June 10, 2018

SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS and the Broken Curse

https://www.wbshop.com/collections/warner-archive
Starring Jane Powell, Howard Keel, Jeff Richards, Russ Tamblyn, Tommy Rall, Julie Newmar (mee-ow!). Directed by Stanley Donen. (1954/102 min). 

AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY FROM 
WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION 

Review by Mr. Paws😸

My oldest daughter, Natalie, became enraged when this disc arrived at our doorstep. A contemptuous scowl slowly spread across her face as she spat, "Don't ever mention Seven Bride for Seven Brothers in my presence."

"SEVEN. BRIDES. FOR. SEVEN. BROTHERS!" I replied, antagonistically emphasizing every syllable. She didn't think I was funny.
 
Natalie loves to sing and loves musicals, so I was initially surprised at her venom. Then again, she's a liberal 23-year-old college student who listens to jazz while driving, staunchly supports total equality and becomes infuriated at anything resembling racism, sexism and gender stereotypes. If she smoked pot and wore sandals to work, Natalie would be the perfect Oregonian. So I naturally assumed it was the Stockholm Syndrome aspects of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers that incurred her wrath.

"That, too," she replied as though that should have been obvious. "But my high school choir teacher made us watch it all the time. It was boring and stupid and had crappy songs."

And just like that, the curse was broken...

Just...wow.
What curse, you ask? It so happens that I, too, have a contentious history with the film. For some reason, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers has been adored by every female on my side of the family for a few generations, just like the gag-inducing tomato aspic my mother makes for the holidays every year.

For those of you unfamiliar with this supposed ‘dish,’ tomato aspic is a concoction of gelatin, tomatoes, peas, celery, Tabasco, hard-boiled eggs and whatever-the-hell-else happens to be in the fridge at the time. Worse yet, it’s served cold. Just looking at it is like viewing someone's impacted bowels. Even writing about it now, picturing my mom, wife and sister forking it into their mouths, sometimes with a dollop of mayonnaise on top, triggers my gag reflex. For some reason, this satanic slop never caught-on with any of the males in my family. Not to sound sexist or anything, but perhaps men are simply more aware that just because a dish technically consists of food products doesn’t necessarily mean it’s edible.

Until now, the Anderson women seemed to have a similar affinity for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. My grandmother loved it, as does my mother, my aunt Bobbie and my sister, Rebecca, which is ironic when one considers its primitive depiction of a woman's role in matrimony. The men, however, have always found the film insufferable. 

The town's annual ass-kicking contest.
While I generally have no aversion to musicals today, I absolutely hated them as a kid, especially Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, which was once the catalyst for a knock-down, drag-out fight between me and Rebecca (though we called her Becky back then). There were two TVs in the house: Mom & Dad's big living room console, and a boxy little black & white one in the bedroom I shared with Becky. In those days, a local TV station used to air old movies during prime time, showing the same title five nights in a row, Monday through Friday.

Becky loved old musicals and insisted on watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Not just once, but every goddamn night that week. It might have been on the fourth day that I finally tried to wrangle control of the TV from her. Not that there was something on another channel I wanted to watch, but at that point, anything - even the fucking news - would have been preferable to hearing the opening strains of "Bless Your Beautiful Hide" another time. But Becky wasn't gonna give up without a fight - especially since I once subjected her to five straight nights of Mysterious Island. But that was different...Mysterious Island had volcanoes & giant crabs, not a bunch of red-headed mountain men dancing while they erected a barn.

So we tried to settle this dispute the way most siblings do...by screaming and throwing shit at each other. So strong were my convictions that I decapitated several of Becky's Barbies, which made her run from the bedroom in tears. I was scolded by Mom, who gravely reminded me that, as the older brother, I should be mature enough to overlook Becky's bitchiness. As punishment, I lost my TV privileges, meaning I was stuck with the Pontipee boys and their "Sobbin' Women" for the rest of the week.

Touchdown!
And don't get me started on the time my parents bought Grandma a VCR one Christmas, along with a copy of this movie. Guess how many times we had to watch Seven Brides for Seven Brothers that weekend!

But the cursed chain has finally been broken by Natalie, the first family female who actively hates Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

It's pretty damned ironic that I'm now watching it alone - willingly - all by myself. Yeah, the whole concept and attitude towards women seems surreal in this day and age. But you know what? I actually enjoyed it, like going through an old family photo album (only with the pictures completely restored to their original colorful glory). I was reminded of that intense battle for TV supremacy with my sister, which makes me chuckle now. The showstopping barn dance number that enraged me as a kid now brings back fond memories of my grandmother, who I miss dearly.

I imagine it's the same for a lot of people. A movie like this absolutely couldn't be made today, of course, which I suppose is what makes it such a nostalgic gem for those who grew up loving it...like Rebecca. I don't know if she's revisited the film lately, but I'd wager that seeing it on Blu-Ray, more colorful and vibrant than it ever looked on our tiny old bedroom TV, would trigger a flood of similar memories.

EXTRA KIBBLES
"SOBBIN' WOMEN: THE MAKING OF SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS" - A documentary hosted by Howard Keel.
NEWSREELS - New York Premiere and MGM's 30th Anniversary
SHORT - "MGM Jubilee Overture" (features music from various MGM musicals)
ALTERNATE WIDESCREEN VERSION (DISC 2) - A re-shot version in the standard format of the time (1.77). Intended for theaters unequipped to show films in the CinemaScope format, this version was never actually used (though it was apparently more expensive).

KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR-R-R...A NOSTALGIC SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS

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