|Jane Powell rules the roost: 7 brothers instead of dwarves|
In the Oregon territory of 1850 rugged farmer Adam (Howard Keel) comes to town and is instantly smitten with a busy waitress named Milly (Jane Powell), and vice versa. The two get hitched and Milly discovers that she now has six brothers-in-law that she has to attend to. The crude brothers, who are taught manners by Milly, go a-courtin', but when things don't proceed as fast as they want, they resort to kidnapping potential brides upon the advice of Adam. Milly is outraged and orders the men into the barn while Adam goes off to a cabin to wait out the winter, unaware that Milly is pregnant ... Seven Brides has been denounced as misogynous in some quarters, but while some of the characters may be misogynous, I don't really think the film is. Sure, it's handy that the brothers all turn out to be gentlemen who never molest the ladies, and even handier that all of the women fall in love with the boys (it might have added some dramatic conflict if one or two of the gals had preferred their old boyfriends or just found none of the brothers appealing), but I don't believe any of this is meant to be taken seriously. In any case, the main thing about the vastly entertaining Seven Brides is not the plot but its sheer enthusiasm, its embrace of life, its excellent performances, and the wonderful singing and dancing throughout. Powell and Keel are perfection and they're nearly matched by the other players, including Ian Wolfe [Dressed to Kill] as Reverend Elcott; and Russ Tamblyn, Jeff Richards [Born Reckless] and the other brothers as well. (Ruta Lee -- billed as Ruta Kilmonis -- and Julie Newmar -- billed as Julie Newmeyer -- are two of the wives.) Seven Brides is also distinguished by the fact that it has one of the best scores for a movie musical that is not based on a Broadway show (although decades later Seven Brides was turned into a musical for the London stage). Johnny Mercer and Gene de Paul provided genuinely memorable tunes such as"Lonesome Polecat" "Sobbin' Women;" "Bless Your Beautiful Hide;" "When You're in Love;" and especially the beautiful "Wonderful Day" and infectious "Spring, Spring, Spring." Wonderfully photographed in CinemaScope and Technicolor by George Folsey. The choreography is by Michael Kidd, who was also an actor [It's Always Fair Weather].
Verdict: Whatever its peculiarities, this is a top-flight musical. ***1/2.