Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) Blu-Ray from Warner Archive




"The film is magic and still astounds today." - Howard Keel, 1996

How does one accidentally produce one of the greatest musicals ever made? MGM managed to do just that with Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). Intended to be a B-movie musical, MGM threw more of their time and money into another musical, Brigadoon, slashed the budget for Seven Brides and left director Stanley Donen with the task of creating a backwoods period piece musical on the MGM lot with painted backdrops and no on location shooting. Thank goodness they at least kept the Cinemascope and Ansco Color! It's not that MGM wanted Seven Brides to be a failure. Even a B-musical was going to be a quality production. This film included songs by Johnny Mercer, an original score, choreography by Michael Kidd, two established leading stars Howard Keel and Jane Powell and a stable of up-and-coming talent as well as expert dancers and acrobats. All the ingredients came together to make a powerhouse musical that would entertain generations to come. The original title for Seven Brides was Sobbin' Women, a reference to a musical number and key plot point. But who would go see a musical about crying women? Pass. Then the unintentionally suggestive A Bride for Seven Brothers was considered then wisely scrapped. A simple tweak and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was born. MGM released Seven Brides just as the current wave of musicals was reaching its end. It went on to receive 5 Academy Award nominations and won the Oscar for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture in 1955.

Seven Brides is often given a bad rap by contemporary audiences for poor gender politics. As a woman and a feminist, I wholeheartedly disagree. Yes Milly (Jane Powell) is basically tricked into taking care of 7 men when she only bargained for one. And yes the six brothers kidnap their six future brides. And yes Adam (Howard Keel) is backwards in his opinions about women and their roles in society. But if you focus on just those points then you miss the entire plot of the movie. The whole story is about how these seven brothers learn how to respect women. Their transformation is led by Milly. She's feisty, opinionated, and strong-willed. She never backs down. Disgusted by how the seven brothers keep house and keep themselves, she whips them into shape. After a disastrous trip into town, she teaches them how to properly court women and mind their manners. Milly's lessons are taken into account by all the brothers only to be sabotaged later when Adam, in the Sobbin' Women number, convinces the younger Pontipees to kidnap their women. When they do, Milly casts them out of the house to sleep in the barn. She's not afraid to tell them straight to their faces that their actions are abhorrent. She refers to them as animals and brutes. The women are separated from the men until Spring time and basically until they can figure out how to appreciate women. And for stubborn Adam it takes the birth of his daughter and the influence of his youngest brother, played by Russ Tamblyn, to see the error of his ways.

Six years ago, I watched Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and wrote about it as part of my Weddings in Film series. One of the biggest takeaways for me was how this movie conveyed the importance of communication in relationships. In that piece I wrote:

The disappointment in Milly and Adam's newlywed life stems from two major faults in their courtship: lack of communication and lack of time to get to know each other. But even a misunderstanding like that can be worked on with lots of future communication, patience, understanding, compromise and love.



Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) is now available on Blu-Ray for the very first time thanks to the good folks at the Warner Archive Collection. The two disc set includes a bunch of extras which I have listed below:

Disc One:
  • Song Menu
  • Captions
  • Audio Commentary by Stanley Donen (2004)
  • MGM Jubilee Overture (1954) (aka the best dressed orchestra you'll ever see in your life). With MGM Symphony Orchestra led by Johnny Green and featuring songs from MGM musicals. (Remastered in 1080p HD, 16x9 2.55 anamorphic aspect ratio with 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio)
  • 43 minute documentary "Sobbin' Women: The Making of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, hosted by Howard Keel (1996, updated 2004 to include more interviews) - features Howard Keel, Jane Powell, Russ Tamblyn, Stanley Donen, Julie Newmar, Jacques d'Amboise, Ruta Lee and more. 
  • Radio City Music Hall Premiere - July 22, 1954
  • MGM's 30th Anniversary (1954 MGM Newsreel) 

Disc Two:
  • Rarely-seen 1.77:1 alternate Widescreen Version (1080p HD)
  • Song Menu
  • Captions

According to George Feltenstein, Seven Brides was one of 5 MGM movies shot twice. Once in Cinemascope and shot again in Widescreen. All of the scenes were shot twice and staged slightly differently each time. A sharp eye will spot the differences especially in the barn raising sequence. This version was shelved for years and even though it would have worked beautifully for television, a pan-and-scan version of the Cinemascope was used instead. A true injustice!

On the Warner Archive podcast, Feltenstein goes on to say that in the process of developing a 70mm print of Seven Brides for distribution in England, the original negative was damaged. Also Ansco color tends to turn green as it ages. Felteinstein referred to the restoration of Seven Brides for Blu-Ray as one of the most ambitious projects ever taken on by the Warner Archive.

I've seen Seven Brides for Seven Brothers in many formats over the years. At home with my DVD, on TCM, streaming on Filmstruck and on the big screen at a local repertory house. The Warner Archive Blu-Ray is the most stunning presentation of this movie I've seen so far. If you are a fan of this wonderful musical, run, don't walk, to add this new Blu-Ray set to your movie library.

Further reading: Check out my post on Ruta Lee on the Inside the Envelope DVD Netflix blog and find out what she had to say about working on Seven Brides for Seven Brothers!




Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) is available on Blu-Ray from the Warner Archive Collection. When you use my buy links you help support this site. Thanks!

 Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to Warner Archive for sending me the Blu-Ray of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) to review!

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