I made the mistake of watching this film the day after I rewatched The Sound of Music.
This one does not quite live up to THAT, and in my case suffered quite badly in comparison. I remember watching this movie with my mother a couple of times as a kid. She enjoys it, but I was not at all into it at the time. I thought that perhaps my feelings for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers would change now that I’m an adult. Well, I’m still just not into it — but at least now I can sort of articulate why.
First, though, let’s talk about the good stuff. After all, the film made it onto the AFI’s Top 25 Greatest Musicals list, so it must have some redeeming qualities!
Adam (the main dude character, played by Howard Keel) reminds me of a young, fit, handsome Santa. I know that sounds weird, but whatever, it’s true. Must be the red hair and the old-fashioned haircut/beard — don’t believe that poster image up above; the color version of this film gives Adam red hair + he starts off with a full beard. And I have to admit my L-O-V-E for Howard Keel’s voice. The man can sing.
The ultra-athletic dancing & fight scenes are also great. The studio actually hired mostly professional dancers rather than actors to play the brothers and their brides, and I have to applaud this choice. Thinking about it now, I kind of want to go ahead and rewatch a bunch of the dance scenes just to sigh over the choreography.
The scenery was not done particularly well, but again, I watched this just after finishing a film where the scenery was A+++ top notch amazing, so perhaps I’m not being fair. Milly (the main lady character, played by Jane Powell) has the most boring songs and — now this really is petty — her bright orange-pink lipstick was distractingly anachronistic (#makeupnerdproblems, #historicalcostumingnerdproblems). But, again, the dancing was SO GREAT that I could easily have overlooked this stuff if it hadn’t been for the particularly grating storyline.
This is where a lot of people are going to disagree with me, but I could not get past the grossness of the plot:
Bros want gals to cook/keep house/get sexy for them, bros can’t get gals to volunteer for this duty, so bros KIDNAP said gals, but really it’s fine because they’re totally nice guys, then Stockholm syndrome sets in and the gals decide that this is fine, meanwhile the one actually-married bro abandons his pregnant wife for the entire winter because she yelled at him for KIDNAPPING PEOPLE and he’s too much of a manchild to apologize, and anyway when the rescuers finally show up they elect to leave the gals in the hands of the kidnappers because one of them had a baby therefore they have all been deflowered and are ruined unless they marry the bros.
What the everloving heck? This is SO GROSS. Can we just acknowledge that no amount of cute puppy eyes and sad (yet totally on-beat) Lonesome Polecat stuff and impressive dance moves will change the fact that it is basically a subtly misogynistic retelling of the Rape of the Sabine Women (referenced several times in the show itself)? Even as a little kid this whole thing bothered me.
Does this musical deserve a spot on the AFI’s list? Probably. Do I have to personally like it? Nope nope nope. I vaguely remember enjoying this as a stage play done by a small theater company ages ago, though I can’t at all remember when/where. Perhaps they did a better job of playing up the funny bits and smoothing over the more troubling themes.
Tell me — do you like or dislike this musical movie? Or have you seen a cool version of it on stage? I’d love to hear some other opinions on this!