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Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers(1954)

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teaser Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

SYNOPSIS

The rugged Pontipee brothers are living a life of self-sufficiency in the Oregon mountains during the 1850s. When the eldest brother, Adam, brings home his pretty new wife from town, Milly, the brothers decide that they too should find brides. First, however, Milly must teach the well-meaning but ignorant brothers how to behave so that they can successfully woo the women of their choice.

Director: Stanley Donen
Producer: Jack Cummings
Screenplay: Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, Dorothy Kingsley
Cinematography: George Folsey
Editing: Ralph E. Winters
Music Director: Adolph Deutsch
Music Supervisor: Saul Chaplin
Music Composers: Johnny Mercer, Gene de Paul
Costume Designer: Walter Plunkett
Cast: Howard Keel (Adam Pontipee), Jeff Richards (Benjamin Pontipee), Russ Tamblyn (Gideon Pontipee), Tommy Rall (Frank Pontipee), Marc Platt (Daniel Pontipee), Matt Mattox (Caleb Pontipee), Jacques d'Amboise (Ephraim Pontipee), Jane Powell (Milly), Julie Newmeyer (Dorcas), Nancy Kilgas (Alice), Betty Carr (Sarah), Virginia Gibson (Liza), Ruta Kilmonis (Ruth), Norma Doggett (Martha), Ian Wolfe (Reverend Elcott), Howard Petrie (Pete Perkins), Earl Barton (Harry), Dante DiPaolo (Matt), Kelly Brown (Carl), Matt Moore (Ruth's Uncle), Dick Rich (Dorcas' Father), Marjorie Wood (Mrs. Bixby), Russell Simpson (Mr. Bixby), Anna Q. Nilsson (Mrs. Elcott).
C-103m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.

Why SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS is Essential

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is one of the few but great film musicals that expertly integrates music, dance and story. Exuberant and full of charm, this film is thoroughly entertaining from start to finish. Unlike many of the film musicals of its time, Seven Brides did not come from an already existing Broadway stage version. It was an original musical made expressly for the big screen, which makes its success all the more critical in the history of the movie musical.

Michael Kidd's stunning athletic choreography for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is one of the film's greatest strengths and contributed enormously to its box office success. Kidd's choreography helped revitalize and influence the way in which movie musicals were staged. From the show stopping barn dance number to the quiet rhythmic movement of "Lament (Lonesome Polecat)," Kidd's choreography always manages to find the perfect note to suit each scene and make singing and dancing mountain men thoroughly believable and charming.

One of the earliest CinemaScope films made for MGM, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is visually exciting, making the most of the widescreen process. With up to fourteen characters (the seven brides and seven brothers) dancing and interacting on the screen at the same time, the technical achievement of this film is no small feat. It remains an excellent example of the beauty of CinemaScope.

Though he had directed some films on his own by 1954, Stanley Donen's major successes in film musicals had always been in conjunction with Gene Kelly, with whom he shared directing credit on the huge hits On the Town (1949) and Singin' in the Rain (1952). The enormous popularity of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was something Donen achieved entirely on his own. It helped established him as one of the best directors of film musicals and one of the most sought after by studios.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers features one of the most appealing casts of actors, singers and dancers ever to appear in a musical film. As the two leads, established stars Howard Keel and Jane Powell do some of the finest work in their careers. Up-and-coming actor Russ Tamblyn is also a wonder to watch as he shows off his acrobatic dancing skills that first put the young actor on the map and led to greater things (West Side Story, 1961).

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

A short-lived television show called Seven Brides for Seven Brothers based loosely on the film went on the air in 1982. The brothers' last name was changed to McFadden, and the story setting was updated to a modern day cattle ranch in California. Future stars Richard Dean Anderson, Peter Horton and River Phoenix all played McFadden brothers.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers loosely inspired another television show called Here Come the Brides, which ran from 1968-1970.

In 1978 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers became a stage musical starring Debby Boone and toured the United States. It was adapted by Al Kasha and David Landay and featured some new songs in addition to the ones from the film. However, the show closed before it reached Broadway.

A 2005 revival of the stage version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the famed Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut featuring a major reworking earned rave reviews.

A London West End stage version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was successful enough to have a cast recording soundtrack released in 1985.

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

Two different versions of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers were shot: one in the CinemaScope aspect ratio, and one in the smaller flat screen aspect ratio in order to accommodate theaters that did not have the capacity to project CinemaScope films at the time. While the CinemaScope version of Seven Brides has become the definitive version of the film, the 2004 Special Edition DVD includes both versions.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers had its world premiere in Houston, Texas on July 15, 1954.

The cast of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is listed in different order in the opening credits and in the closing credits.

In 1996 Turner Entertainment released a newly restored print of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers to the public.

At one point, MGM tried to convince director Stanley Donen to include a dream ballet in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, which was a popular musical device at the time. However, Donen talked the studio out of it.

Stanley Donen's one regret about making Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was that he did not get to shoot it on location in Oregon. "I wanted to make this picture entirely on location," said Donen in a 2004 interview. "I wanted so much to shoot the whole picture in the hills and the mountains of Oregon and it would have cost more money I grant you, but it would have been a good way to spend the money rather than spending it on a non-CinemaScope version. So all the phony look of the paintings and the backgrounds is all due to the fact that they (MGM) wanted to have another version."

One of the seven brides, Dorcas, is played by an actress credited as "Julie Newmeyer." Later the beautiful actress changed her name to Julie Newmar and became famous for playing the original Catwoman on the popular 1960s television show Batman.

In some print ads at the time of the original release of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers there was a quote from President Eisenhower saying, "If you haven't seen it, you should see it."

Jeff Richards, who plays Benjamin Pontipee in the film, is the only brother never shown dancing.

MGM had all the actors playing Pontipee brothers dye their hair red so that the audience would more easily be able to distinguish them from the male suitors from town in their scenes together.

The girls' dresses in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers were supposed to be made out of quilts, so costume designer Walter Plunkett went to the Salvation Army, bought up several old authentic quilts and made them into dresses.

Because dancer Jacques d'Amboise, who plays Ephraim Pontipee, was so shy and didn't talk much, star Jane Powell assumed because of his name he was French and didn't speak English. "It wasn't until I moved back to New York and we met again," Powell says in her 1988 autobiography The Girl Next Door and How She Grew, "that I learned he didn't speak French at all-he's American through and through and has a distinctive New York accent."

Star Howard Keel reveals in his 2005 autobiography Only Make Believe: My Life in Show Business that he quit smoking during the making of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, which made him gain weight.

According to Howard Keel, the night before the song "When You're in Love" was to be recorded for the film, Saul Chaplin heard another song on the radio while driving home that began with the exact same four musical notes. Chaplin, concerned that it would be a problem that could result in an accusation of plagiarism, consulted with Jack Cummings, Johnny Mercer, and Gene de Paul and they decided to change the opening notes of their song.

Famous Quotes from SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS

"Don't you like girls?"
"We ain't never hardly ever seen one."
Jane Powell (as Milly) and Russ Tamblyn (as Gideon Pontipee)

"Well, it wouldn't hurt you to learn some manners, too."
"What do I need manners for? I already got me a wife."
Jane Powell (as Milly) and Howard Keel (as Adam Pontipee)

"There wasn't an F name in the Bible, so they named him Frankincense, because he smelled so sweet." Matt Mattox (as Caleb Pontipee), explaining the origins of brother Frank's name.

"Doesn't it do anything but snow up here? We've had a blizzard every day for the past two months. I'm going crazy, shut up in this house!" Virginia Gibson (as Liza)

"Love is like the measles. You only get it once, and the older you are, the harder you take it." Howard Keel (as Adam Pontipee)

"Somehow it just don't seem fitting for a man to spend his wedding night in a tree." Jane Powell (as Milly), referring to husband Adam (Howard Keel)

"You're beating your head against a stone wall Milly, you'll never make Jack-a-dandies out of them." Howard Keel (as Adam) to Jane Powell's Milly, referring to his brothers.

Compiled by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

The source material for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was Stephen Vincent Benet's short story The Sobbin' Women originally published in the November 1938 issue of Argosy. The Sobbin' Women was itself a parody of an ancient Greek story as taken from Plutarch's Life of Romulus about the Sabine Women, who were abducted by Roman soldiers to be their brides. Benet's story updated the setting to the Oregon frontier of the 1850s and substituted the Roman men with seven rural brothers.

Bringing the tale of The Sobbin' Women to the big screen had long been producer Jack Cummings' pet project. Cummings, the nephew of Louis B. Mayer, had produced several successful musicals for MGM including Easy to Wed (1946) and Kiss Me Kate (1953). Famed Broadway director Joshua Logan had already optioned the rights to Benet's story, however, with the intention of turning it into a stage musical. After five years passed and Logan had not made progress with The Sobbin' Women, his option was up and MGM quickly snapped up the rights to the story on Cummings' behalf for $40,000.

Cummings immediately began to assemble a top rate team to work on the film version of The Sobbin' Women. He brought the husband and wife writing team of Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich along with Dorothy Kingsley to adapt the story into a workable screenplay. He then asked Stanley Donen to direct. Cummings and MGM had been impressed with Donen's previous work, which included Royal Wedding (1951), Singin' in the Rain (1952) and Give a Girl a Break (1953), and thought he would be the perfect person to bring The Sobbin' Women to life as a musical. Impressed with the screenplay, Donen was thrilled to take on the project. "The authors of the screenplay were really wonderful, bright, sharp, funny and really elegant in their construction and dialogue. I just think they're remarkable," said Donen in a 2004 interview.

Despite their enthusiasm to bring The Sobbin' Women to the screen, MGM was partial to another musical film they had in production at the time: Brigadoon (1954), starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse. MGM saw Brigadoon as their "A" picture, and Seven Brides as a "B" picture. As a result, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was assigned an extremely tight budget, while MGM put the majority of their faith and money into Brigadoon. According to star Jane Powell, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers almost didn't even make it to the screen because of Brigadoon. "The studio," she writes in her 1988 autobiography The Girl Next Door and How She Grew, "was pouring all this money into Brigadoon and felt it couldn't afford to do two musical extravaganzas at once, so MGM bigwigs were going to drop it. But Jack Cummings, our producer, talked the studio into doing it. He offered to cut the budget, to economize in every way possible. He pleaded."

MGM didn't want to spend any money for original songs to use in The Sobbin' Women. The studio management thought the film could use already existing American folk songs for musical numbers. Stanley Donen fought hard to get an original musical score and new songs for the film, which MGM finally conceded. Johnny Mercer was brought on board to write song lyrics. At first composer Harold Arlen was to collaborate with Mercer on the music, but Mercer rejected working with Arlen. "He's too picky about the words that go with his music," he explained. Eventually Mercer partnered successfully with Gene de Paul, and together they came up with several new inspired songs for the film including "Bless Your Beautiful Hide," "June Bride," and "Sobbin' Women."

From the beginning, Stanley Donen knew that he wanted famed dancer and choreographer Michael Kidd to stage all of the musical numbers. "Michael Kidd was the choreographer to do this film," Donen said in a 2004 interview, "because his choreography was inventive, athletic, not classical ballet dancing, but dancing which is remarkable." The problem was that neither Kidd nor the studio could visualize seven rugged mountain men breaking into song and dance in a believable manner. In addition, Kidd was exhausted from doing a show in New York at the time and wanted to take a break. He told Stanley Donen that he didn't want to do the film. Donen, however, refused to take no for an answer. He convinced Kidd to at least listen to the songs for the film, and Kidd liked them. Still, Kidd couldn't see how dance numbers could be effectively worked into the story. "I said to Stanley and Saul Chaplin," recalled Kidd in a 2004 interview, "'I can't see any dancing in this picture. You got these seven slobs living out in the country. They got horse manure on the floor. They're unwashed. They're unshaven. They look terrible. These people are going to get up and dance? We'll be hooted out of the theater! It doesn't make any sense to me.'" With a little cajoling and eventually begging, Donen finally convinced Kidd to at least stage the movement of the musical numbers, even if he couldn't envision dancing. Before long, Kidd did see opportunities in the script for the brothers to be dancing. The musical numbers he eventually brought to life would turn out to be one of the film's biggest assets.

When the time came to cast Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Donen called upon established musical stars Howard Keel (Show Boat [1951], Kiss Me Kate) and Jane Powell (A Date with Judy [1948], Royal Wedding) to play the leads, Adam and Milly. For Adam's six brothers, Michael Kidd told MGM that he wanted dancers for the parts. MGM responded that they didn't have dancers under contract at the studio-just actors. In the end, they compromised. MGM would let Kidd and Donen hire four dancers of their choice as long as they used two actors who were already under contract at MGM for the remaining Pontipee brothers. For the dancing brothers, Tommy Rall, Marc Platt, Matt Mattox, and New York City Ballet dancer Jacques d'Amboise were hired. Jack Cummings and Stanley Donen had been at a performance of the New York City Ballet in San Francisco when they saw d'Amboise perform and thought he would be perfect to play one of the brothers. With George Balanchine's blessing, d'Amboise was excused to work on the film. The non-dancing MGM actors chosen to play the other Pontipee brothers per the agreement were former baseball player Jeff Richards, who had two left feet, and juvenile actor Russ Tamblyn.

The Oregon mountains setting of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers seemed a natural to be filmed on location-especially since the action of the story transpired through all four seasons of one year. Stanley Donen desperately wanted to do this, but faced resistance from the studio. There simply wasn't the budget to shoot on location, MGM told him. What's more, if he wanted to get authentic footage of all four seasons in Oregon on film, it would take an entire year to accomplish. It was out of the question. MGM told him he would have to shoot the picture primarily on the MGM back lot which was a great disappointment for Donen.

Instead of using any extra money to allow Donen to shoot on location, MGM had a very different idea. Beginning in 1953 a new technical process was being used to make films called CinemaScope, a spectacular widescreen process that used anamorphic lenses. The process was quite new, but MGM wanted to make sure that they were taking advantage of every cinematic innovation. The only problem was that many theaters had not yet been equipped to show CinemaScope films. MGM's solution? Stanley Donen would have to shoot two different versions of the film: one in the CinemaScope aspect ratio 2:55, and one in the flat widescreen aspect ration of 1:77. For Donen, it would mean staging and shooting every scene twice, since the framing for each version would be different. There would be two separate negatives for each version. He would essentially have to shoot two different films under one limited budget. It was an enormous undertaking, but Donen was game. Under the new title Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (thought up by MGM head of advertising Howard Dietz), the musical version of The Sobbin' Women was ready for the cameras.

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

Shooting got off to an auspicious start on Seven Brides for Seven Brothers in November of 1953 at MGM. Despite the extra work that shooting two different versions created, the cast had a marvelous time and Stanley Donen embraced the challenge of CinemaScope. He thought that with seven brides and seven brothers, the story itself lent itself perfectly to the medium since so many characters often had to be onscreen at the same time. He utilized every inch of the frame to maximize the visual impact of the new technology. The studio, who was being extremely tight with the budget, wound up having to put more money into the production anyway, despite trying to cut every corner. "I had to shoot and cut everything twice-restage scenes, put in a different set of marks, light it differently, loop it," said Stanley Donen. "We had two cutting rooms going, and it cost the studio another $500,000, which was a lot for then."

For the famous barn raising dance sequence, which many consider the highlight of the film, the cast rehearsed for three weeks in order to get the intricate choreography down. It was during one of these rehearsals that Russ Tamblyn, one of the non-dancers hired to play Gideon Pontipee, wandered over to the set along with co-star Jeff Richards to see how the scene was coming along. "Michael Kidd called me over and said, 'Rusty, somebody told me that you're a good tumbler, that you can do some flips'," said Tamblyn in a 2004 interview. "So I did a back flip for him. 'Fantastic!' he said. 'We'll put it in a number.' I told him I really wasn't a dancer, except for some tap dancing. But he said, 'Listen, this is just like square dancing. All you have to do is lift your legs high. You can do a lot of acrobatic stuff. It's perfect.' That's how I became a dancer in Seven Brides."

Though Howard Keel was happy with most of the production, he disagreed on two points in reference to his character. He first objected to Adam reprising the song "When You're in Love" after Milly first sings it. He felt it didn't work because Adam at that point in the film couldn't possibly understand what love was all about. Secondly, he objected to singing a soliloquy number when he's holed up by himself in the winter cabin. It was, Keel felt, too similar to the soliloquy from the musical Carousel. As a result of these disagreements, the original two writers Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich walked off the picture. The third writer, Dorothy Kingsley, took over. "I'm sorry about the original script writers walking away," Keel says in his autobiography, "but I think I was right, and Jack Cummings agreed with me."

When Seven Brides for Seven Brothers premiered in the summer of 1954, its blockbuster success surprised everyone-especially MGM who was expecting a modest hit at best. Instead, it became one of the top box office hits of the year and was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. What's more is that Seven Brides outperformed the more expensive Brigadoon. "Seven Brides was a big hit, a real sleeper, and Brigadoon seemed to disappear," says Jane Powell in her 1988 autobiography. "We all felt pretty smug about that." For director Stanley Donen, the film's success marked a turning point in his career. He proved that he could pull off a top-notch musical all by himself.

While Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was a career peak for musical veterans Howard Keel and Jane Powell, the film marked the real beginning for young Russ Tamblyn's career. Tamblyn's charm along with his show-stopping acrobatics in the barn raising sequence made people everywhere sit up and take notice. Tamblyn, who had not been expected to dance one step in the film, was now known the world over as a hoofer as well as an actor. "After Seven Brides was released," said Tamblyn, "my career really took off. Dance magazine photographed me for their cover and, suddenly, I was known as a dancer." Star Howard Keel saw it coming. "Russ Tamblyn as Gideon was undeniably the most effective Pontipee," he says in his autobiography. "Wherever he was, you couldn't take your eyes off him."

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers went on to become a musical classic. It was a joyous experience for all to make. Howard Keel called the film, "one of my happiest filmmaking experiences at Metro Goldwyn Mayer." "The cast was magnificent, and the chemistry irresistible," he says in his autobiography. "Jack Cummings had his stamp on the whole picture. Jane Powell, as Milly, was perfect, and I loved working with her. She was cute and persnickety and a multi-talented pro...It truly was one big happy family." Stanley Donen always saw this film as one of his fondest memories as well as was quick to always point out the enormous contribution by choreographer Michael Kidd to the overall success of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. "I enjoyed Kidd enormously," said Donen. "His contribution to the film was gigantic."

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

Men Of Action Blaze A Trail Of Love And Lead As Law And Order Comes To TheOld West!
Tag Line for Harlem Rides the Range

"Hi ho, Stardusk!" was the cry as Herbert Jeffries rode his trusty horsefor the fourth and last time in this rare all-black Western released in1939. Despite the title, the only hint of Harlem in Harlem Rides theRange was to be found in the low comedy provided by Jeffries'sidekicks, Lucius Brooks and F.E. Miller, vaudeville veterans who firstmade their name in all-black theatres. For the rest, the film was a clearimitation of the low-budget westerns of the time, with an emphasis on talk,music and one of the staples of the genre, the chase.

Harlem Rides the Range is a race film, a low-budget picture madespecifically for black audiences and shown primarily in segregatedtheaters. The tradition had begun in the silent days whenAfrican-Americans responded to the vicious racial stereotypes in D.W.Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915) by producing movies of theirown with more positive images of black life. By the sound era, most ofthem were produced by white men like Richard C. Kahn, the man behindHarlem Rides the Range. Yet they still served an important purpose.They gave black performers an alternative to the demeaning roles they hadto play in most Hollywood films while also giving black writers likeSpencer Williams and Francis Miller, who wrote and acted in Harlem Ridesthe Range, a rare chance to work in the movies. Williams was one ofthe few black filmmakers of the era who got to do more important work. In1941 he moved into directing, creating The Blood of Jesus, apowerful look at the role of religion in rural black life that has been addedto the National Film Registry. (Williams would achieve his greatest famewith white audiences as Andy in the television version of Amos andAndy, 1951.

Unlike The Blood of Jesus, however, Harlem Rides the Range was a more commercial venture. Jeffries was a cabaret singer who had first jumped into the saddle two years earlier for Harlem on the Prairie. A year later, Kahn cast him as Bob Blakefor the first time in Two Gun Man From Harlem, followed by TheBronze Buckaroo. Each had a simple, formulaic plot, with thelight-skinned Jeffries saving the leading lady from darker-skinned villainswhile also singing a few songs. Jeffries took his Western stardomseriously. He even imitated Hollywood Western stars by outfitting his carwith bronze Western motifs for personal appearances. Unfortunately, hisfilms didn't catch on in northern theatres (they did better in theSouth), and Harlem Rides the Range was the last of the Western racefilms. Jeffries switched from white hat to black tie when he joined theDuke Ellington Orchestra, then moved to France to run a night club. Morerecently, he has appeared in documentaries about the history of black filmand, in 1996, released The Bronze Buckaroo Rides Again, acountry/western album.

Producer/Director: Richard C. Kahn
Screenplay: Spencer Williams, Jr. & Francis Miller
Cinematography: Roland Price & Clark Ramsey
Art Direction: Vin Taylor
Music: Lew Porter
Cast: Herbert Jeffries (Bob Blake), Lucius Brooks (Dusty), F.E.(Francis) Miller (Slim Perkins the Cook), Artie Young (Miss MargaretDennison), Clarence Brooks (Bradley), Spencer Williams (Mr. Watson).
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By Frank Miller

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teaser Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

Home in Oklahoma (1946) is considered a typical Roy Rogers musical Western -- and one of his best. As a crusading frontier newspaper editor investigating the murder of a cattle rancher, Rogers is surrounded by his usual support group: soon-to-be wife Dale Evans, playing a visiting big-city reporter; wizened sidekick Gabby Hayes, as a ranch foreman; and the ever-faithful Trigger, billed as "The Smartest Horse in the Movies." Songs include the title tune as performed by Rogers, Bob Nolan and The Sons of the Pioneers; "Miguelto," a novelty tune performed by Roy and Dale; and "Hereford Heaven," a tune written by Oklahoma Governor Roy J. Turner and performed by the Flying L Ranch Quartette.

Home in Oklahoma is one of more than two dozen Rogers Westerns directed by William Witney, who had worked his way up through the studio system from messenger boy to a director of serials for Republic Studios. After his tenure with the Rogers Westerns, Witney moved on to direct other action films including The Bonnie Parker Story (1958), Master of the World (1961) and Darktown Strutters (1975). In newspaper interviews and at film festivals, writer-director Quentin Tarantino has championed Witney as an unsung and influential master of filmmaking, particularly in his handling of the Rogers Westerns. Tarantino also has great admiration for Trigger, calling him "the greatest animal actor who ever was."

Producer: Edward J. White
Director: William Witney
Screenplay: Gerald Geraghty
Cinematography: William Bradford
Art Direction: Frank Hotaling
Original Music: Joseph Dubin, Jack Elliott (uncredited), Tim Spencer (uncredited)
Editing: Lester Orlebeck
Costume Design: Adele Palmer
Cast: Roy Rogers (Himself), George "Gabby" Hayes (Gabby Whittaker), Dale Evans (Connie Edwards), Carol Hughes (Jan Holloway), George Meeker (Steve) and Bob Nolan and The Sons of the Pioneers
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By Roger Fristoe

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teaser Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

Saul Chaplin and Adolph Deutsch won Oscars® for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture for the sprightly score of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). This MGM musical is based on the Stephen Vincent Benet story about a family of Oregon backwoodsmen who abduct a collection of not-entirely-unwilling maidens for purposes of marriage. Chaplin and Deutsch, who remained faithful to the movie's frontier spirit by favoring banjos, accordions and harmonicas in their orchestrations, had some great source material in the collection of witty and rousing songs created by composer Gene de Paul and lyricist Johnny Mercer. Among the outstanding numbers are "Goin' Courtin'," in which Jane Powell, as the wife of the eldest brother (Howard Keel), instructs her brothers-in-law in the ways of wooing; "Lament (I'm a Lonesome Polecat)," in which the boys give voice to their lovesickness; and "Sobbin' Women," in which Keel gets his brothers fired up for the kidnapping by relating the story of the rape of Sabine women by Roman soldiers.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was nominated in four other categories: Best Picture, Color Cinematography, Film Editing and Screenplay. Although they lost in the latter category, Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett and Dorothy Kingsley did share a Writers Guild of America award for Best Written American Musical. The movie proved a box-office smash (later becoming a perennial hit in revivals and on television, and spawning a stage version that also starred Powell and Keel). It won glowing critical notices, including Time magazine's claim that "It's the liltingest bit of tunesome lolly-gagging to hit the screen since An American in Paris," and appeared on almost every major "10 Best" list of its year. Director Stanley Donen's concept, with musical numbers developing from and advancing the plot, won favorable comparisons to the groundbreaking stage musical Oklahoma! (which would be filmed the following year). Michael Kidd's spirited and inventive choreography was singled out for special praise.

The attention and adulation heaped upon Seven Brides for Seven Brothers came as a major shock to MGM, which had relegated this film to a relatively low budget and back-lot shooting while lavishing a great deal more time, effort and expense that year on such other musicals as Rose Marie, Brigadoon and Jupiter's Darling. The Best Picture Oscar nomination was a particular distinction. During the 1940s and 1950s, generally considered the Golden Age of the Movie Musical, only three others of that genre from MGM earned such recognition: Anchors Aweigh (nominee, 1945), An American in Paris (winner, 1951) and Gigi (winner, 1958).

Director: Stanley Donen
Producer: Jack Cummings
Screenwriter: Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Dorothy Kingsley
Cinematogapher: George Folsey
Composer: Saul Chaplin
Editor: Ralph Winters
Art Director: Cedric Gibbons, Urie McCleary
Songwriter: Gene de Paul, Johnny Mercer
Costume Designer: Walter Plunkett
Cast: Howard Keel (Adam Pontabee), Jane Powell (Milly Pontabee), Jeff Richards (Benjamin Pontabee), Russ Tamblyn (Gideon Pontabee), Tommy Rall (Frank Pontabee), Marc Platt (Daniel Pontabee), Julie Newmar (Dorcas), Ruta Lee (Ruth Jackson), Virginia Gibson (Liza).
C-103m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.

by Roger Fristoe

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teaser Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

AWARDS AND HONORS

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was nominated for five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Musical Score, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, and Best Original Screenplay. It won one for Best Musical Score.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was nominated for a BAFTA Award as Best Picture.

Stanley Donen received a nomination from the Directors Guild of America as Best Director for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was selected for preservation into the National Film Registry in 1994.

Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich and Dorothy Kingsley won a Writers Guild of America award for Best Screenplay for their work on Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

In 2006 the American Film Institute named Seven Brides for Seven Brothers as the number 21 Greatest Movie Musical of All Time.

The Critics' Corner: SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954)

"..an inventive musical with enormous zest...Donen's intelligent use of the Cinemascope screen, at that time still an innovation, was especially notable in the dance sequences, all of which were neatly integrated into the plot."
- The Oxford Companion to Film

"Disappointingly studio-bound Western musical distinguished by an excellent score and some brilliant dancing, notably the barn-raising sequence."
- Halliwell's Film & Video Guide

"...this rather archly symmetrical movie musical is best seen as a dance-fest, with Michael Kidd's acrobatic, pas d'action choreography well complemented by ex-choreographer Donen's camera....Keel, avoiding even the odd faked toe-step, is at his least expressive, but it's vigorous and colourful if you can watch the Anscocolor process which also marred Brigadoon."
- W. Stephen Gilbert, TimeOut Film Guide

"...It's marred by a holiday family-picture heartiness - the M-G-M back-lot Americana gets rather thick...The picture is ambitious in its use of dance, and was unusual in that it features male dancers...who are most memorable in the "Lonesome Polecat" ballet in the snow."
- Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies

"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a fanciful romp which succeeds because of its perfect blending of story, dance, and music. The songs and dances not only compliment the story, but they also actually move it along."
Magill's Survey of Cinema

"...historic for being the first completely successful marriage of ballet and movie comedy."
- The Hollywood Reporter

"...the liltingest bit of tunesome lollygagging to hit the screen since the same studio brought forth An American in Paris [1951]."
- Time

"This is a happy, hand-clapping, foot-stomping country type of musical with all the slickness of a Broadway show. Johnny Mercer and Gene de Paul provide the slick, showy production with eight songs, all of which jibe perfectly with the folksy, hillbilly air maintained in the picture. Howard Keel's robust baritone and Jane Powell's lilting soprano make their songs extremely listenable. A real standout is the acrobatic hoedown staged around a barn-raising shindig, during which six of the title's seven brothers vie in love rivalry with the town boys for the favor of the mountain belles...The long and the short of the teaming of Keel and Powell is that the pairing comes off very satisfactorily, vocally and otherwise. The brothers are all good, with Russ Tamblyn standing out in particular for performance and his dance work."
- Variety

"Rollicking musical perfectly integrates song, dance, and story...Tuneful Johnny Mercer-Gene de Paul score (with Oscar-winning musical direction by Adolph Deutsch and Saul Chaplin), but it's Michael Kidd's energetic dance numbers that really stand out, with rare screen work by dancers Jacques d'Amboise and Marc Platt. The barn-raising sequence is an absolute knockout."
- Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide

Compiled by Andrea Passafiume

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