AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Alternate Title: A Bride for Seven Brothers
Director: Stanley Donen (Dir)
Release Date:   6 Aug 1954
Premiere Information:   World premiere in Houston, TX: 15 Jul 1954; New York opening: 22 Jul 1954
Production Date:   30 Nov 1953--early Feb 1954
Duration (in mins):   102-103
Duration (in feet):   9,164
Duration (in reels):   13
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Cast: The Pontipee Brothers: Howard Keel (Adam)  
    Jeff Richards (Benjamin)  
    Russ Tamblyn (Gideon)  
    Tommy Rall (Frank)  
    Marc Platt (Daniel)  
    Matt Mattox (Caleb)  
    Jacques d'Amboise (Ephraim) Courtesy New York City Ballet
  The Brides: Jane Powell (Milly)  
    Julie Newmeyer (Dorcas [Gaylen])  
    Nancy Kilgas (Alice [Elcott])  
    Betty Carr (Sarah)  
    Virginia Gibson (Liza)  
    Ruta Kilmonis (Ruth)  
    Norma Doggett (Martha)  
  The Townspeople: Ian Wolfe (Rev. Elcott)  
    Howard Petrie (Pete Perkins)  
    Earl Barton (Harry)  
    Dante Dipaolo (Matt)  
    Kelly Brown (Carl)  
    Matt Moore (Ruth's uncle)  
    Dick Rich (Dorcas' father)  
    Marjorie Wood (Mrs. Bixby)  
    Russell Simpson (Mr. [Fred] Bixby)  
    Anna Q. Nilsson (Mrs. Elcott)  
    Larry Blake (Drunk)  
    Phil Rich (Prospector)  
    Carol Crei (Fat girl)  
    Russ Saunders (Swain)  
    Terry Wilson (Swain)  
    George Robothom (Swain)  
    Walter Beaver (Lem)  
    Jarma Lewis (Lem's girl friend)  
    Sheila James (Dorcas' sister)  
    Gene Roth (Man in saloon)  
    Billy Dix (Man in saloon)  
    Duane Thorson (Rancher)  
    Geraldine Hall (Mother)  
    Ruth Robinson (Mother)  
    Helyn Eby-Rock (Mother)  
    Margaret Wells (Mother)  
    Elizabeth Holmes (Mother)  
    Stan Jolley (Father)  
    Tim Graham (Father)  
    Ann Baker    
    Lois Hall    
    Millie Doff    
    Michele Ducasse    

Summary: In the Oregon territory in 1850, farmer Adam Pontipee comes into town to trade and announces to the shopkeepers that he is in the market for a wife to keep house for him and his six younger brothers. He quickly becomes enamored of Milly, a pretty, hard-working young woman who cooks for the local boardinghouse. Explaining that the responsibilities of running a farm do not allow for a lengthy courtship, Adam proposes to Milly, and they are married right away. As they ride back to the farm, Milly rejoices that she will now have only one man to take care of, and Adam does not have the heart to spoil her illusion. When they reach the farm, Milly is stunned at the sight of all the rough-and-tumble Pontipee brothers, but she promptly sets about putting their back-woods home in order. That night, however, the brothers' appalling table manners infuriate Milly, and she reproachfully tells Adam that he wanted a servant, not a wife. Milly banishes Adam from the bedroom, then relents, confessing that she loved him at first sight. The following morning, Milly begins the task of civilizing the brothers, forcing them to submit to underwear-laundering and a shave before giving them breakfast. She also instructs them in the etiquette of courting women, and after a month, they all attend a barn-raising dance. Despite the brothers' efforts to be on their best behavior, they are drawn into a brawl by the men from town. Later, Milly overhears as the youngest brother, Gideon, tells Adam he fears the townspeople will never let the brothers court their women now. Winter comes, and the brothers find themselves lonesome and pining for female companionship. When brother Benjamin announces his intention to leave the farm, Milly tells Adam that the brothers are grieving for the women they met at the dance. Determined to keep his family together, Adam, who has been reading a copy of Plutarch's Lives given to Milly by her late father, hatches a plan. Gathering his brothers in the barn, Adam tells them they should follow the example of the ancient Romans with the Sabine women by carrying off their future brides. The Pontipee men go into town and abduct the women of their dreams, then ride off with the townspeople in pursuit. After getting through a treacherous mountain pass, the brothers fire their guns, causing an avalanche that prevents the townspeople from following them. Milly is shocked when the brothers show up with their captives, and sends all the men to live in the barn. Stung by Milly's harsh words, Adam goes to spend the rest of the winter in his trapping cabin in the mountains. The snowbound women soon begin to moon over the brothers, and when Milly announces she is going to have a baby, they all long to be married. Spring finally arrives, and the brothers and their girl friends happily pursue romance. Milly gives birth to a daughter, but when Gideon rides to the trapping cabin with the news, Adam stubbornly refuses to come home. Adam returns when the pass reopens, however, fearing an attack by the townspeople. After greeting his daughter Hannah and making up with Milly, Adam announces that the women will be returned to their families at once. The brothers oppose this plan, and while the men are sorting it out, the women run away. The brothers set about recapturing the women, who struggle fiercely as they now wish to stay. The women's kinfolk from town arrive in time to witness the fracas, and the brothers are quickly overpowered. Just as the townspeople are about to hang the brothers, Hannah's cries are heard from inside the house. Reverend Elcott inquires about the baby and, in a moment of inspiration, the women simultaneously claim to be the mother. A shotgun wedding is performed at once, and all the happy couples kiss. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Stanley Donen (Dir)
  Ridgeway Callow (Asst dir)
  Major Roup (Asst dir)
Producer: Jack Cummings (Prod)
Writer: Albert Hackett (Scr)
  Frances Goodrich (Scr)
  Dorothy Kingsley (Scr)
Photography: George Folsey (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Urie McCleary (Art dir)
Film Editor: Ralph E. Winters (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
  Hugh Hunt (Set dec)
Costumes: Walter Plunkett (Cost des)
Music: Adolph Deutsch (Mus dir)
  Saul Chaplin (Mus supv)
  Alexander Courage (Orch)
  Conrad Salinger (Orch)
  Leo Arnaud (Orch)
  Gene de Paul (Mus)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec supv)
  Norwood Fenton (Sd)
  Stewart Walden (Sd)
  Van Alen James (Sd ed)
  Dick Campbell (Boom op)
Special Effects: A. Arnold Gillespie (Spec eff)
  Warren Newcombe (Spec eff)
Dance: Michael Kidd (Dances and mus numbers staged by)
  Alex Romero (Asst dance dir)
  Pat Denise (Asst dance dir)
Make Up: Sydney Guilaroff (Hair styles)
  William Tuttle (Makeup created by)
Production Misc: Charles Levin (Unit mgr)
  Mollie Kent (Scr supv)
  Leonard Murphy (Casting)
  Eddie Woehler (Loc crew)
Stand In: Betty Allan (Singing voice double for Julie Newmeyer)
  Barbara Ames (Singing voice double for Norma Doggett)
  Betty Noyes (Singing voice double for Ruta Kilmonis)
  Norma Zimmer (Singing voice double for Betty Carr)
  William B. Lee (Singing voice double for Matt Mattox)
Color Personnel: Alvord Eiseman (Col consultant)
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "Bless Your Beautiful Hide," "Goin' Co'tin," "June Bride," "Sobbin' Women," "Lament(Lonesome Polecat)," "Spring, Spring, Spring," "When You're in Love" and "Wonderful, Wonderful Day," music by Gene De Paul, lyrics by Johnny Mercer.
Composer: Johnny Mercer
  Gene de Paul
Source Text: Based on the short story "The Sobbin' Women" by Stephen Vincent Benét in Argosy (Nov 1938).
Authors: Stephen Vincent Benét

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 15/6/1954 dd/mm/yyyy LP3898 Yes

PCA NO: 16932
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Sound System
  col: Ansco Color
  Widescreen/ratio: CinemaScope
  Lenses/Prints: Technicolor

Genre: Musical comedy
Subjects (Major): Abduction
  United States--History--Social life and customs
Subjects (Minor): Avalanches
  Barn dances
  Spring fever

Note: The working titles of this film were Sobbin' Women and A Bride for Seven Brothers . The story of the Sabine women referred to in the film came from Plutarch's Life of Romulus . The cast is listed in different order in the opening and closing credits. In the opening credits, the actors are listed in the following order: Jane Powell, Howard Keel, Jeff Richards, Russ Tamblyn, Tommy Rall, Howard Petrie, Virginia Gibson and Ian Wolfe. According to a 25 Nov 1951 LAT news item, M-G-M had waited five years to acquire the rights to Stephen Vincent Benét's short story, as Broadway producer Joshua Logan had optioned the story as a potential stage musical. In an interview published in a modern source, director Stanley Donen said that producer Jack Cummings originally planned to use existing American folk songs for the film's musical numbers. After months spent searching in vain for the right music, Donen recalled, the decision was made to commission an original score. According to a biography of Donen, composer Harold Arlen was chosen to collaborate with lyricist Johnny Mercer on the songs. However, Donen said, "Johnny Mercer told me he wouldn't work with Harold Arlen. Johnny said, 'He's too picky about the words that go with his music.' Gene de Paul did the music, and the score suffered." A 28 Nov 1951 item in HR 's "Rambling Reporter" column stated that composer Harry Warren would be Mercer's song-writing partner.
       According to a 13 Aug 1953 HR news item, Steve Forrest was cast, but he was not in the film. Dec 1953 HR news items add the following actors to the cast: Regis Parton, Leroy Johnson, Saul Gorss, Carl Pitti, George Paul, Tom Steel, Frank McGrath, John Daheim, Henry Wills, Fred Kennedy, Johnny Indrisano, Hazel Burgess, Betty Graeff, Jerry Martin and Clint Sharp. The appearance of these actors in the final film has not been confirmed, however. According to a modern source, star Howard Keel attempted to have Donen replaced by director George Sidney. Although some location shooting took place at Tioga Pass in the High Sierras, the film was shot primarily on M-G-M's back lot. According to modern sources, Donen wanted to shoot the film on location over the course of a year, "because we were covering events in our story that required all four seasons," but the studio refused to grant the film such a high budget. Modern sources contend that M-G-M did not have high financial expectations for the film, and chose instead to allocate its resources to Rose Marie and Brigadoon (see entries above)--films that never matched the commercial and critical success of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers .
       With full location shooting no longer an option, Donen was forced to rely on painted backdrops for the outdoor scenes. "The backdrops always hurt the picture," Donen asserted in a modern source, "less when it came out than now, because then people were used to seeing pictures shot in studios. But it breaks my heart to look at the picture." Donen added that he had hoped to film "Spring, Spring, Spring" as a lavish production number, complete with footage of chicks hatching, fish spawning and snow melting on a mountainside. According to a Jul 1953 memo in the M-G-M Collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library, A. J. Reilly, head of the studio's film library, contacted Ohio filmmaker Karl H. Maslowski, whose material had been incorporated in the 1951 M-G-M film Across the Wide Missouri (see above). Reilly explained that the studio was making a film containing a "spring awakening montage" and needed footage of various nature scenes. Reilly requested a viewing print of Maslowski's film Under Ohio Skies , but it has not been determined whether any of Maslowski's footage was used in the final film. Correspondence in the Collection indicates that M-G-M also considered using footage from some of Walt Disney's nature films, but rejected this plan when it became clear that Disney would insist on screen credit.
       An 18 Dec 1953 HR news item reported that Donen was planning to shoot the brawl in the barn-raising sequence with four cameras simultaneously. Although a 1 Dec 1953 news item noted that the production would mark the first time that the Ansco Color process was used in conjunction with CinemaScope, they were also used in tandem on The Student Prince , an M-G-M film shot almost simultaneously to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and given its premiere a month prior to it. Donen stated in a modern biography that because many theaters were not equipped to exhibit CinemaScope pictures, he was required to make the film both in CinemaScope and in a flat version. "I had to shoot and cut everything twice--restage scenes, put in a different set of marks, light it differently, loop it," he recalled. "We had two cutting rooms going, and it cost the studio another $500,000, which was a lot for then."
       Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was enormously popular with both audiences and critics. The HR review proclaimed the film "historic for being the first completely successful marriage of ballet and movie comedy," and Time called it "the liltingest bit of tunesome lollygagging to hit the screen since the same studio brought forth An American in Paris " (see entry above). Michael Kidd's athletic choreography received considerable notice, and the barn-raising sequence is frequently included in documentaries about dance in film. The film received an Academy Award for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, and was nominated in the following categories: Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography (Color) and Best Film Editing.
       The film loosely inspired the television series Here Come the Brides , which ran on ABC from 1968--1970 and starred Joan Blondell and Bobby Sherman. In 1978, a stage version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers , adapted by Al Kasha and David Landay, with additional songs by Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn, toured the southern United States. Keel and Powell reprised their film roles in the musical, which closed before reaching Broadway. The production was later revived with Debbie Boone in the lead role, and lasted five performances on Broadway in Jul 1982. In Sep 1982, CBS produced a television movie-of-the-week based on the film, with a script by mystery writer Sue Grafton and her husband, Stephen Humphry. The television version, which starred Terri Treas and Richard Dean Anderson, changed the story's setting to a modern-day cattle ranch in Northern California and omitted all but one of the brothers' brides.
       In 1996, a newly restored print of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was released by Turner Entertainment. The 20 Jun 1996 "Rambling Reporter" column in HR noted that M-G-M had accommodated the unexpectedly high demand for the film in 1954 by mass-producing release prints from the original camera negative (rather than copying the duplicate negative, as is customary). Columnist Robert Osborne reported that the original negative was left badly damaged, and was difficult to repair because the obsolete Ansco Color process did not match the newer color film stock. In his 12 Sep 1996 column, Osborne stated that only forty percent of the original negative was usable for the restoration, and that the remaining sixty percent was created by combining elements from duplicate negatives and other sources. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was ranked 21st on AFI's list of the 25 Greatest Movie Musicals. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
American Cinematographer   1 Jul 54   pp. 338-39, 360-61, 363.
Box Office   5 Jun 1954.   
Daily Variety   1 Jun 54   pp. 3-4.
Film Daily   1 Jun 54   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Nov 51   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   8 May 53   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Aug 53   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Nov 1953   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Dec 53   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Dec 53   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Dec 53   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Dec 53   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Dec 53   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Dec 53   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Dec 53   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Jan 54   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Feb 54   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Jun 54   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Jul 54   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Mar 1982.   
Hollywood Reporter   20 Jun 1996.   
Hollywood Reporter   12 Sep 1996.   
Los Angeles Times   25 Nov 1951.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   5 Jun 54   p. 17.
New York Times   23 Jul 54   p. 8.
Time   12 Jul 1954.   
Variety   2 Jun 54   p. 6.

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