← Back to Reviews

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

#292 - Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Stanley Donen, 1954

In a Western frontier town, a mountain man marries one of the townsfolk, which causes problems when his six younger brothers want brides of their own.

Alternate title: Stockholm Syndrome: The Musical!

But seriously, how does a movie like this not just exist in the first place but also keep being considered a classic several decades later? Even taking into account the more questionable social mores of the film's frontier setting, it still seems weird how such a plot could be considered acceptable, if not a source of light-hearted merriment, even in the 1950s. It starts out harmlessly enough - Howard Keel's ginger-haired mountain man strides into a nearby town and manages to marry local lass Jane Powell, but when he brings her home to his younger brothers, she quickly tires of how quickly they relegate her to playing den mother to all seven of them. So far, so understandable. Of course, this leads to Keel and Powell encouraging the others to leave their remote homestead and find their own spouses, which starts off innocently enough when the brothers attend a barn-raising dance (and naturally encounter some rivals for their desired partners' affections). The entire third act, on the other hand, is where things fall apart as the brothers kidnap their desired brides and bring them up to their homestead just in time for the winter frost to seal everyone off from the rest of civilisation...

Up until that point, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a fairly by-the-numbers musical that has tolerable songs made better by some impressive choreography, especially during the aforementioned barn-raising sequence. If nothing else, Donen is a competent director when it comes to musicals, but there's not much excuse for a third act as tone-deaf as the one I've described, especially when the film already had Powell take charge and successfully change the disrespectful and slovenly behaviour of the brothers. Even though she chews them out over their decision to kidnap the women in question, that becomes inconsequential as the brides eventually warm up to their captors through a series of song and dance numbers. As a result, it takes what should be a fluffy yet fairly competent musical and gives it an extremely unfortunate edge that makes it difficult to enjoy.