What is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers?
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is the grandest, most delightful, most ambitious MGM technicolor musical that was ever based on the story of a mass rape.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is based on “The Rape of the Sabine Women,” a foundational Roman myth, which told the story of the mass rape of Sabine women by Roman men. The film starred Jacques d’Amboise, Russ Tamblyn, and the incomparable Jane Powell, who also danced with Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding.
But why… Who decided this was a good idea for a family movie?
In 1926, American author Stephen Vincent Benét wrote a story about young homestead brothers whose house gets dusty after their mother and their “hired girl” die. The brothers also didn’t enjoy cooking. One of the brothers goes to the town to find a bride to do all the housework. Later, the other brothers hear the story of “The Rape of the Sabine Women” and decide to go to the town to kidnap women to be their brides. This short story served as the basis for the film, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, which was shot and shown in cinemascope. Howard Keel called it one of the happiest filmmaking experiences he ever had!
I’m pretty upset right now. Do you have any Valium?
Librium, a precursor to Valium, was developed just two years after the release of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and was later labeled “Mother’s Little Helper” since it was overprescribed to sedate so many “hysterical” women who were trapped in bad marriages without any access to economic agency. Julie Newmar was a terrific dancer, but since she played opposite former baseball player Jeff Richards she, sadly, never got to show off her dance skills.
Do you ever get the feeling that just beneath the surface of every single thing, there’s proof that rape culture exists?
Censors were unhappy with the lyric, “A man can’t sleep when he sleeps with sheep,” so the filmmakers made sure there were no actual sheep in the scene when the lyric was sung. That’s what bothered the censors — the idea of men having sex with sheep.
I feel like you’re just making stuff up now.
Nope. Here are some lyrics from the “Sobbin’ Women” scene, which, unlike the sheep innuendo, didn’t bother the censors at all:
So don’t forget that when you’re takin’ a bride.
Sobbin’ fit to be tied
Treat ‘em rough like them there Romans do
Or else they’ll think you’re tetched.
And though they’ll be a sobbin’ for a while
We’re gonna make them sobbin’ women smile!
Look, if you don’t have any Valium, I’ll just go ahead and open this bottle of Dewar’s.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was nominated for Best Picture and won the Academy Award for Best Original Score. In 2006, The American Film Institute named it one of the greatest musicals ever made.
Just gonna drink it straight out of the bottle, too.
Before it was called Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, the film’s working title was A Bride for Seven Brothers, but once again, the censors stepped in and decided this was too risqué and offensive. Still, MGM marketed it as a “Hilarious and delightfully shocking romance.”
Who would star in an all-male reboot of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers?
You mean like… What? You mean, all the roles would be played by men?
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You’ve gone completely quiet. Hello?
I’m trying to imagine it. But I feel like it wouldn’t work? It wouldn’t be a beloved musical classic. The idea of men kidnapping men for sex and forced marriage would trigger some kind of fierce resistance. Somewhere along the line, a writer or a producer or an actor or a sound technician or a critic or an audience member would have said, “This is not OK. You can’t make a family film inspired by a mythology of mass rape. What the actual fuck is wrong with you?” Variety called MGM’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers a “happy, hand-clapping, foot-stomping, country type of musical.”
You look like you could use some whiskey.
I could. Thank you.