The plot is, frankly, ridiculous, and full of so full of sexism its funny. Adam (Howard Keel) is chauvinistic, slovenly and completely tactless (“What do I need manners for? Already got me a wife.”) and he has absolutely no qualms about essentially conning a woman into being a slave for him and his six siblings. His proposal to Milly (Jane Powell) will probably go down in history as the most romantic in cinematic history. Sidling up to Milly whilst she milks a cow he proclaims “Ain’t got a woman, how ’bout it?” Clearly, back in the 1850s romance was far from dead.
Unusually for a musical, I actually approved of the music, and even the dancing. Some of the songs weren’t terribly memorable, but others are still stuck in my head, most notably “Bless Yore Beautiful Hide” (again with the romance), “Goin’ Courtin'” and “sobbin’ Women.” The dancing too is very impressive, probably because most of the eponymous brides and brothers are professional dancers. The barn-raising sequence is great even though it’s very long, with the brothers competing for the affections of the locals girls against the men that brought them there. A prime opportunity was missed for some colour-coordinated dancing though. Some of the later axe-dancing is a little silly, but it does fit in with the overall tone of the film.
The plot is based on Stephen Vincent Benet’s short story The Sobbin’ Women, itself influenced by the Roman legend of The Rape of the Sabine Women (back then rape meant abduct, this film isn’t that dark). The script takes some interesting turns and has a great, if a little predictable, ending. The brides being just as willing to resort to fisticuffs as the men was a nice touch.
At times the film gets a bit sombre, when various groups become lovesick and lonely, but there’s always an upbeat musical number not too far away, and unlike most classic musicals, this one isn’t unbearably long. I’d quite like to see a remake, with an allstar ensemble cast in the lead fourteen roles, but I get the feeling it would be terrible.
Choose film 7/10