From the way I ranted and fumed over the pompous plot of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, my husband half suggested I do a video review, but I don’t think I could let the same amount of authentic rage flow for a second time. It’s best to just to cleanse my mind with the meditation of writing. I really need it after this crock of shit.
Adam Pontipee (Howard Keel) is the eldest of the seven brothers who all live in the backwoods. On his latest trip into town for supplies, he decides to pick up wife for himself as well. You know, like a sack of groceries. As he’s strolling around town, looking all the maidens up and down for the right characteristics, he see Milly (Jane Powell) working hard at chopping wood. That passes test number one: physical labor. He sees that she’s a cook, and a good one at that, thus passing all the necessities for a wife (assuming all females have a natural knack for cleaning). Almost politely, he asks Milly to marry him, that day, since he doesn’t have time for the usual courting. Well, every girl jumps at the chance to be a bride, right? But Milly doesn’t learn about the six other rowdy men she has to cook and clean for until she arrives at her new home.
I gotta give Milly a little credit. Though she made a typical dumb-girl decision, she whips this band of redneck redheads into shape. No more eating like starved hogs; she makes them bathe, shave off those dirty red beards, say grace and even pass the food politely. The way these boys shaped up for her, I had high hopes when the younger six decide they want to find wives.
No matter how much the boys try to be gentlemen, they just end up raising hell. After they meet a few girls, they start a fight and destroy the barn they were trying to raise for the town. It seems they’ll never get wives. To cheer them up, Adam gets an idea from that bible book Milly brought with her about how the Romans just kidnapped themselves some Sabine women.
Reader, at times I honestly couldn’t believe what I was seeing here. Is it supposed to be funny or cute when a band of ignorant redheads come storming into town, climbin’ in your windows and snatchin’ your people up? Where was Antoine Dodson when we really needed him? Was I watching an Oscar nominated movie or a Bugs Bunny cartoon? What were these people thinking back in 1954?
Of course, kidnapping girls to marry doesn’t go over well with Milly, so she banishes the boys to the barn, including Adam who is more of a ringleader than a husband anyway. She takes care of the girls and they all sit around in their 19th century lingerie talking dreamily about getting married and having babies. You know, like girls do. From the title, you can guess how this bullshit story ends.
It’s not enough to be a fan of musicals to enjoy this film. For me, the song and dance moments were happy pauses from the asinine plot and I usually want to omit the music from the musicals. I appreciated the physicality and acrobatics bravely used in the dance numbers, at times it looked like a redneck West Side Story, and I mean that as a compliment.
While this film is set in the Oregon frontier, it always feels extremely cramped. Rather than given the money to shoot on location, the whole thing was shot in a tiny studio, with crude backdrops created in an attempt to depict the mountains and wild woods in the distance. The sets always feel claustrophobic, this would probably feel more authentic and free on a live stage. Even a high school stage.
If you want to expose yourself or others to chauvinistic, backwoods ideals on how to treat women, by all means see Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. There are some rare cute moments that go over well, the ABC bible names for the brothers is kinda fun, but most of them just make my eyes roll. Ladies, I suggest staying away from this film unless you want to lose all faith in humanity for a little while. After all, one possible title for this film was “Sobbin’ Women.” It fits.
“What do I need manners for? I already got me a wife.”
It’s 1954 and the Academy is looking for a musical to nominate for Best Picture. For the the fuss about this film, if you want to find a musical that year…what about WHITE CHRISTMAS, the quintessential 50s musical, and a whole lot more entertaining than this 7/7.
I have to say, after finally viewing this film…I disagree. I think the misogyny is kind of the point and we’re never really supposed to support anything they say or do. Milly is the good guy in this one. The guys are all dopes and treated essentially as cartoon characters.
The story, “The Sobbin’ Women” that this is an adaptation of is a parody of the story they recount of the abduction of the Sabine women that Roman’s actually took seriously and used as a sign of their hardiness. We’re not supposed to cheer the brothers on in their quest, we’re supposed to laugh at them.
Now of course you could argue that because things basically work out in the end that they never truly learn their lesson. But as this is a musical I think we’re probably supposed to understand the movie on a more general level: The men had to earn the companionship of their wives by showing courtesy and treating them as equals. Think of it in terms of “Beauty and the Beast.” I’m sure you’ve heard the argument before that this movie really teaches young women that it’s OK for a man to lock you up and be mean to you as long as he says he’s sorry over. Of course, that’s not really what it’s saying. It’s a fable and not really supposed to be taken absolutely literally.
I also have to wonder if the movie’s not trying to take some shots at the bibles treatment of women as well. If you remember, one of Milly’s arguments on why she agrees to marry Adam in the first place is that her father is always telling her a woman has no place being by herself (paraphrasing here). The brothers are all named after the bible. And then finally, the resolution comes about because (spoilers) the women won’t say whose baby it is. The message being of course that if there’s anything worse than marrying your abductors it’s having a child out of wedlock.
Those are my two cents. Hopefully I was clear!