movie multiple times, and despite the fact that the brothers wear different color shirts, I have never been able to tell them apart.  The only ones I can reliably identify are Adam and Gideon (who is my favorite).  Personally, I’m surprised that Milly didn’t either hightail it back to town or kick Adam to the curb immediately when she found out that he had six brothers that lived with him.  Then again, I have never really understood what would possess somebody to marry someone they literally just met.  That said, this movie is a great time.

Interesting fact:  the height difference between Howard Keel and Jane Powell is humongous (I think it may actually be some sort of record):  Howard Keel was 6’3”, Jane Powell is 5’1”.

RATING:  Despite the cheese factor, I loved it.


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