Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
, starring MGM soprano Jane Powell and handsome baritone Howard Keel, has retained a remarkably loyal following among fans of the musical film ever since its release in 1954. Although it was filmed in state-of-the-art CinemaScope, Stanley Donen was obliged to direct much of the film on Metro's sound stages, where the artificial sets and painted backdrops don't inevitably live up to the scenes shot on location in Oregon. Viewers coming fresh to the picture may find this visual discrepancy jarring and some too may find Miss Powell's singing a shade plummy. The screenplay, by husband and wife team Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich with Dorothy Kingsley, tells the story of seven brothers living in the Oregon hills and their adventures to find themselves wives. The casting of each brother with his rugged, masculine looks and ability to dance with grace and athleticism, presided over by an authoritative Howard Keel, gives the film a dynamic impetus second to none in an MGM musical. The lengthy barn-raising episode under choreographer Michael Kidd's intrepid direction, where the music and the incredibly agile and energetic male and female dance ensemble unite as one, produces a square dance without parallel. The music and lyrics by Gene De Paul and Johnny Mercer--including the mating chorus, "Spring, Spring, Spring", the rollicking "Bless You're Beautiful Hide", the rousing "Sobbin' Women" and the visually enchanting "June Bride"--are both tuneful and mindful of the plot's exposition. Adolph Deutsch and Saul Chaplin won the Academy Award in 1954 for their arrangements and conducting.
On the DVD: The digital remastering has created a clearer picture of what had been a faintly muddy Ansco colour system on the original print while the polish and attack with which the MGM Studio Orchestra play the music on this full-bodied stereophonic soundtrack remains a thing of wonder. Howard Keel, standing tall and erect in his 80s, hosts the "making of" documentary. Director Donen, choreographer Kidd, Jane Powell and several of the dancers recall how the film was considered a "sleeper" during production and wasn't expected to do as well as Brigadoon, in production at the same time. The documentary also highlights the care taken over the casting of the brothers, two of whom including Keel were not dancers and their often brave and brilliant feats of acrobatic dancing executed on precarious planks and other props. When Howard Keel takes his farewell walk down the main street lot at MGM, breaking into a few brief dance steps, it's impossible not to feel a moment of regret that the curtain had to come down on MGM's most treasured possession. --Adrian Edwards
DVD Special Features:
"Making of Seven Brides"
Languages in Dolby Digital 5.1: English. In Mono: French, Italian
Subtitles: English, French, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Romanian, Bulgarian, English for the hearing impaired, Italian for the hearing impaired