Saturday, February 12, 2011

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954).


Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). Directed by Stanley Donen, with music by Saul Chaplin and Gene de Paul, and lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The script by Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, and Dorothy Kingsley, is based on the short story The Sobbin' Women, by Stephen Vincent Benét, which was based in turn on the Ancient Roman legend of The Rape of the Sabine Women. The film was a 1954 Oscar nominee for Best Picture. The film is known for the beautiful choreography by Michael Kidd, which makes dance numbers out of  chopping wood and raising a barn.

The story begins when woodsman Adam Pontipee comes to town looking for a bride. He soon meets Milly, who agrees to marry Adam on a whim, even though she just met him. When she arrives at the cabin she is surprised to learn that Adam is one of seven brothers living in the same cabin.

Milly teaches Adam's younger brothers manners and how to dance. At first, the brothers have a hard time changing from their "mountain man" ways. Soon they are able to test their new manners at a barn-raising, where they meet six girls they like. One major problem, the girls already have suitors from the town, who get into fight with the brothers during the barn-raising. After which, they are banished from the town by the townspeople.

Winter arrives and the six younger brothers become moody longing for their girls. Adam reads his brothers the story of "Sobbin' Women" and tells them that they should go get their girls. Adam and his brothers come up with a plan to kidnap the girls and then cause an avalanche so that they can't be followed by the townspeople. Unfortunately, they have forgotten to kidnap a preacher. Milly is furious at Adam and the girls are upset at having been kidnapped. Milly sends the brothers out to the barn "with the rest of the animals" while the girls live in the house. Adam, offended by Milly's reaction, leaves for the trapping cabin to live out the winter by himself. Will his temper cool by the spring?

I do not remember very many western musicals that are this much fun to watch.



Fun Fact:

The dresses were made from old quilts that costume designer Walter Plunkett found at the Salvation Army.

Soundtracks:

"Barn Dance"
Music by Gene de Paul
danced by Brothers, Brides and Town Suitors

"Bless Yore Beautiful Hide"
Music by Gene de Paul
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Howard Keel

"Wonderful, Wonderful Day"
Music by Gene de Paul
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Jane Powell

"When You're in Love"
Music by Gene de Paul
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Jane Powell and Howard Keel

"Goin' Co'tin'"
Music by Gene de Paul
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Jane Powell

"House-Raising Dance"
Music by Gene de Paul
Danced by brothers, girls and city boys

"Lonesome Polecat"
Music by Gene de Paul
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Matt Mattox (dubbed by Bill Lee (uncredited)) and chorus

"Sobbin' Women"
Music by Gene de Paul
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Howard Keel, brothers

"June Bride"
Music by Gene de Paul
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Virginia Gibson and chorus

"Spring, Spring, Spring"
Music by Gene de Paul
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by chorus
Cast:

Adam: Howard Keel appeared as "Adam," the romantic lead and eldest of the seven brothers.

Benjamin: Jeff Richards, who played "Benjamin," was a former professional baseball player who topped out at the AAA level of the minor leagues. Per the filming notes in the DVD anniversary edition, although obviously athletic, he is noticeably in the background, seated, or standing during the dance numbers so as to not expose his less than stellar dancing skills. Unfortunately this often relegated his partner, the classically-trained ballet dancer Julie Newmar, as well to the background.

Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim and Frank: All four actors (Matt Mattox, Marc Platt, Jacques d'Amboise, and Tommy Rall) were professional dancers - with d'Amboise (Ephraim) appearing on loan from the New York City Ballet. All four balanced on a beam together during their famous barn-raising dance.

Gideon: Russ Tamblyn beat Morton Downey Jr. for the role of youngest brother Gideon. Tamblyn showcased his gymnastics training throughout the action sequences.

Milly: Jane Powell channeled her experiences growing up in Oregon to create Milly. She and Howard Keel would later reprise their roles in a Seven Brides for Seven Brothers stage revival.

Dorcas: Julie Newmar (Newmeyer), a classically trained ballerina, would later rise to fame as Catwoman in the 1960s TV version of Batman. She also won a Supporting Actress Tony Award for The Marriage-Go-Round (starring Claudette Colbert). She appeared on her neighbor James Belushi's sitcom According to Jim after the two settled a highly publicized lawsuit.

Ruth: Ruta Lee enjoyed a long stage and television career, working with Lucille Ball, Sammy Davis, Jr., Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, and Frank Sinatra. Lee appeared in the sitcom Roseanne as the first girlfriend of Roseanne's mother. Her singing parts were dubbed in post-production by Betty Noyes.

Martha: Norma Doggett performed in the 1940s-50s Broadway shows Bells Are Ringing, Fanny, Wish You Were Here, Miss Liberty, and Magdalena

Liza: Virginia Gibson was nominated for a Tony Award in 1957 and performed regularly on the Johnny Carson show.

Sarah: Betty Carr was also a Broadway veteran, dancing in Damn Yankees, Happy Hunting, Mask and Gown, and Fanny (alongside Norma Doggett). She died in October 2008 (the first of the seven brides to pass away).

Alice: Nancy Kilgas made her film debut in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. She danced in the film versions of Oklahoma!, Shake, Rattle & Rock!, and Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain.

No comments:

Post a Comment