An underrated musical with a Western twist makes a lasting impression

BY SHANE CRABTREE

Perhaps one of the most underrated film genres in the history of Hollywood is the musical. Yes, I know, you are shaking your head, but it is true. And perchance even lesser rated are musicals set in the age of the pioneers of the American West. That is why, my friends, we are going to take a look at one of the all-time best pioneer musicals Hollywood ever released — and potentially ever will — “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.”.

Directed by Stanley Donen and led by acting duo Howard Keel and Jane Powell, “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers” is a brilliantly constructed film consisting of complex acrobatics, choreographed dances and many oxygen-deprived song notes.

Filmed and released in 1954 — long before computer-generated imagery (CGI) became the everyday simple answer to acting — Donen and crew knew that to make a physically challenging film, every participant had to do their part and more. Donen was not disappointed, and neither were the crowds.

Set in turn-of-the-century American West, the film kicks off with the leading male character, Adam Pontipee (Keel), strolling into town in search of a bride. Despite being scoffed at by the townsfolk, Pontipee marches out of town newly wedded to the most desired woman in the area, Milly (Powell). However, fearing that he would lose the interest of his new bride, Pontipee fails to tell Milly that he lives in a four-bedroom mountainside cabin with six younger brothers.

The ensuing dialogue and interaction brings tears of laughter to the viewers as Milly, the newlywed homemaker, whips the brothers into shape. Nevertheless, when the younger Pontipee brothers find themselves yearning for the attention of six lovely ladies in a nearby town, they are led astray by the elder Pontipee, who talks them into kidnapping the damsels.

For the sake of avoiding spoilers, this is where the synopsis screeches to a halt. But be assured, the film will not leave you disappointed. Granted, there are no glorious graphical marvels or impressive CGI effects. There is not even any blood, gore or violence.

Instead, there are hand-painted backdrops, live acting and a ton of comedic banter and roughhousing. Furthermore, this film earns four out of its five stars via a great accomplishment — the film was shot without any retakes. The budget was so small for this film, that Donen and crew could not even afford extra film rolls.

Beat that, modern day Hollywood.

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