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Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

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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