Favorite Musicals: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

This is a Special Edition of Our Mutual Friends. In addition to being about a fabulous movie, this week’s post is written by a special guest, friend and fellow aspiring author Lucy Morgan-Jones.

I can’t resist saying a few words about the movie, but then I’ll be quiet and let Lucy do the talking.

 Liz on Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Red heads! Seven of them! That’s enough to make this a great movie. The catchy songs, great dance routines, and fun storyline are extras. The movie just makes me smile—“Bless your beautiful hide,” alphabetized brothers, Frankincense, Sobbin’ women, the bride kidnapping.

Interestingly, this movie also helped me with connect with one of the members of my critique group. I recognized the influence of this movie on her story and mentioned it. We then discovered we had a “mutual friend” in classic movies, particularly musicals, and I decided it would be fun to have her on the blog. So, without further ado,

Lucy on Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

“Bless you beautiful hide, wherever you may be. We ain’t met yet, but I’m awilling to bet—she’s the gal for me!”

Not exactly words a gal dreams of hearing from hunky hero. Yet there is a certain appeal in his honest quest for a hardworking wife to love forever… er, make that cook and clean for his six other brothers.

I love this movie. Lovely scenery. Ratbag brothers who clean up rather well, exquisite dancing, fun, as well as melancholy singing (who could forget the wood-chopping scene and the song “Lonesome Polecat”) as well as the fun scenes where the remaining brides are abducted from town and later when they fall in love with the brothers and don’t want to be returned home.

I have a love for all things musical and this subconsciously influence my writing. When I wrote a novel last year it was influenced by Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. In a conversation with someone who also appreciates movies, this person said that Seven Brides for Seven Brothers had no plot. No plot! Of course it has a plot! Movie feathers ruffled, I sat down and began writing my story. It has definite overtones of a certain musical or two—and a plot… I hope. The idea of a hasty marriage, a home life that isn’t expected (finding out your new house is occupied by numerous extra men and it needs a through clean) and still having a happy ending… now that intrigued and inspired me in my writing.

Some random facts:

The brothers have been named alphabetically from the Old Testament and in chronological order are: Adam, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank (short for Frankincense, the Old Testament having no names beginning with F), and Gideon. All of the brothers have red hair and are well over six feet tall, except Gideon, who is younger and shorter than his brothers.

MGM was much less interested in Seven Brides than it was in Brigadoon which was in production at the time, even cutting its budget and transferring the money to the Lerner and Loewe vehicle.

The dresses worn by the female cast were made from old quilts that costume designer Walter Plunkett found at the Salvation Army.

To perform the electrifying dance numbers and grueling action sequences, choreographer Michael Kidd cast four professional dancers, a gymnast and even a baseball player as Adam Pontipee’s six rough and tumble brothers. All seven of the brides were played by professional dancers.

Because there was no way of distinguishing between the Pontipee Brothers on the one hand and the Town Suitors on the other, the studio decided to make all of the Pontipee Brothers red-headed.

Even more amazing is the fact that this movie was filmed in only 48 days… and each scene filmed twice (one for widescreen) and one normal so it would play at all cinemas. So if you watch this on DVD in widescreen you could be seeing footage that is rarely seen before!

Enjoy!

About Lucy

Lucy is a follower of Christ, passionate reader of books and mum of four precocious children. She makes her home in north central Victoria, in Australia and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Christian Writers Downunder.

You can typically find her enjoying a cuppa while she teaches her children school, reading awesome stories, critiquing awesome stories, or lurking on facebook.

So, which brother do you think is the baseball player? And which song or dance scene is your favorite?

Favorite Musicals: Fiddler on the Roof

Jaz on Fiddler on the Roof

There are some films that resonate in a strong and personal way. For me, Fiddler on the Roof is one of them. Tevye, the main character, reminds me of my father: the way his smile crinkles up at the corners, his respect for traditional values, his love for people and his unwavering devotion to God. I myself identify with the characters in some ways; I grew up as one of five children in a noisy household outnumbered by women. We’d all squeeze onto the worn grey sofa in the living room and laugh as Tevye told his wife Golde the “dream,” tear up when the characters sang “Sunrise, Sunset,” and sing along at the top of our voices with “If I Were a Rich Man.”

Tevye is a poor (as can be guessed by the previous song title) Jewish man living in pre-revolutionary Russia. A milkman, he’s experienced the trials of poverty and wants something better for his five daughters. So when the eldest refuses a marriage proposal from the town’s wealthy butcher, telling Tevye she’s in love with a poor, spineless tailor, he’s forced to view the situation with a different perspective. Should he make her marry the matchmaker’s choice and ensure his daughter’s financial comfort, or let her choose the man she loves? Throughout the film, his traditional conceptions of life are challenged as his daughters fall in love, and again as political and social unrest develop throughout the country.

Unlike many musicals, Fiddler on the Roof contains a thought-provoking plot in addition to its entertaining and artfully crafted musical numbers.

Liz on Fiddler on the Roof

 I have a lot of memories associated with Fiddler on the Roof. To get it out of the way, I’ll start with the most embarrassing one. When I was young, my parents rented the movie, and they and my younger sister began to watch it. I opted to read a book. After a while, my father came to my room and ordered me to go watch the movie. That irked me. In protest, I sat just inside the living room doorway with my eyes closed and my ears covered for the rest of the first half of the movie (they broke it into two viewings). I’m afraid I have a stubborn streak. I don’t remember when, but I did later watch the beginning of the movie.

A surprising memory associated with Fiddler on the Roof is the use of the song “Tradition” in a Baptist Campus Ministries message and the fact that I remember it after all this time. I was familiar with the movie, and since the title of the song itself was informative, it was easy to remember that the message was about the importance of tradition and how it can act as an anchor when your faith seems lost or at least on rough seas.

Aside from great music, the movie has a good story. It’s both amusing and serious. Being a romantic at heart, my comments mainly revolve around the three oldster daughters: I loved how the oldest daughter fell in love with her childhood friend and changed her sisters’ song from “Make me a match, find me a man” to “Make me no match, find me no man.” I thought the second sister foolish for falling for a man whose interruptions of the scripture she questioned. And it broke my heart when the third sister was rejected by her father for marrying a Christian.

Other things that stood out: The scene where Tevye tells his dream to convince his wife to let the oldest daughter marry her sweetheart. Jewish men and women couldn’t dance together?

I mentioned great music. “Matchmaker, Matchmaker”, “Sunrise, Sunset”, and “If I were a Rich Man” were my favorite songs. If you haven’t heard it, the Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass’s version of “If I were a Rich Man” is excellent. It’s my favorite version.

What’s your favorite part or song of Fiddler on the Roof?

Favorite Musicals: Singing in the Rain

Sorry we are late posting this week. Life has been hectic, but I hope first post on favorite musicals brightens your week.

Jaz on Singing in the Rain

Singin’ in the Rain. What a glorious film. Should I begin with Gene Kelly, my first movie star crush? Or the film’s witty plot and dialogue? Or the phenomenal musical numbers?

I’ll just start at the beginning.

It’s 1927, The Jazz Singer has just come out and Hollywood is in an uproar. At Monumental Pictures, all silent film production stops and its two biggest stars, Lina Lamont and Don Lockwood, told they must begin a “talkie.” Their first attempt is a fiasco: The Dueling Cavalier is laughed out of the theater opening night (No, no, no! YES YES YES!!!). After a night of brainstorming and a dance, Lockwood, his friend and accompanist Cosmo Brown, and perky aspiring actress Kathy Seldon come up with a solution: make it a musical.

There’s one glaring problem, though. Snobby Lamont has the voice of a helium-addict gerbil and a brain about half its size. “She can’t act, she can’t sing, she can’t dance – a triple threat,” Cosmo quips. Kathy obligingly offers to dub for Lamont at the risk of her own budding career. Cue title song (sigh…).

Lina is infuriated when she finds out. Later, however, she changes her mind and threatens to sue the studio if Seldon is not permanently assigned as her dub singer in all future films. This effectively destroys Seldon’s film career, and … well, you’re just going to have to watch it and see.

Singin’ in the Rain is one of the best musicals ever made. Not only is it a brilliant satire, it has some of the greatest performances you’ll see in a film. Be sure to note O’Connor and Kelly’s distinct styles – one energetic and elastic, the other smooth and laidback – in “Moses Supposes.” Talented actress Jean Hagen plays the role of Lina Lamont hilariously, and in “Make ‘Em Laugh, Donald O’Connor does just that. It was Gene Kelly’s iconic rain dance, however, that first made me fall in love with this film.

Liz on Singing in the Rain

Singing in the Rain, why do I love thee?

Let me name the whys.

Gene and Donald, and Debbie too

Dancing and singing, and big cakes with frosting

Bright yellow jackets and rainy mornings

Proper settings and old motorcars

Microphones in bushes

Dumb blondes and men behind curtains…

Actually, I think it would be easier to name the things I don’t like about it: the long and strange Broadway scene, and the very short time they gave to the beautiful song “Would You?” I would love to hear more of the song; I prefer it to “You were meant for me” which Gene Kelly sings in the “proper setting” of the studio (I do like that song though).

The most memorable songs for me are “Good Morning” and, of course, “Singing in the Rain.” Gene Kelley really seems to be enjoying himself as he sings in the rains—even when he stands under the gutter spout, and “Good Morning” is such a cheerful song that it makes me cheerful as well.

Funny, romantic, full of great songs and dances performed by talented actors—and with the added interested of a bit of cinema history—Singing in the Rain is one of my favorite musicals and movies in general.

What do you like about Singing in the Rain? Which is your favorite song or dance routine?

Murder Comedies: The Trouble with Harry

Liz on The Trouble with Harry:

Like Arsenic and Old Lace, The Trouble with Harry is morbid but leaves me laughing anyway. Part of the appeal is the actors. The Captain, played by Edmund Gwenn (or, as I generally refer to him: Mr. Bennett), is a particular favorite of mine.

Surprise is often associated with humor, and the Vermont villagers’ different reactions to the discovery of a body in the woods certainly excites that emotion. After all, finding a body in the woods and then making a sketch of the man’s face is a perfectly expected reaction, right?

Or how about assuming you shot the man while hunting? This, of course, leads to the frightened Captain to bury the body, identified by a very much not distraught widow as Harry. But poor Harry isn’t left in peace. He gets buried and dug up several times, and then cleaned up, so he can be found once again.

Humorous and well-acted, and though a little risqué in parts, it is an entertaining watch. It’s quite different from other Hitchcock movies, but it does include the traditional brief sighting of Hitchcock. Of course, I also love that the movie begins with a man walking through a lovely countryside singing a song about Tuscaloosa. The entire score is bouncy and amusing; it reminds me of Peter and the Wolf.

Jaz: “If you’re going to get shot, do it where you’re known.” Nobody cares who Harry is, or that he’s lying dead – feet sticking comically up in the air – in the middle of a clearing. Not even his wife.

Harry is met with varying levels of nonchalance as the day wears on. The Captain and his next door neighbor chat pleasantly over the corpse and form a romantic attachment. The town doctor stumbles over Harry twice without looking. The painter sits down to sketch his face. The tramp takes his shoes. The little boy is the only person to react normally to the sight of a corpse.

Several people think they are responsible for his death. Was it the Captain’s neighbor with her heavy shoe? Or the Captain with the stray bullet intended for a rabbit? Or Harry’s wife with the milk bottle? Or someone else? Who cares, just as long as they get the body out of sight. So they bury Harry. But wait … won’t that prove their guilt? So they dig him back up. Then they bury him again. Then they dig him back up. After a while I lost count.  

The Trouble with Harry is an unusual departure from Hitchcock’s signature style, a spoof of his own films. The only clue to this being a Hitchcock creation is the dramatic music, which contrasts humorously with the content. I have to admit I didn’t get it the first time I popped it into the VHS player (yes, it was a while back). The third time I laughed throughout. It’s the kind of film you appreciate more with each additional view.