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Film / Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

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"What do I need manners for? I already got me a wife."
Adam Pontipee

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a 1954 Western Musical film, directed by Stanley Donen and starring Jane Powell, Howard Keel, Julie Newmar, and Jeff Richards. It was based on a short story by Stephen Vincent Benet, itself a parodic takeoff on the Rape of the Sabine Women from Classical Mythology.

Set on the nineteenth-century American frontier, the movie focuses on Adam Pontipee and his new bride Milly. Adam has six rowdy brothers who seeing Adam's success all decide to also look for a wife. Milly tries to train them into being gentlemen, but when they attend a disastrous barn raising where the townsmen provoke them into fights, Adam encourages them to follow the example of the Romans and the "Sobbin'" women and kidnap the women they are sweet on instead of properly courting. An avalanche traps the women with the men over the winter, and they warm up to each other.

Saul Chaplin and Gene de Paul composed the songs, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer and choreography by Michael Kidd. Two Screen-to-Stage Adaptation were produced. One on the Dallas Summer Musicals in 1978 with Keel and Powell reprising their roles, and a second one on Broadway in 1982 which ran and toured until 2015. There was also a TV adaptation that lasted for one season (1982–83) on CBS. The 1968–70 series Here Come the Brides was also partly inspired by this film.

Unrelated to the novel Seven Brothers.

Tropes used by this musical:

  • Abduction Is Love: Not a straight example, as they were clearly attracted to each other beforehand, but the girls are very indignant towards the brothers after their abduction at first. Still, by the end of the film they're fighting to stay with them instead of getting away from them.
  • Adaptational Heroism: In the story, it's Milly who suggests and masterminds the abduction. The adaptation makes her completely opposed to it, and has the brothers conceive and carry out the scheme more from stupidity than malice.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: The Pontipees in the original short story are all scruffy and dark-haired in comparison to the townspeople. In contrast, the film brothers have red-brown hair and are clean-shaven while the townsmen have dark hair and mustaches.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The stage show that was adapted from the movie has additional musical numbers and scenes that serve to soften Adam's character somewhat and give the townsfolk a number of their own.
  • Alphabetical Theme Naming / Family Theme Naming: The brothers have been named alphabetically from the Old Testament: Adam, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank (short for Frankincense, the Old Testament having no names beginning with F), and Gideon.
    • And Milly and Adam's daughter is named Hannah, picking up where Adam's mother left off with "H".
  • Altar the Speed: Milly and Adam get married after knowing each other only a few hours.
  • Angry Mob Song: The Townspeople's Lament in the stage version.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Having a daughter of his own is what makes Adam realize that kidnapping other people's daughters is perhaps not the best idea.
  • Badass Family: The Pontipee brothers are strong enough to win a barn-raising competition on a whim, and tough enough to beat the snot out of their competitors when they cheat. While out-numbered three-to-one.
  • Barn Raising: Which only gets about half way before a fight breaks out between the townsmen and the brothers.
  • Berserk Button: Frank's incensed by people calling him by the long form of his name. Can you blame him?
  • Beta Couple: Gideon - who has the most characterization out of the six brothers by far - and Alice.
  • Big Brother Worship: The youngest brother Gideon admits he's always looked up to Adam, and is the first to side with him in the final act. While he refuses to start a fight at his own injury, he loses it when one of the townsfolk hits Adam.
  • The Big Guy: Benjamin. He stands out as quite tall and robust compared to some of his more lithe brothers.
  • Cabin Fever: This is half the reason for the girls' romance with the boys. Being cooped up in the mountains with only the (admittedly handsome) Pontipee men for company warms them up to marriage right quick.
  • The Charmer: Adam. He's able to woo Milly with just the idea of courting her, although she also really likes the idea of getting away from town.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: See Fiery Red Head.
    • Also, Gideon has a blue shirt in over half of the scenes.
    • Milly actually uses this. During the barn dance, each of the brothers has a very colorful shirt, which not only sets the boys apart from the greyscale and browns of the town, but also tells the brothers apart. Adam and Ephraim are in different shades of green, Benjamin is in orange, Caleb in yellow, Daniel in purple, Frank in red, and Gideon in blue.
  • Cool Big Sis: Milly becomes this to her brothers-in-law, and later to the girls they kidnapped.
  • Courtly Love: Described in Going Courting
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The brothers vs anyone else. In just one instance, Milly tells Benjamin to stop a fight and he knocks each opponent out with a single punch.
  • Deliver Us from Evil: A rare male example, since the birth of his daughter makes Adam stop being a Jerkass.
  • Didn't Think This Through: The brothers not only forgot to kidnap a preacher, they also didn't stop to consider that A) the girls probably won't want to marry a bunch of guys they barely know, especially after being kidnapped in the middle of the night, B) the girls' families and suitors are still going to come after them once the pass is open again, and C) (as Adam points out during the climax) the girls also won't want to marry them if they fight the families when they come, especially if a father or brother gets hurt.
  • The Dividual: Daniel and Ephraim. They don't have much individual personality, are almost always seen together, and act like Single-Minded Twins. When Milly asks which is which, they say "Me!" in unison. They even fall for two girls who are always together.
  • Embarrassing First Name: The brothers' parents named them after Biblical characters going down through the alphabet. They hit a snag when they came to the letter F, so they named their son Frankincense. Let's just say he's not exactly fond of it.
  • Everyone Must Be Paired: All six of them! After one of the seven brothers gets married, all the other six decide they must each have a bride as well. Despite their dubious way of achieving that end, the brothers get what they want and everyone is happy.
  • Evil Plan: The six brothers consider giving Abduction Is Love a try. It doesn't exactly work as planned.
  • Exiled To The Barn: Milly kicks the brothers out of the house when she realizes what they did, and gives their beds to the women.
    • Milly pulls this on Adam on their wedding night for all of five minutes because she's angry at him for lying to her. Adam then turns the tables on her by choosing to sleep in a tree outside the bedroom window instead, making her feel guilty.
  • Fake Shemp: Jacques d'Amboise (Ephraim) had to leave before filming was finished because he was still under contract with the New York City Ballet, so an unknown stand-in filled in for him during the last few days.
  • Fiery Red Head: All seven Pontipee brothers; hardly surprising, as red hair runs in families. An interview on the DVD points out that this is a case of Color-Coded Characters, as the production team needed to signal the brothers' difference from the townsmen even before Milly breaks out the brightly coloured shirts.
    • Frank in particular fits this. Befittingly, he gets a red shirt during the barn dance.
  • Flipping the Table: Done by Milly when she sees the brothers' atrocious table manners.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • During the opening number, as Adam is strolling through town and surveying the women to find himself a wife, he judges one squat passing woman as having "Heavenly eyes, but oh, that size!" She looks back at him quite indignantly.
    • During the song "Wonderful, Wonderful Day", a bird crashes into the background, said background being of the horizon.
  • The Generic Guy: Some of the middle brothers, but especially Daniel. There isn't much to say about him that sets him apart from others except for the color of his shirt. He's just half of The Dividual.
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: Milly remarks how handsome her new brothers-in-law are when she makes them all bathe and shave.
  • Had to Be Sharp: The brothers are tough enough to beat up every man in town, but that's only because they've grown up constantly fighting each other.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "Winter weddings can be gay like a Christmas holiday." Who knew Oregon was so progressive even in 1850?
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Adam and Milly.
  • I Am Spartacus: When the kidnapped girls' fathers and brothers show up to rescue them (and string their kidnappers up from the nearest tree) the ruckus wakes Milly's baby. Alice's father asks the girls whose baby it is. The girls' simultaneous response: "Mine!" Cue Shotgun Wedding, since none of them will admit who the baby's real mother is and the men don't want to hang the father.
  • Innocent Innuendo: In-Universe. Adam accidentally breaking the bed when coming in through the window on his wedding night is interpreted by his brothers as Destructo-Nookie.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Adam.
    • Expanded more in the stage musical, when he sees one of the men trying to hit on Milly and giving her a hard time, he steps in and says, "That ain't no way to treat a lady!"
  • Kidnapped While Sleeping: The girls are abducted in the middle of the night, quite often from their own homes — Dorcas is kidnapped from her bedroom while she's still in her nightgown — and carried off by a group of seemingly uncivilised woodsmen, to be trapped up in the mountains for at least seven months.
  • The Kindnapper: All of the six brothers who are bachelors in the beginning. They kidnap the women with the intention of marrying them, but they do state that they want to "make them Sobbin' women smile" and they intend for the kidnappings to result in happy marriages. Seems like they were honestly fooled (by Adam) into thinking this is what the women really wanted and they clearly had no intention of harming them or forcing anything on anyone (except for the whole forcing them away from their homes part). They repent later on once they figure it out, and try to take them back home. When the families come to rescue them, they hear baby Hannah crying and mistakenly assume that at least one of the girls has been forced to give birth to her abductor's child.
  • Lysistrata Gambit: Milly refuses to go to bed with Adam on their wedding night because she's mad at him, though she forgives him relatively quickly (if only so he doesn't have to sleep in a tree).
  • Marriage Before Romance: Adam convinces a townswoman named Milly to marry him, promising an idyllic life in the woods. But when he gets her home she discovers that he failed to mention his six rowdy adult brothers who are also living under the same roof. Despite her initial anger, she starts to fall in love with him, but their romance is derailed when after the barn raising Adam encourages his brothers to follow the example of the Romans and just kidnap their would-be brides. Snowed in over winter, all of the girls warm to their captors and when spring arrives and their menfolk come to rescue them, they all manage to finagle shot-gun weddings instead. Adam makes things right with Milly by convincing his brothers that they he was wrong and the women have to be returned without a fight. The girls don't want to leave but its the thought that counts!
  • Marriage of Convenience: Milly is certainly attracted to Adam and swept off her feet, but she primarily marries him so she doesn't have to keep working at an inn and only take care of 'just one man'. Unfortunately for her, Adam's primary reason for hiring a wife is so there's someone to take care of seven men.
  • No Social Skills: The first time the brothers see girls in town, they try to start a conversation by offering them tobacco to chew. Even after another man steps in and accuses them of insulting a lady, the brothers are still clueless.
  • Not What It Looks Like: When the townspeople show up to rescue the girls, the brothers are trying to get the girls to agree to go home. Unfortunately the girls don't want to leave, refuse to cooperate and start fighting and screaming...which accidentally ends up looking like the brothers are trying to force themselves upon them, and results in the boys nearly getting lynched.
  • The Oner: Lonesome Polecat is shot in a single take.
  • One Head Taller: Adam and Milly in the movie.
  • Plank Gag: Frank is the victim of one of these during the barn-raising contest, except it was intentional and was only (poorly) disguised as an accident.
  • Plucky Girl: Milly. She's not afraid of hard work, or of telling Adam where to stick it.
  • Promotion to Parent: Implied with Adam. The only mention of their parents is that their dad "chopped a tree down on himself" sometime after Gideon's birth and their mother is nowhere to be seen. The state of the house at the start suggests Adam has been the sole patriarch for a while.
  • The Quiet One: Ephraim doesn't talk much. His most notable line is announcing that the baby is born.
  • Religious and Mythological Theme Naming: The Pontipee parents turned to the Bible for their sons' names, although they had to get creative when it came to F.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: Started as a film, was later adapted into a stage show.
  • Setting Update: As Lampshaded in the film itself, the story is more-or-less Plutarch's account of the Rape of the Sabine Women IN THE WILD WEST! AS A MUSICAL COMEDY! Note that the "rape" in "Rape of the Sabine Women" refers only to the act of abduction. When it was given that name in English, the word "rape" had not yet acquired its modern "forced intercourse" meaning. It seems more than likely that the Sabine women would have been raped in the modern sense afterwards, but Roman accounts naturally deny this.
  • Shotgun Wedding: It ends with all of the title characters having this, although by then they had all fallen in love with each other. (Each bride claimed that a baby born at the ranch was theirs, to prevent their fathers from shooting the men who had kidnapped them and whom they had now fallen for.)
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Milly embodies every ideal of femininity at the time: she's not afraid of working hard; she cooks, cleans, and sews for seven men, and yet turns a house of barbarians into a matriarchy through sheer force of personality.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: An important part of the story arc, as the story of six brothers desperate for women going into the city and kidnapping several maidens in the middle of the night and taking them back to the ranch, completely isolated for six months, has very strong subtext of lust and rape even though none of them have any intention of raping anyone. Though, it's worth noting that the girls had already met the brothers previously and showed an interest in them, and thanks to Milly the brothers apparently had no direct contact with the girls until spring (and that the girls were quite happy during the winter to take various forms of revenge on the brothers, who could only grumble and take it). The brothers also, after realizing what they had done, do try to get the girls to agree to go back home when spring arrives, except the girls refuse.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Adam is an unusually anti-heroic lead character for a lighthearted musical comedy. He marries Milly without telling her she'll have to cook and clean for his six brothers, then convinces his brothers to kidnap the girls they're in love with, then walks out on his wife and brothers after his behavior is called out. It's implied that he has learned his lesson and mellowed out after his daughter is born, though.
  • Villainous Advice Song: Adam is treated as a misguided hero, rather than a villain. However, "The Sobbin' Women" holds a special place in the annals of bad musical advice.
  • Virgin-Shaming: All of Adam's brothers wait with knowing smiles while Adam goes up to consummate his relationship with Milly, and it is stated outright that if they knew Milly had turned him down, they would make fun of him.
  • Weddings for Everyone: The brides bluff the townsfolk into allowing them to marry the brothers, since each claims Milly's baby is actually hers. Their families clearly don't want to take the risk.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Milly delivers a scathing one to all the brothers when they return home with their kidnapped "brides."
    • Milly does this a lot: she also delivers one to Adam upon realizing that he only married her for her domestic skills.
    • In the climax, Adam to his brothers as well, although less scathing than Milly's.
  • The Wild West: For the most part, it's the generic 1950s Hollywood version of the period, even if few of the standard Western tropes are actually present.


Video Example(s):


Sobbin' Women

Adam Pontipee tells his brothers the story of the Sabine women, which he mispronounces as "sobbin' women"

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / AbductionIsLove

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