"Still, at first, they swore they wouldn't take bite or sup till they were restored to their grieving families. But Milly had some tea ready for them, in a jiffy—and a woman will usually take tea, no matter how mad she is."
The Sobbin' Women is Stephen Vincent Benet's delightful short story of a bound-girl named Milly who manipulates her new husband and family, and eventually an entire town into getting the life and family she seeks. Producer Joshua Logan held the rights to the 1937 story with intentions to turn it into a Broadway play. Benet's widow canceled the contract in 1951 and MGM snapped the property up.
Our 1954 film opens with Howard Keel as Adam Pontipee singing about his intention to leave town for his backwoods home with a wife (Bless Your Beautiful Hide). He gets more than he bargained for when Milly played by Jane Powell agrees to his proposal (Wonderful Wonderful Day and When You're in Love).
Milly whips her six new brothers-in-law into a rough and ready respectability (Goin Co'tin') and has hopes of their society being enriched by future sisters-in-law. After the athletic Barn Raising Dance which ends in a fight with "townies," the brothers are completely dejected (Lonesome Polecat).
The preacher was left behind and the "brides" are trapped through the winter by an avalanche. Milly and Adam separate due to his impetuous action. Over the course of the long winter, Milly, expecting her first child, is overjoyed to see happy and strong relationships form between her friends (June Bride) and her brothers (Spring, Spring, Spring). Months of reflection have brought Adam to an understanding of his thoughtless actions toward the young women and toward Milly, whom he has come to love dearly.
Producer Jack Cummings originally wanted to use original American folk songs for this musical but after searching, decided on original music which was written by Gene de Paul and Johnny Mercer when Mercer declined to work (again) with first choice perfectionist Harold Arlen. Gene and Johnny would write another rustic show, L'il Abner for Broadway in 1956. Julie Newmar, our bride Dorcas in the movie would play Stupefyin' Jones in the Broadway production with Al Capp's characters, and our choreographer Michael Kidd would handle that chore as well for L'il Abner.
Director Stanley Donen's hopes to film the movie over the course of a year, on location in Oregon were dashed when the studio slashed their budget in favour of Brigadoon. Brigadoon as well would lose its plans of filming on location in Scotland. Painted backgrounds however do not hinder the bright and beautiful Oscar-nominated cinematography by George Fosley.
Other Oscar nominations for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers were Ralph Winters for Film Editing, the screenplay by Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, and Dorothy Kingsley, and producer Cummings for Best Picture. Adolph Deutsch and Saul Chaplin won for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a fresh and funny tale, performed with infectious energy by its young and talented cast. Familiarity over the years has done nothing to take away from this creative, life-affirming musical.
TCM is screening Seven Brides for Seven Brothers on March 5th at midnight after Gone with the Wind. The theme for Thursday nights in March is "reframed."
"Many of the beloved classics that we enjoy on TCM have stood the test of time in several ways, nevertheless when viewed by contemporary standards, certain aspects of these films can be troubling and problematic. This month, we are looking at a collection of such movies and we'll explore their history, consider their cultural context and discuss how these movies can be reframed so that future generations can keep their legacy alive."
Our leads, Jane Powell and Howard Keel would tour in the 1970s and 1980s in stage productions of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, South Pacific, and I Do, I Do. We enjoyed both Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and South Pacific at Toronto's O'Keefe Centre.
2021 Birthdays among the cast of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Jane Powell will be 92 on April 1st
Ruta Lee will be 86 on May 30th
Jacques d'Amboise will be 87 on July 28th