#26. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
Directed by: Stanley Donen
Written by: Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, Dorothy Kingsley (based on The Sobbin’ Women by Stephen Vincent Benet)
Starring: Howard Keel, Jane Powell
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is the kind of movie that simply couldn’t and wouldn’t be made today – it’s satirical take on gender roles is far too controversial for the internet age. Director Stanley Donen was still fresh off his highly successful Singin’ in the Rain, with Donen continuing to tackle the comedy and musical films that made his landmark film so successful. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers takes place in 1850, and follows a backwoodsman named Adam (Howard Keel) as he ventures into town one day in search of a wife. He meets a young, assertive woman named Milly (Jane Powell), and the two quickly marry and set off to Adam’s cabin. What he hasn’t told her is that he has six younger brothers, and expects Milly to cook for and clean after the whole lot of them. Milly, with her never say die attitude, quickly teaches the brothers how to be seen as modern men and how to respect women. The brothers all fall in love with local girls from the town, with Adam encouraging them to be bold and profess their love for them. What follows is a serious of hilarious and fun situations that could only be found in a musical from the 1950’s. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is without a doubt one of the most charming, fun-loving musical films I’ve ever seen, and I adored it from the moment the opening credits rolled. Howard Keel’s Adam is loud, brash, and follows an outdated code of living, but is lighthearted almost to a fault. Keel’s deep singing voice carries many of the film’s musical numbers, and is one I’ve attempted to replicate in the shower more than once. Jane Powell’s much more innocent, but progressive, intelligent, and level-headed Milly serves as the film’s moral counterweight to Keel’s Adam. Powell’s beautiful singing voice serves as the perfect contrast to Keel’s booming voice – the two compliment each other perfectly. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers really shines in its songwriting, featuring three of my favorite musical numbers in “Bless Your Beautiful Hide”, “Goin’ Courtin’”, and “The Sobbin’ Women”, all of which are funny and charming in their own ways. Director Stanley Donen makes the best of MGM’s back lot sets, using matte paintings and rear projection to give a sense that the sets are much larger than they are in actuality. Donen and choreographer Michael Kidd make Seven Brides for Seven Brothers a truly unique experience, making compelling song-and-dance numbers out of things like chopping wood and raising a barn – both sequences are far more grand and memorable than they have any right to be. The highlight from a direction and choreography standpoint is the song “Lonesome Polecat”, which sees Adam’s six unhappy brothers chopping and sawing wood – Donen captures the entire impressive sequence in a single take. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a hilarious satire that takes a good, hard look at gender roles and masculinity. It’s easy to mistake the film for being a misogynist and ignorant work, but I truly don’t believe it to be anything of the sort. It’s far ahead of its time in terms of themes and subtlety, and is a film I could watch over and over again. If you’re fresh off this year’s wildly popular La La Land and looking for another (far different) musical to satisfy your appetite, look no further than Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.