Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Jane Powell and Howard Keel

'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' is an outstanding MGM musical film made in 1954, directed by Stanley Donen and starring Howard Keel and Jane Powell. It is based on Stephen Vincent Benét's short story "The Sobbin' Women" which itself is based on and is a parody of the Roman legend "The Rape of the Sabine Women".

The film was regarded as a 'B' movie by MGM and given an accordingly tight budget in favor of the supposedly more prestigious 'Brigadoon' which was being made at the same time. This can be seen in the obviously painted mountain backgrounds and cheap stagey sets. Nevertheless, it was a huge success on release and has become one of the best loved of all MGM fims whilst 'Brigadoon' has been relegated to the lower ranks of movie musicals.

In 1954 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' received five Academy Award nominations, including for Best Picture and won the Oscar for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture, and in 2004 it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of America as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." It is ranked at number 21 in the AFI's list of Best Musicals.

Unusually for a musical 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' contains a well defined, and interesting, storyline and the songs and dances blend seamlessly into the action, never seeming to be contrived and artificial. The fast-moving plot centres round Adam Pontipee (Howard Keel) who is a mountain-dwelling woodsman. When he marries Millie (Jane Powell) and takes her home to his cabin in the woods she is horrified to discover that he has six brothers living with him, all uncouth, dirty and all looking for a wife.

Millie soon sorts the brothers out, teaching them etiquette and how to dance, to help them gain wives. They do each find a girl to marry although there are many twists and turns including kidnap and gang fighting, until finally the brothers all marry their sweethearts in a traditional happy ending. Along the way there is some inspired dancing and and exhilarating, memorable songs such as "Bless Your Beautiful Hide" and "Wonderful, Wonderful Day".

The dancing in the movie has been justly praised for its innovation, exciting intensity and sheer energy and athleticism. The choreography by Michael Kidd is breathtaking with the highlight being the famous "Raising the Barn" sequence where the brothers vie with the towns boys to win over the girls. Kidd succeeded in using the strengths of each dancer - ballet, gymnastics, acrobatics - to create an unforgettable dancing spectacle one of the best in movie history.

One of the strengths of the movie is its casting. The principals, Howard Keel and Jane Powell are perfectly matched and perform beautifully together. They later reprised their roles in a 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' stage revival. The six brothers are all extremely talented - some as dancers,some as acrobats and gymnasts and some as actors. Russ Tamblyn as Gideon is one acrobat who stands out as does Jacques d'Amboise as Ephraim, who was the principal dancer of the New York City Ballet. The six beautiful brides are less in the spotlight, but all were ballet dancers, all get their chance to shine, and all perform faultlessly.

In short, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' is a heart-warming, feel-good family movie, telling an interesting story beautifully, with first class acting, singing and dancing. It is an unmitigated movie delight and should not be missed.

Main Cast

Howard Keel ... Adam Pontipee
Jeff Richards ... Benjamin Pontipee
Russ Tamblyn ... Gideon Pontipee
Tommy Rall ... Frank Pontipee
Marc Platt ... Daniel Pontipee
Matt Mattox ... Caleb Pontipee
Jacques d'Amboise ... Ephraim Pontipee
Jane Powell ... Milly
Julie Newmar ... Dorcas (as Julie Newmeyer)
Nancy Kilgas ... Alice
Betty Carr ... Sarah
Virginia Gibson ... Liza
Ruta Lee ... Ruth (as Ruta Kilmonis)
Norma Doggett ... Martha
Ian Wolfe ... Rev. Elcott


Director ... Stanley Donen
Producer ... Jack Cummings
Screenplay ... Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, Dorothy Kingsley
Music ... Gene de Paul, Saul Chaplin
Cinematography ... George Folsey
Choreography ... Michael Kidd
Distribution Company ... Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date ... July 22, 1954
Running time ... 102 minutes

Academy Awards

One Win:
Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture ... Adolph Deutsch, Saul Chaplin
Four Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Picture ... Jack Cummings
Best Cinematography, Color ... George Folsey
Best Film Editing ... Ralph E. Winters
Best Writing, Screenplay ... Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, Dorothy Kingsley