Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a musical film released in 1954. It was directed by Stanley Donen, with music by Saul Chaplin and Gene de Paul, and lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The script (by Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, and Dorothy Kingsley) is based on the short story The Sobbin' Women, by Stephen Vincent Benét, which was based in turn on the Ancient Roman legend of The Rape of the Sabine Women. The film was a 1954 Oscar nominee for Best Picture.
The film's story is about a backwoodsman named Adam Pontipee and his new bride Milly, who marries him after knowing him for only a few hours. On returning with him to his cabin in the mountains, Milly is surprised to learn that Adam is one of seven lumberjack brothers living in the same cabin. The brothers have been named alphabetically from the Bible: Adam, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephriam, Frank (short for Frankincense, the Bible supposedly having no names beginning with F- due to Hebrew using "Ph" instead, as in Phineas -- however, Felix, Festus and Fortunatus are all mentioned in the Bible), and Gideon. All of the brothers have red hair and are well over six feet tall; except Gideon who is younger and shorter than his brothers.
Milly teaches Adam's rowdy, ill-behaved younger brothers manners and social mores, including how to dance. At first, the brothers have a hard time changing from their "mountain man" ways, but eventually they come to see that the only way they will get a girl of their own is if they do things Milly's way. They are able to test their new manners at a barn-raising, where they meet six girls they like -- Dorcas, Ruth, Martha, Liza, Sarah and Alice -- and, fortunately, the girls like the brothers too. However, the girls already have suitors who jealously taunt the brothers into fighting during the barn-raising, and, although the brothers do not start the fight, they are banished from the town by the townspeople because of it.
Winter arrives, and the six younger brothers mope for their girls. Adam reads his brothers the story of "Sobbin' Women" (a pun on the Sabine Women) and tells them that they should stop moping around and go get their girls (see bride kidnapping). The brothers do so, and then cause an avalanche so that they can't be followed by the townspeople. The girls are upset at being kidnapped, and Milly is furious at Adam. She consigns the brothers to the barn while the girls are living in the house. Adam, somewhat put out by Milly's reaction, leaves for the family's cabin to live out the winter by himself.
Months pass, and eventually it is spring. The girls have now fallen in love with the brothers, who are now allowed to court the girls. Milly gives birth to a daughter, Hannah (picking up the Biblical-alphabetical pattern). Gideon rides to the cabin to inform Adam about his daughter's arrival and asks Adam to come home, but Adam refuses to do so, saying that he would return home when the pass was open once more to traffic.
Adam, who has had time to think about his baby daughter, returns home in the spring. As a newly responsible father, he has become aware of how worried the townspeople would be about what has happened to the girls. Adam intends that the girls be taken back to their homes in the town by his brothers, but his brothers don't want to do so. The girls don't want to return to their homes, either — they all want to stay at the farm with their new suitors. When Milly discovers that the girls are not in the house, she mentions this to Adam, and he tells his brothers to go after the girls and bring them back.
Meanwhile, the townspeople arrive, with the intention of taking vengeance against the brothers for the kidnappings. Upon finding the brothers trying to force the girls to return, the fathers get the wrong impression and charge to their daughters' rescue. Then Alice's father, who is a preacher, hears a baby cry in the distance, and worries that the baby might belong to one of the girls. The fighting is sorted out, with the fathers rounding up the brothers and announcing that they intend to hang them. When Alice's father asks the girls whose baby it is, they all decide, simultaneously, to claim the baby as their own even though the baby is Milly's. This misinformation gives the girls and the brothers their greatest wish- the townspeople insist that all six couples marry immediately in a shotgun wedding.
Howard Keel appeared as "Adam", ex-baseball player Jeff Richards as "Benjamin", Matt Mattox as "Caleb", Marc Platt as "Daniel", Jacques d'Amboise as "Ephraim" (on loan from the New York City Ballet), Tommy Rall as "Frank", and former gymnast Russ Tamblyn as "Gideon". (Morton Downey Jr. almost had Tamblyn's part as "Gideon" in this musical.)
All of the brides were played by dancers. Jane Powell appeared as "Milly", Julie Newmar (Newmeyer) as "Dorcas", Ruta Lee as "Ruth", Norma Doggett as "Martha", Virginia Gibson as "Liza", Betty Carr as "Sarah", and Nancy Kilgas as "Alice".
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers came eighth in the top 10 MGM musicals in the book Top 10 of Film by Russell Ash.
After fifteen previews, the Broadway production, directed by Kasha and choreographed by Jerry Jackson, opened on July 8 1982 at the Alvin Theatre, where it ran for only five performances. The cast included Debby Boone, David-James Carroll, Jeff Calhoun, and Lara Teeter.
Its sole Tony Award nomination was for Best Original Score.
In 2005, a major revival was staged at the prestigious Goodspeed Opera House staring Jacquelyn Piro Donovan and Burke Moses. Directed by Greg Ganakas with choreography by Patti Colombo, the production earned rave reviews from Variety and the New York Times. Songs, Where Were You?,I Married Seven Brothers, and a revised version of Glad That You Were Born were added and the book was heavily rewritten. With a realistic approach, rustic orchestrations and a focus on the Oregon Trail, the show was quite different from its film predecessor.
Plans for a 2005-2006 National Tour of the Goodspeed Opera House production failed. However, in 2007, and this time under the direction of Scott Schwartz, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers became a joint production between Houston Theatre Under the Stars, Paper Mill Playhouse, North Shore Music Theatre, and Atlanta Theatre of the Stars. With set design by Tony Award nominee, Anna Louizos, the current version is a hybrid between the literal approach of the Goodspeed production and the slapstick camp of the original film. While reviews were positive, the real attention was given to Patti Colombo's acrobatic, athletic, and inventive choreography.
The 2007 revival is expected to be the version that will be licensed by Music Theatre International for stock and regional use.