Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954): Stanley Donen’s Musical. Starring Howard Keel and Jane Powell

Based on Stephen Vincent Benet’s tale “The Sobbin’ Women” (“Sabine Women”), this light and fun MGM musical benefits immensely from Stanley Donen’s deft direction and particularly from Michael Kidd’s energetic choreography.


The tale is set in Oregon, where Adam (Howard Keel), the oldest of the Pontabee brothers, who live on a ranch in the mountains, decides he needs to have a bride.  Going to town, he meets Milly (Jane Powell), a waitress, and is immediately smitten by her.  After a brief courtship, they get married and he takes her back to the homestead.  The poor girl is shocked by the wilderness, or the lack of civilized manners of Adam and his brothers.


For their part, Adam’s brothers envy him and now desire their own female companions.  To that extent, they kidnap some local beauties that get stuck at the ranch during the winter, when an avalanche prevents the townspeople from rescuing them.


The dynamic dancing is mostly due to the terrific male dancers, whose standouts include the barn-raising and the “Lonesome Polecat Lament” ballet.  Adolph Deutsch and Saul Chaplin’s score deservedly won the Oscar Award (see below).


As the central couple, Keel and Powell are a bit bland, but it’s not a movie about acting.  You can spot Julie Newmar (then called Newmeyer) among the brides.


A smash hit, this well-received musical was one of the top-grossing pictures of the year.


Oscar Nominations:  5


Picture, produced by Jack Cummings

Screenplay: Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, and Dorothy Kingsley

Cinematography (color): George Folsey

Film Editing: Ralph E. Winters

Scoring of a Musical Picture: Adolph Deutsch and Saul Chaplin


Oscar Awards: 1


Scoring of a Musical


Oscar Context:


In 1954, “Seven Brides for Seven Sisters” competed for the Best Picture Oscar with Kazan’s labor drama, “On the Waterfront,” which swept most of the Oscars, the court drama, “The Caine Mutiny,” the screen version of the stage play, “The Country Girl,” and the romantic melodrama, “Three Coins in the Fountain,” which benefited from on-location shoot in Rome.


While “The Caine Mutiny” earned Bogart his third and last nomination, it didn’t win any award.  The other nominees received one or two Oscars. 


The most controversial award was the Best Actress to Grace Kelly, for “The Country Girl,” which also won Screenplay for George Seaton.  A favorite of the industry, Kelly made several movies that year, including the Hitchcock classic, “Rear Window.”   Nonetheless, the feeling was that Judy Garland should have won the award for what’s considered her most accomplished dramatic performance in George Cukor’s masterpiece, “A Star Is Born,” the second screen version of the often-told Hollywood tale.




Milly (Jane Powell)

Adam Rontabee (Howard Keel)

Benjamin Rontabee (Jeff Richards)

Gideon Rontabee (Russ Tamblyn)

Frank Rontabee (Tommy Rall)

Daniel Rontabee (Marc Platt)

Caleb Rontabee (Matt Mattox)

Pete Perkins (Howard Petrie)

Liza (Virginia Bibson)

Rev. Elcott (Ian Wolfe)




Art direction: Cedric Gibbons, Urie McClear

Costumes: Walter Plunkett

Running time: 102 Minutes