Showing posts with label Jane Powell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jane Powell. Show all posts

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!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

TCM Road to Hollywood - Jane Powell and Leonard Maltin present Royal Wedding (1951)

Yesterday we had the pleasure of attending the TCM Road to Hollywood event at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA. Presented by Turner Classic Movies, hosted by Leonard Maltin and featuring special guest Jane Powell, last night’s event was nothing short of spectacular.

I have been excited about this special event ever since it was announced as part of the TCM Road to Hollywood lineup. As soon as tickets became available, I snatched two up as quick as I could and waited anxiously for the day to arrive.

Carlos and I arrived about an hour early to the event and there was already a line waiting to get in.

We didn’t have to wait long in the rain to get in. Once we entered, we handed over our tickets and picked up our complimentary TCM Film Festival postcards and TCM Now Playing Guide. There was a photographer taking pictures of us as we entered and this cool signage greeted us.

This event was sold out and the place was packed.

Tickets were compliments of TCM and the event was geared towards promoting the TCM Film Festival.

 A representative from TCM spoke to us about the Road to Hollywood series and the Film Festival encouraging us to go. I thank TCM for being so generous and hosting these events across the country and allowing us to attend for free! Not only that but allowing us to be in the presence of a classic film star.

After the rep from TCM did her talk, Ned Hinkle, Creative Director of the Brattle, also spoke encouraging folks to go to the TCM Film Festival if they could and thanking TCM, Leonard Maltin and Jane Powell for making this amazing event happen. He also spoke some really kind words about Leonard Maltin and all he’s done for movie buffs over the years, especially in the days before the internet when a lot of us relied on his movie guides for information and film discovery.

Leonard Maltin came out and talked a bit about the TCM Film Festival some more before Special Guest Jane Powell. He referred to it as Movie Buff Camp and said that the energy at the festival was really wonderful. I also remember him saying that people from over 45 states attended the festival. Woah!

Maltin introduced Jane Powell and she was received by the audience with a standing ovation and an enthusiastic roar of applause. She looked really good! She had a lovely blue dress on and black high heel pumps and looked absolutely lovely. The talk lasted about 30 minutes and Maltin was a gracious and helpful host and Jane Powell was witty and charming and effervescent. You could tell the crowd was hanging on to her every word and were really excited to see her. There was lots of applause and laughter. A positive experience overall. Maltin also took a few questions from the audience.

Here are some of the anecdotes that Jane Powell shared with us:

  • She referred to her younger self as a “country bumpkin from Portland, Oregon”
  • She got her start tap-dancing for a radio broadcast. Yes, radio.
  • She found out that MGM had changed her name from Suzanne Burce to Jane Powell from a phone call. She thought the name was boring and noted that other actors already had the surname Powell.
  • She liked the Studio system, always thought of herself as an employee of MGM. She went to school at the MGM lot with Elizabeth Taylor and Margaret O’Brien.
  • She never turned down roles. Her only regrets were roles that were never offered to her. One of the roles she regrets not getting is Love Me or Leave Me which eventually starred Doris Day.
  • She wishes she could have been offered more dramatic roles.
  • The first time she met Clark Gable she was so star-struck she forgot his name.
  • She remembers Fred Astaire as a very private person and felt she never really knew him. She described him as unique, kind and a rarity.
  • The movie studio suffered from competing with TV. She remembered that if she had her picture taken that a TV set could not be included in the shot.
  • She used to be on the road a lot and always took her 3 kids and 3 dogs.
  • She always worked independently. Never had a secretary and still doesn’t.
  • She had a good relationship with Louis B. Mayer and described it as a father-daughter sort of bond.
  • She says she was never “chased around the desk” like other actresses were.
  • She was a bridesmaid at Elizabeth Taylor’s first wedding and Taylor was a bridesmaid at her first wedding too.
  • After leaving MGM, she went on to perform in theaters and night clubs.
  • Her husband, actor Dickie Moore, isn’t doing very well health-wise so she has taken on the role of caretaker. She lives a very quiet life and refers to herself as a homebody.
  • She thoroughly enjoyed everything she did with her career and sincerely loves people.

Something I noticed about Jane Powell was how appreciative she is about her career and the people she worked with. She only had nice things to say about everybody. She shared a sad memory she had of Louis B. Mayer’s final days at MGM, but otherwise she had a lot of happy memories to share.

The conversation wrapped up and Jane Powell thanked everyone and she and Leonard Maltin received another standing ovation. They took a photograph by the poster and we’re off. I wish the talk lasted an hour rather than 30 minutes or that perhaps there would have been a follow up after the movie. Oh well! I was at least happy to be sitting in a good seat (second row on the left with no one really blocking me!) and to have been able to experience what I did.

Royal Wedding (1951) came up on the screen and we were treated to a showing. The film stars Jane Powell and Fred Astaire as Ellen and Tom Bowen (respectively), a brother-sister singing and dancing duo. They are a big success in the states and were offered an opportunity to perform in London and to attend the royal wedding of Queen Elizabeth II. The Bowens set off on a vessel across the Atlantic. On the boat she meets Lord John Brindale (Peter Lawford) and they find that they both share a propensity for leaving behind multiple love interests and that they both enjoy each others attention. A romance between them blossoms. While in London, Tom (Fred Astaire) accidentally meets Anne (Sarah Churchill – Winston Churchill’s daughter) a dancer who is auditioning for his show. There isn’t much of a conflict to drive the plot along but the movie moves at a very satisfying clip. It’s a fun movie to watch for various reasons. There are the amazing musical numbers. I especially loved the How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I’ve Been a Liar All My Life (phew!) number: 


 It was really fun to watch Jane Powell as a sassy brunette! Then there are the famous Fred Astaire solo numbers, including Sunday Jumps in which he dances with a hatstand and the You’re All the World to Me number in which Astaire dances on the walls and ceiling of a rotating room (although it doesn’t look to be rotating!). Then there are the costumes, the comedy and the cultural musings of London circa 1950s.

The audience’s reaction to the movie was wonderful. We were all still feeling the energy from having just seen Jane Powell in person. There were applauses after most of the musical and dance numbers and an applause when Jane Powell’s name came up on the screen. I have been to many film screenings and I have to say I have never been to one with an audience as enthusiastic and as appreciative as this one. It was just hands down a wonderful experience.

Thank you so much to TCM, the Brattle, Leonard Maltin, Jane Powell and everyone else who helped make this amazing event happen!

Popular Posts

 Twitter   Instagram   Facebook