Sunday, September 20, 2009

#464: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

Director: Stanley Donen
Cast: Howard Keel & Jane Powell

It can be hard living in the wilderness of America's northwest in the 1850's, especially with out a missus around the house. Adam Pontipee is determined to take the long ride into town and find a bride by the end of the day. Somehow, he succeeds when he finds Milly. When she returns to his house, she is surprised to find that not only is she a bride, but she is also responsible for serving Adam's six younger brothers (each biblically named in alphabetical order based on age: Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frankincense [or Frank] and Gideon). Milly unsuccessfully attempts to civilize these rugged men of the outdoors and help them find themselves brides. Instead, they all kidnap women from the town and cause an avalanche to keep them at their home for the winter.

This is one of the cheesiest, strangest musicals I've ever seen. The plot is absolutely absurd, and the songs - while catchy - are remarkably cliché. The sets are also nothing to brag about. Most of the scenes have a painted backdrop, thanks to MGM's low faith in this film and sourcing most of their budget towards Brigadoon.

The choreography is what anyone should watch this film for. Michael Kidd may not have choreographed many well known films, but this film as well as his hit Hello, Dolly! are undoubtedly a great credit to his name. He uses the story and set to their fullest by actually using the dances to continue the story in the famous scene in which the six younger brothers are trying to impress their brides-to-be. I would include a clip here. But I can't find one.

From what I hear, this film is really best known by kids who grew up on this film. For me, it was just kind of weird.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):
  • 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.
  • Rehearsals for the barn-raising sequence took 3 weeks.
  • For the brides costumes, designer Walter Plunkett went to the Salvation Army, found old quilts and turned them into dresses.
  • 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).

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