Friday, February 03, 2017

"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers": a monument to patriarchal heterosexuality, or family fun?

Here's another boyhood memory. I actually liked "musicals" then, but some of them were obviously much weaker in concept than others.
I vaguely remember seeing the musical “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”, directed by Stanley Donen, music by Saul Chaplin and Gene De Paul, lyrics by Johnny Mercy.  This was a relatively early CinemaScope picture, from MGM (not Fox), with AnscoColor.

But the plot, set in the Oregon backwoods in the 1850s, would sound misogynistic today (maybe it would appeal to Donald Trump).

When Adam (Howard Keel) clumsily looks for a bride and finds Milly (Jane Powell) in town and brings her back,  he brings her back to the woods and she encounters his six brothers, who also want wives.  She teaches them to be tidier and more refined around women (in other words, how to "court" the "weaker sex").  But a plot ensues where the brothers kidnap other women, after their “masculinity” is challenged by nerdier rivals in town.  The story seems like a “brains vs. brawn” dichotomy, but this time the brawn wins.

It’s hard to see how this was regarded as wholesome family entertainment in 1954.

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