Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Image courtesy of the author

Seven Unruly Back Woodsmen!

Despite being considered a “B” picture by MGM, the cinemascope musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers has long been a favorite for many musical lovers around the world. Debuting in 1954 and shot in only forty-eight days, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is loosely based on the story of the Sabine Woman which is from Plutarch’s Life of Romulus.

Howard Keel who played the role of Adam once called the film “one of my happiest filmmaking experiences at MGM,” stating “the cast was magnificent, and the chemistry irresistible. It truly was one big happy family.”

“Oh I think it’s wonderful; love at first sight.”-Alice

The rehearsals for the incredible barn-raising sequence took three weeks due to the intricate choreography and – boy – did everyone’s hard work pay off. You will definitely feel like giving the number a standing ovation when it’s done! MGM did not have high financial expectations for the film and therefore gave the movie a small budget. Money was so tight that the costume designer Walter Plunkett went to the Salvation Army, found some old quilts, and used them to make the dresses.

But despite the small budget (causing the film to have painted backgrounds instead of being shot on location) and low expectations, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers had more commercial and critical success than other 1954 MGM films boasting higher budgets and expectations. (Like Brigadoon staring Gene Kelly.) So is the dancing truly that spectacular? Is it really worth your time?

Plot Overview

With a fun score and beautiful mountain scenery, we are transported to 1850 Oregon. Here we met Adam (Howard Keel) a backwoodsman who is looking for a wife. There is only one problem, very few women of marrying age are in town and all the young “jack-a-dandies” in town are fighting for the girls’ attentions.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Image courtesy of the author

Adam, set on finding a wife no matter what, walks around town looking for the perfect woman to take home. He is pleasantly surprised when he meets Milly (Jane Powell) who is a high spirited, no-nonsense female! After some coxing, and despite her guardian’s objections, Adam convinces Milly to marry him on the spot. Milly is thrilled to be a wife and tells Adam about her family, her ideas about marriage, and about how excited she is about starting a family.

Milly is quickly crushed when they get to the house and she meets Adam’s brothers Benjamin, Frank, Daniel, Caleb, Ephraim and Gideon who all live in the house. Devastated and finally understanding that all Adam really wants is a washer woman and cook, Milly rolls up her sleeves and gets to work taking care of the home and the mess that the men have been living in.

After a stern discussion, Milly informs Adam that she will work alongside him but not sleep alongside him. Adam, wanting to make things work, apologizes causing Milly to see things differently and gives her new drive to make their marriage happy.

With a big sister at home, the brothers decide to take better care of themselves and ask Milly to help them get girls. Milly is overjoyed to help them out and teach them manners, the lesson ending with a trip to a barn raising. It’s at this barn raising that the brothers meet the love of their lives: Dorcas, Alice, Sarah, Liza, Ruth and Martha. After a spectacular dance number, the brothers get into a fight causing Milly to be humiliated.

“Nice night for a coon hunt”- Gideon

A few months later, back at home in the cold of winter, the brothers are missing the girls. Unbeknownst to Milly, and with the help of Adam, they decide that they are going to kidnap the girls and bring them back to the house where they can marry them.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Image courtesy of the author

After kidnapping the girls and causing an avalanche in the pass so that the families can’t follow them, they take the girls back home. It’s only then that the brothers realize they forgot to kidnap the parson to marry them! Milly, beyond upset, sets up the house for the girls to stay in while they are stuck there. The men meanwhile (including Adam), sleep in the barn.

Will the brothers win over the hearts of their girls? Or will everything they’ve ever wanted never come to be? Will Adam and Milly finally have the marriage that she’s always dreamed of? Or will Adam always be a rough, unfeeling backwoodsmen?

Content of Concern

There are numerous brawls between the brothers and the men from town. This is never shown in a good light – in fact it’s a good reminder of repercussions of actions.

“There were no F names in the Bible so Ma named him Frankincense because he smelled so sweet” – Caleb


Through beautifully choreographed dance numbers and toe-tappin’ songs Seven Brides for Seven Brothers will leave you feeling energetic and joyful. This film definitely gets two thumbs’ up from me – in fact I will go one further and say that this is by far my favorite musical of the 1950’s!

The humor and one-liners in this film are spot on and will have you rolling with laughter. So grab a seat, grab some snacks and get ready for a rip- roarin’ good time!

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