Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
So take a gaudy musical, add a little sexism, sprinkle on a dash of sexual confusion and you've got the perfect mixture for a terrible movie. I wish these ingredients didn't all have to be included in a film, but since there's "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", I stand corrected.
The movie's concept never once seems realistic, which I guess is permissible since people don't randomly break out into dance and song when they're walking down the street. Still, every other musical, musicals of spectacle included, isn't as unbelievable or as offensive as this one is.
Adam Pontipee (Howard Keel) is in town looking for a few supplies, and a wife. He asks the man at the local store where he could find a young beauty...he is scolded by a woman standing nearby; but that doesn't stop him from walking out of the store and sizing up every single girl outside while singing a song that reminded me of one of the numbers from "Hello Dolly" in chauvinistic terms alone. He's looking for a strong woman who can cook, clean, and mend clothes. Naturally, the girl he's most attracted to is chopping wood when he first lays eyes on her. On top of being a good worker, this woman is an excellent cook and is drawn to Adam's swagger and his...um...looks?
Milly (Jane Powell) serves men their lunches, cleverly dodges their advances, and goes outside to milk the cow which is where Adam makes his move.
"Hey babe, you want to get hitched?"
Okay, it's not that bad, but he just bursts out with it and guess what? She accepts!
So they get married quickly and then ride away twelve miles to the Pontipee estate where there are six brothers waiting for Adam...they don't know about the woman. In his fervor to get married, Adam forgot to mention his siblings to his newly acquired wife. Both parent-less, Milly and Adam stop on their journey to sing a song or two and then continue. Much of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" looks unfortunately like a set...its stagey pretentiousness doesn't help.
Imagine the shock when you find out that your husband has six brothers, all of whom are living with him. Milly doesn't exactly get a great first impression of the Pontipee clan: Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Eli, Frank, and Gideon. They are ruffians with big beards to match their unruly red hair...and they're all pigs. The house is in a state of disrepair, mainly because men don't do housework...duh. Milly is immediately set to work, cooking dinner for the brothers while trying to avoid the fistfights that break out spontaneously. When dinner is made, it is trampled on a devoured quickly, without grace being said. Milly doesn't take to well to the rough and tumble, uncivilized way the family conducts themselves. She overturns the table and storms off to her room and locks the door behind her...metaphorically. Adam is now scared to share a bed with this woman, as he should be because she's figured out that all he wanted was a servant.
The rest of the boys are eager for Adam to get into bed with his woman, they have an odd sexual longing for Milly that shows up more than once.
But Milly resigns herself to the role of servant and she puts the boys in line and teaches them to be gentlemen. She tells them how to court women, the skills they put into use with a dance off for the girl's affection. This scene ends with Adam scoffing at his brothers for being turned into sissy-boys and another fist fight.
The Pontipees are a scruffy bunch, and they don't take no crap from nobody.
Eventually, they are convinced by Adam, who kind of admits he doesn't love Milly, to storm down on the town and kidnap six women...which they do. Dragging the women back to be their wives in a very cave-man-ish way, the brothers set off an avalanche that leaves them and the women together for the rest of the winter.
Milly protects the women, but it doesn't take too long for them to warm up to the boys...wow, romantic.
"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" is the dirge of the movies. It's a too sweet piece of distasteful ideas, melted into the saccharine mold of cheery musicals and poured into the viewer's lap in huge hot clumps like spoiled milk.
Overstated from moment one, the actions of the men are never punished. They are allowed to carry women around, be abusive, and they we are told that women will love that.
The misconception of abusive relationships, the misconstrued idea that woman love rape, physical attraction without emotional love, body image issues—yep, they're all here in abundance.
Perhaps the movie was made so you wouldn't have to think about it. Just be amazed that people can sing and dance; but that's not enough and it assumes that the audience has no brain.
"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" is a mistake, one that I would gladly erase from the history of cinema without feeling remotely sorry about it. It's possibly one of the worst movies I've ever seen...and that's me being nice.
Score: ½ a star out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones