Adam, the eldest of seven brothers, goes to town to get a wife. He convinces Milly to marry him that same day. They return to his backwoods home. Only then does she discover he has six brothers -- all living in his cabin. Milly sets out to reform the uncouth siblings, who are anxious to get wives of their own. Then, after reading about the Roman capture of the Sabine women, Adam develops an inspired solution to his brothers' loneliness . . . kidnap the women they want!
Howard Keel ... Adam Pontipee
Jeff Richards ... Benjamin Pontipee
Russ Tamblyn ... Gideon Pontipee
Tommy Rall ... Frankincense (Frank) Pontipee
Marc Platt ... Daniel (Dan) Pontipee
Matt Mattox ... Caleb Pontipee
Jacques d'Amboise ... Ephraim Pontipee
Jane Powell ... Milly Pontipee
Julie Newmar ... Dorcas Gailen (as Julie Newmeyer)
Nancy Kilgas ... Alice Elcott
Betty Carr ... Sarah Kine
Virginia Gibson ... Liza
Ruta Lee ... Ruth Jebson (as Ruta Kilmonis)
Norma Doggett ... Martha
Ian Wolfe ... Rev. Elcott
Director: Stanley Donen
Nominated for 5 Oscars, won one Oscar.
Codecs: DivX 3 / AC3
How can "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" be such a wonderful musical? While the songs are lovely, they are mostly forgettable. The characters of the six brides and five of the brothers are almost hopelessly underwritten. Credit director Stanley Donen, choreographer Michael Kidd, cinematographer George Folsey, and a perfect cast led by Howard Keel and Jane Powell for creating one of the all time great musicals and an unforgettable motion picture experience even 50 years after its release.
"Brides" has never been surpassed for ensemble performance, and that includes "West Side Story". This is largely due to Michael Kidd's choreography and the Donen/Folsey scene composition. Kidd exploited the best elements of each character's dance style (one brother is a ballet star; another, an acrobat) and created the most bravura ballroom/freestyle dance number in motion picture history, the barn dance sequence which formally introduces the "brides" to the "brothers".
Kidd's work would have been in vain, however, had not Donen and Folsey so skillfully composed the scene. "Brides" is the best example of scene composition of any wide screen musical I've ever seen; every frame is filled with something visually interesting. Donen frequently, but subtly uses Jane Powell's tiny stature for comic effect by surrounding her with the tall brothers in submissive poses. Powell is clearly always in control, but her size and generally cheery temperament prevent her from ever seeming a bully.
Donen also carefully chose to dress the brothers in bright, distinctly colored shirts, which enables the audience to clearly distinguish the characters during key scenes.
The movie also has a subtle feminist slant. Powell is clearly younger than her husband, Howard Keel, but she is also clearly a more mature and dominant character. For the time, "Brides" was also daring in its depiction of "good" women looking forward to enjoying sex. Prior to one song/dance number, bride Julie Newmarr poses on a bed in a position clearly representing "missionary position" sex, legs up and astride an imaginary lover's back.
Though the brides don't get as much screen time or individuality as the brothers, each looks as if she would be a great partner. Both the brides and the brothers get a satisfactory showcasing as couples in the last song, "Spring, Spring, Spring".
I would like to mention that Donen had an uphill battle with the studio while making "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers". The studio had so little faith, they continually cut "Brides" budget to put more money into the lumbering "Brigadoon." Sets and even cast members were loaned out to other movies. Brothers Russ Tamblyn an Jeff Richards, as well as part of the set can be seen in "Many Rivers to Cross."
Instead of Technicolor, the studio used Ansco color. Thus, "Brides" looks about as good as "Wizard of Oz," but no where near as good as "Harvey Girls" or "Meet Me in St. Louis." That's quite an achievement being the best photographed, best choreographed and best ensemble acted musical of the last 50 years. I think it's also the most entertaining.
* Matt Mattox' singing was dubbed by Bill Lee.
* On the 2004 DVD commentary, Stanley Donen states that the film was originally shot in two versions, one widescreen and another in normal ratio, because MGM was concerned that not all theatres had the capability to screen it. Despite the fact that it cost more than the widescreen version to make, he says, the other version was never used.
* Scenes for the widescreen version were shot in the morning and, for the normal ratio, in the afternoon.
* MGM considered this a B movie - they had higher aspirations for the more expensive "Brigadoon". For this reason, they slashed the budget on "Seven Brothers", forcing Stanley Donen to use painted backdrops instead of location filming.
* Played at the Radio City Music Hall in New York in a slot that was originally intended for "Brigadoon".
* The censors weren't too happy about the line in the song "Lonesome Polecat" where the brothers lament "A man can't sleep when he sleeps with sheep". By not showing any sheep in the same shot as the brothers, the film-makers were able to get away with it.
* Stanley Donen was producer Jack Cummings' first choice for director from the outset, thanks to his success with "On the Town" and "Singin' in the Rain".
* Michael Kidd initially turned down the project. He had just come off a show on Broadway and wanted a rest. He changed his mind after hearing the score.
* Rehearsals for the barn-raising sequence took 3 weeks.
* Shot in only 48 days.
* Only four of the brothers were dancers. Russ Tamblyn (Gideon) was an acrobat, and Jeff Richards (Benjamin) was an actor. Benjamin rarely dances in the movie.
* Jacques d'Amboise had to leave before filming was finished because he was still under contract with the New York City Ballet, so someone filled in for him during the last few days. You can see someone else playing Ephraim in the scene where the brothers are pacing downstairs while Milly is giving birth.
* For the brides costumes, designer Walter Plunkett went to the Salvation Army, found old quilts and turned them into dresses.
* The avalanche was filmed at Corral Creek Canyon, at Sun Valley, Idaho.
* Because there was no way of distinguishing between them and the Town Suitors, MGM decided to make all the Pontipee Brothers red-headed.
* Jeff Richards (a former professional baseball player) was one of the two "brothers" not chosen for his dancing ability. The other being Howard Keel, who was an actor/singer.
* Average Shot Length (ASL) = 12 seconds (CinemaScope version)
* Caleb says, "There was no 'F' names in the Bible, so Ma named him Frankincense, 'cause he smelled so sweet." However, there are in fact three "F" names in the Bible: Felix (referenced in Acts 24:27); Fes'tus (referenced in Acts 24:27, 25:1, 25:4, 25:9, 25:12, 25:13, 25:14, 25:22, 25:24, 26:24, 26:25, and 26:32); and Fortunatus (referenced in 1 Corinthians 16:17).
* The working titles of this film were "Sobbin' Women" and "A Bride for Seven Brothers".
* The story of the Sabine women referred to in the film came from Plutarch's Life of Romulus .
* M-G-M had waited five years to acquire the rights to 'Stephen Vincent Benét' 's short story, as Broadway producer Joshua Logan had optioned the story as a potential stage musical.
* Director Stanley Donen said that producer Jack Cummings originally planned to use existing American folk songs for the film's musical numbers. After months spent searching in vain for the right music, Donen recalled, the decision was made to commission an original score.
* M-G-M did not have high financial expectations for the film, and chose instead to allocate its resources to Rose Marie (1954) and Brigadoon (1954)--films that never matched this film's commercial and critical success.
* Reportedly Howard Keel's personal favorite of his movies.