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Our class so far has taught me to watch films with more awareness. It made me stop to analyze a movie I have always enjoyed for its more salient merits.  Putting together some research as well as previous knowledge gained as an English teacher, the film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers has many distinct qualities but its pedigree has deep cultural roots and off-shoots.

a.    During WWII, FDR had given many Fireside Chats in which he delineated Four Freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God in his own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear.  In 1943, Norman Rockwell memorialized them in a series of paintings. One, Freedom from Want, is loosely reenacted into the breakfast scene when the six men are at the table and must behave properly. The audience would catch the reference.

b.    Musical dance roots for the barn-raising scene

                                          i.    Kelly and Donan put the ballet at the end of An American in Paris to show character development and because of its stylized nature and sophisticated music.

                                         ii.    The Barn Dance is placed toward the middle of the film because its musical roots are in Aaron Copland’s popular Rodeo (1942) and involves raucous and acrobatic, gymnastic, masculine moves. Like An American in Paris, the Barn Dance is 5:47 in length, full of exuberance and conflict that presages the Sharks and Jets in West Side Story (1961). Several of the male dancers were prestigious jazz and ballet dancers. Tamblyn was a college gymnast. All of it has the energy of the Kelly ensemble pieces of An American in Paris and Singin in the Rain. (As an aside, in the 1984 Summer Olympics opening ceremonies in Los Angeles, Rodeo was performed on the Coliseum field complete with wagon trains. In that event, a catalogue of American music was presented in an extravaganza of national pride. It featured 85 grand pianos simultaneously playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Gene Kelly was shown in the audience.)

c.     The setting of this film is significant. In 1939, the western classic Stagecoach, directed by John Ford and staring John Wayne, set a pattern for the genre.  Shane was released in 1953 and also dealt with taming of the West. Television was increasing in popularity.  This movie was released in 1954. At that time, TV was beginning to show early westerns like the Gene Autry Show. Later, especially in the late 50’s-60’s, those popular oaters were set in places like the Oregonian town in this film. Recalling the Nelson Eddy-Jeannette MacDonald film Rose-Marie (1936) that we saw earlier in this course, the West was as wild as the Pontipee boys and needed taming. The town’s people ostracized the rascals and it took the influence of a good woman to bring order. Millie disciplined them and when she had their attention, began their etiquette education. Their moral education took more time. The proud Adam was only broken by realizing the responsibilities placed on him by fatherhood of a daughter. Suddenly, he became protective, moral, and dutiful.  Again, the West was tamed by a good woman from town.

d.    There are many religious references in this film. The number seven represents the sons and is well-referenced throughout the Bible as well as in the Seven Deadly Sins. Their names are all Biblical characters. Millie introduces prayer to the men at meal time. A message here is that it is not enough to merely have religious names but one must behave in a ethical manner such as is taught through religion. All religions share this value. Interestingly, the TCM scheduled Guys and Dolls just before Seven Brides on June 21. That show contains even more direct religious references and is set in the inner-city wilds inhabited by hoods and gamblers.

e.    Freudian psychology was well-known by the 50’. A Freudian analysis of the Pontipees and Millie Is worthwhile. It would identify the younger boys (and often Adam) as driven by the Id, illogical, seeking pleasure instinctively. Millie is the Superego, the moral driver of self-control and society. Adam portrays the Ego, strategic, problem-solving mediator that is set in reality and reason.

f.      Geo-politically, Seven Brides highlights the threat of the Soviet Union and Communism. All of the Pontipees have red hair. Red hair-Red Scare. The avalanche is like the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain. It took a thaw to allow the townsmen to reach their isolated daughters. Later, historically, it took a political “thaw” to eventually make Gorbachev “tear down this wall.” (Ronald Reagan 1987) The message in the movie is that isolationists and survivalists (assumed at the time to be Communists) were suspect. Only détente and reinstatement of American community (e.g. barn raising) would topple the suspects who would see the benefits of participation in American democracy.

freedom from want.jpg

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OMG! You outline! How wonderful! And now back to actually read what you wrote.

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. Most instructive. 

Edited by Marica
I read the post!
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