TSPDT Greatest Films #954 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Stanley Donen, 1954)
Set around 1850, somewhere in the USA, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a romanced musical (is there a musical without romance?) tainted with a little bit of drama. From the co-director of On The Town (reviewed here) and Singin' in the Rain and the director of Funny Face, Stanley Donen. Whose other films were made with big stars and big names like Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Audrey Hepburn.
In SBfSB Donen used the dancers of the New York City ballet. The story is quite simple, seven brothers live on the mountain and they want women to live with them. The older brother gets married and the six others want to meet each a bride... Well, the rest is pretty simple, naive, and very conservative (well it's an american musical of the 50's set in 1850 what do you expect???).
The musical performances are classic and under the quality of Donen's previous films he co-directed with Gene Kelly. Funny Face that followed SBfSB three years after is far better for its story and its style. On some level I think Stanley Donen needed a big star like Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire to juice up a bit his musical numbers and inject more personality in his films. But it's more than just the cast or the director in this case, the story is so thin and simple that it felt like anyone could have directed this script. Some musical numbers, like the part when then go to a dance in the village to build a barn is very entertaining and the choregraphy is very well executed. However, the story doesn't seem to keep the momentum and the rythm the dances bring to the film.
Even with all the criticism I bragged about SBfSB I had a good time watching it and it's far from a complete failure. I just think that when I can compare the previous work of a director to SBfSB it should be at least as good as he did if not better. For fans of Donen and/or fans of american classic musicals.
A Film Retrospective by Michaël Parent