Seven Brides For Seven Brothers

I’m not normally a huge fan of classic musicals. I quite liked West Side Story, but couldn’t abide The Sound Of Music, so my hopes weren’ exactly high for this 1954 classic of which I knew very little, other than there were presumably at least fourteen characters. I’m relieved to tell you that not only did I not find this film terrible, I frickin’ loved it.Set in 1850’s Oregon, the film predominantly follows Adam Pontipee, the eldest of seven brothers (duh) who all live away from society in a secluded shack, as woodsmen. Whilst visiting town to trade, Adam sets out to find a wife, and somewhat surprisingly the local cook Milly agrees to take the position, and they marry as soon as she finished her chores, before heading back to his house. Once home, Milly discovers the rest of her new husband’s clan, whom he’d neglected to tell her about before, and soon finds herself playing Snow White for these seven giants, doing all the cooking and cleaning in their initially disgusting hovel. When the other boys decide they too would like a wife, Milly steps in to see if she can teach them to be gentlemen.

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

8 thoughts on “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers

  1. I like this movie too. It requires an inordinate amount of suspension of disbelief, as well as suspension of my feminist ideals, but frankly, this is a very fun flick. I watched it ad nauseam back in college with my girlfriends, and we all loved it, singing along to every cheesy song.Recently, what I like to do is watch Brother Benjamin (he wears an orange shirt in the barn raising number) in the dance numbers, as he's the only non-dancer out of all the brothers. It's really funny how poorly he dances, and how the film tries to cover it up.

  2. I did notice one of the brothers defiantly not dancing during Goin' Courtin' – he remains sat down whilst the others all get paired off to dance with one another, I'm guessing that was Benjamin too.

  3. Wow, do we have different views on this one. I couldn't get over the fact that this film feels very much like "Stockholm Syndrome: The Musical." That said, I'll admit that the barn raising is a hell of a scene.

  4. I would flipflop West Side Story and The Sound of Music, but I agree with you on Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I enjoyed it, including the non modern political correctness of it all. I loved your description of the proposal.

  5. Thanks very much! I think I hate The Sound of Music because I'm not really a fan of children, and singing ones even more so. Plus, I'm still trying to get Doe Ray Me out of my head, and I watched it about a year ago.

  6. Here in the U.S. The Sound of Music was one of those movies that they played every year on TV when I was growing up, so it became ingrained in the public consciousness. The Wizard of Oz was another.Maybe this will help get the Do Re Mi song out of your head:"Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittensBright copper kettles and warm woolen mittensBrown paper packages tied up with stringsThese are a few of my favorite things"(Sometimes the cure is worse than the affliction)

  7. …I haven't seen The Wizard of Oz. Well, not all the way through at least, but it's on the list so I'll get there. Here in the UK we always get The Great Escape (which I love) and a seemingly random Bond film, usually either Sean Connery or Timothy Dalton. We're thankfully spared the Roger Moore years. And God damn you that song is even worse.

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