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Fun Friday–A Passel of Frontiersmen Seek Brides

Friday, July 11, 2008

fun-friday.jpg

“Tell you ’bout them Sobbin’ Women, who lived in the Roman days—
Well, it seems that they all went swimmin’ while their men was off to graze.
A Roman troop came ridin’ by and saw them in their me-oh-mys,
So they took them all back home to dry.
‘Least that’s what Plutarch says.”

As mentioned last week, I’m going to spend a few weeks featuring some of my favorite musicals on Fun Fridays. Today’s entry: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Trailer:

This is one of the few musicals that was not originally a stage play before becoming a film. Released in 1954, the story is based on a short story penned by Stephen Vincent Benet, a popular writer for the Saturday Evening Post and short-story author, whose best-known work is probably The Devil and Daniel Webster. Benet’s short story The Sobbin’ Women was itself based on another story—the Roman legend of “The Rape of the Sabine Women” (rape in its ancient usage meaning kidnapping), which is recounted in Plutarch’s Lives.

The film was directed by Stanley Donen (also known for Singin’ in the Rain), with music and lyrics composed by Saul Chaplin (An American in Paris, Westside Story), Gene de Paul (In the Navy), and Johnny Mercer (who penned the lyrics to such classics as “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” “That Old Black Magic,” “Jeepers Creepers,” and “Hooray for Hollywood”). The production numbers were choreographed by Michael Kidd, who would go on to choreograph My Fair Lady and innumerable Broadway productions.

The story centers around the seven Pontipee brothers. When eldest brother Adam (Howard Keel) returns from a trip to town with a wife, his six younger brothers—while learning etiquette from their new sister-in-law, Milly (Jane Powell)—take a notion to get wives for themselves. So Milly tries to teach them about “Goin’ Courtin'”:

When the family attends a barn raising, the boys meet six eligible women and do their best to behave, but, as always happens with the Pontipees, trouble is bound to happen! And this is where Michael Kidd’s choreography shines!

Well, because the boys get into a fight with the girls’ original beaux, the boys are certain they’ll never win the hearts and hands of their girls, but Adam (whom Milly agreed to marry after just one meeting) has some advice for his brothers (after “Goin’ Courtin’,” this is my favorite song in the musical):

So the brothers take matters into their own hands and go get their brides . . . except there’s a little hitch in the proceedings. But I’ll let you watch the movie to find out what that is!

On a personal note, my favorite brother is the second eldest and best looking, Benjamin (Jeff Richards). Not only that, but I love the girl he ends up with, played with stately grace by Julie Newmar, Catwoman from the 1960s Batman series and inspirational icon for the movie To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.

The one song/production number in the film that never did sit right with me, and which I forward through every time I watch it is the “Lonesome Polecat” song. There’s just something not right about that song and that sequence.

28 Comments leave one →
  1. Friday, July 11, 2008 7:52 am

    That is by far my favorite musical. I fell in love with it when I was a little girl.

    When I was a freshman in college – one of the first things that our RA did was gather us in the den to watch it – but the trick was we all had to have a pillow fight when they were singing. (I think some people don’t like singing and dancing). Everyone loved the film because it reminded us so much of the way the guys at our school would “go a courtin'” (7 to 1 ratio at our school – male to femle)

    Great memories.

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  2. Friday, July 11, 2008 8:56 am

    Oh, Kaye, I’m with you. I love the musical. It is so much fun. My favorite brother is also Benjamin, and I love the mood in “Lonesome Polecat,” though all the songs are great.

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  3. Friday, July 11, 2008 9:01 am

    Didn’t I say the other day that there’s one song in every musical that just ain’t right (oh, I said something like that). I actually don’t mind the Polecat song. I read somewhere that they did that song in one cut- so they really did well at the choreography. It does set up the brothers’ loneliness, so, it does serve a purpose, but they almost cut it from the production anyway.

    Polecat or no polecat. Great musical!

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  4. Friday, July 11, 2008 9:02 am

    SBFSB is my favorite musical. But I will confess I FF through Jane Powell’s solos most of the time. My favorite brother is Frank. Love him at the barn raising. I think my favorite song is “Goin’ Courtin'”.

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  5. Friday, July 11, 2008 9:07 am

    Yeah, I’ll usually Ffwd through “Wonderful, Wonderful Day.” What is it about most musicals that wrote the lead female role for a shrill soprano?

    Frank is your favorite? He annoys me—mostly his facial expressions. Next to Ben, Gideon is my second favorite–especially in the “the winter underwear that you’re sleeping in” scene when he can’t figure out how to get it off because he’s been wearing it so long!

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  6. Friday, July 11, 2008 9:08 am

    Oh, and I forgot to mention—one of the reasons this is one of my top favorite musicals is because it’s about men, manly men at that. This is right up there with watching football for me. 🙂

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  7. Friday, July 11, 2008 10:17 am

    I’m not a musical lover and don’t really care for this one. Have to admit Russ Tamblyn dancing/leaping over the axe handle is pretty impressive.

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  8. Friday, July 11, 2008 10:50 am

    Hmm. It’s been so long since I saw this one that I don’t remember a lot about it except I did like it. I don’t know if my DH would like it tho. He’s one of those people who think it is unnatural to burst into song! LOL

    Like

  9. Friday, July 11, 2008 11:06 am

    Yet again, I’m clearly in the minority of this blog’s readers since I don’t have a passionate love for this movie, but unlike some of the other ones you’ve mentinoed recently (Anne of Green Gables and The Music Man) I have actually seen it and will admit it was an enjoyable film.

    But that’s the best you’ll get from me!

    Like

  10. Friday, July 11, 2008 11:12 am

    See, if I were going to try to ease a guy into watching musicals, this is the one I’d start with. Lots of physicality, a brawl at the barn-raising, men just going in and taking what they want . . . And song lyrics like, “Well a Roman troop came riding by and saw them in their me-oh-mys, so they took them all back home to dry . . .”

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  11. Friday, July 11, 2008 12:04 pm

    All time favorite musical! Frank was my favorite, too, Erica. My sisters and I fought over him, LOL.

    Kaye–Maybe polecat is weird for you because of the ballet from the manly men?

    In the last clip, there’s a joke that I NEVER got until I saw a live production in southern Utah. When Adam is telling his brothers about the Romans, Frank asks if those are the people who’d settled north of here here (this is at about the 1 min mark in the clip).

    In the live show, they changed Adam’s response a little, “No . . . those are the Mormons.”

    (I’m dense.)

    Like

  12. Jess permalink
    Friday, July 11, 2008 12:05 pm

    This musical is the best. I got to meet Ephraim once because he knew my dance teacher. It was way more exciting than meeting a modern movie star, because there is no modern movie (no movie period) that I have seen as many times as this one.
    And yeah, Lonesome Pole Cat is kind of weird. Sobbin’ Women is the best, by far.

    Like

  13. Friday, July 11, 2008 2:19 pm

    I enjoy this movie but it is not one of my favorite musicals. Caleb’s comment and your response, Kaye, cracked me up. My dad’s favorite movies are probably a tie between Zulu, Patton, and Gandhi, but his favorite musical is Brigadoon. Go figure. 😛

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  14. Friday, July 11, 2008 2:20 pm

    Oh, almost forgot…I love the choreography in the “Polecat” number!! Awesome to watch in widescreen!

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  15. Friday, July 11, 2008 3:47 pm

    @Jordan–I don’t know if that’s what the joke in the movie means–the movie is supposed to be set in the Oregon territory. Did Mormons settle in Oregon in the 1840s?

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  16. Friday, July 11, 2008 4:00 pm

    I liked this one also. It is interesting knowing the lady from Catwoman 1960s was in it. I actually like this movie better than Oklahoma. I think I heard everyone gasping.

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  17. Friday, July 11, 2008 4:01 pm

    PS I think I’m going to rent this to watch with my girls this weekend.

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  18. Friday, July 11, 2008 4:13 pm

    Shellie, you didn’t hear me gasping—I like this one much better than Oklahoma.

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  19. Friday, July 11, 2008 9:25 pm

    “Oh what a beautiful MOOOORRRRNNNIIINNNNGGGG…”

    Oklahoma gets on my last nerve. 😛

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  20. Friday, July 11, 2008 11:28 pm

    Oh excellent choice Kaye. I was just thinking about this movie this morning! Too funny. I am always amazed that Adam blows into town, (can we assume is Seattle), and finds a wife just like that! Milly was a trusting soul for sure. Watch out. The next time one goes to town, another single country man might be waiting for a beautiful milk maid to catch his eye! Things are always so simple in musicals. That’s probably why I adore them.

    My other Howard Keel fav is Showboat. Hope you talk about it soon!

    Cheers, Laurel Ann

    Like

  21. Saturday, July 12, 2008 12:32 am

    My local light-opera theatre sdid this on stage early in my marriage (one of the first “date” things we really did– we had a… an atypical courtship) They had (added?) a song called “I’m glad that you were born.

    Absolutely the most beautiful moment in the whole thing and I immeadiately went and rented the movie wondering how I’d missed such a moving piece and *IT WASN”T THERE!* I was heartbroken. May never hear it again.

    It was everybody gathered around Millie singing to Baby- Hannah, then singing it eash one to their sweethearts… (OH!) got me positively tingly, and it’s really hard to do that to me.
    //
    About Oklahoma: Have you seen the London version with Hugh Jackman? If not, you owe it to yourself.

    I *hated* Oklahoma before I saw that version.
    It’s *brilliant.* It may be the only musical (besides Singin in the Rain) where the leads are true “triple threats,” able to sing act and dance with excellence. I know it’s the only (other) one I’ve seen.

    Like

  22. Saturday, July 12, 2008 2:00 am

    I haven’t even seen the normal version fully because it seems kind of a little bit really incredibly boring from what I have seen.

    But if anything could save it, surely Wolverine could.

    Like

  23. Amy permalink
    Saturday, July 12, 2008 4:42 pm

    I’m realizing I’ve missed a whole lot of good movies!

    Looking at the photo of Jeff Richards and Julie Newmar, I couldn’t help thinking how quickly time passes. We need to enjoy what we have, because in this life nothing lasts.

    Like

  24. Saturday, July 12, 2008 11:06 pm

    This one and Singin’ In The Rain are favorites that we still don’t have on DVD. Mama needs to remedy that!

    Like

  25. Nicole (ikkinlala) permalink
    Sunday, July 13, 2008 12:30 pm

    I haven’t seen this one either, but it seems to be so many people’s favourite that maybe I should.

    Like

  26. Maria permalink
    Saturday, January 10, 2009 7:23 pm

    Aww, I liked Frank. Partly because Frank was so expressive facially and I loved his dancing. That and the fact his real name was Frankincense, his reaction to being called that cracked me up. Like when he starts fighting with Benjamin. Rall and Tamblyn stole the barn dance for me.

    Like

  27. Jasmine permalink
    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 3:55 pm

    Does anyone know who played the baby Hannah in the movie? I’ve been trying to find out but there seems to be no information on that.

    Like

  28. Cindy Brandon permalink
    Tuesday, March 21, 2017 8:43 pm

    Baby Hannah! Trying to fing “Where she is now?” Loved the discussion above even if it’s over 8 years old. ☺❤

    Like

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