Seven Brides For Seven Brothers-1954
Starring-Howard Keel, Jane Powell
Scott’s Review #711
Reviewed January 7, 2018
Seven Brides For Seven Brothers is a 1954 musical and another in a string of Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer productions, ever so present during the “Golden Age of Hollywood”. The songs are not quite as memorable as similar musicals of the day, and the film has a sexist slant that is jarring in today’s gender equal standards. But given the time that the film was made, and the time period setting of the mid-nineteenth century, however, things were very different, and the film does contain one semi-strong female character at least. Seven Brides For Seven Brothers is a nice film, but in present times seems quite dated and irrelevant- little more than an ode to yesteryear.
Adam Pompitee (Howard Keel), is a dashing, rugged man, living in the Oregon Territory in the year of 1850. He struts into town and proclaims his desire for a wife- presumably to cook and clean for him and his six younger brothers, all living together in a cabin in the rural mountains. When he falls head over heels for tavern worker Milly (Jane Powell), they impulsively marry, but she is disappointed to learn she will be caring for seven men- not one. Milly then plots to marry off the unruly bunch to local girls. Throughout the course of the film, characters partake in song and dance and merriment as the hi-jinks play out in wild fashion.
At its core, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers is meant to be a lighthearted romp, and it succeeds at that. Containing a strong romantic angle and the message of finding one’s soul-mate is palpable- Milly is the sensible female counter-part to erratic Adam, and there is good chemistry between the actors. Milly is strong-willed and eventually puts her foot down, but still accepts her role as the domestic and the caretaker.
Fun is how each of the brothers manages to find the one girl in town meant for him as the duo’s pair off in unison. This is a cute aspect of the film- and perhaps a film such as this one is not entirely meant to be over-analyzed. Humorous, if not just slightly overdone, is the luscious red hair that each of the Pontipee brothers has- obviously dyed hair or wigs were used as needed.
The film succeeds when it sticks to the song and dancing numbers, which are far more entertaining than the story-line. MGM used actors who were classically trained singers or dancers, giving the film a more authentic choreography. Given the fourteen principle characters involved in the production, this must have been a beast to achieve without things looking ridiculous. Keel, as main character Adam, was in fact a professional singer, having appeared in a number of musicals such as Kiss Me Kate and Showboat. Powell, as Milly, holds her own with a gorgeous singing voice and also appeared in other musicals.
Still, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers contains a bothersome sexist story and women are treated more as objects for men to conquer rather than real people with feelings or emotions. The overall implication within the film are that women are desperate to get married and should be flattered to be chosen by any man. This is readily apparent when the brothers accost the girls from their homes and take them unwillingly to the cabin where, predictably, the women succumb to the men’s desires and fall in love with them.
A film to be taken with a grain of salt and a trip back to olden times, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers is a dated picture, but a fun one containing grand production numbers such as “Lonesome Polecat”, “When You’re In Love”, and “June Bride”. These songs are light and airy and a high point of the film. For those seeking a liberal minded affair, this film will disappoint, as the film is very conservative with traditional male/female roles and expectations, as much as one could imagine.