Choreographer Michael Kidd’s exuberant dance numbers are the best of many good things about this joyful – though undeniably profoundly sexist – musical set in Oregon in 1850.
The plot concerns the family of seven tall mangy redheaded Pontipee brothers.
The uncouth backwoods fur-trappers with Biblically alphabetical names live in typical hillbilly fashion in their frontier cabin until the eldest sibling, Adam (Howard Keel), brings home the comely, efficient Milly (Jane Powell) as his bride.
She licks the cabin into comfortable style and inculcates some manners and polish into the other half-dozen brothers.
This opens the eyes of Benjamin (Jeff Richards), Caleb (Matt Mattox), Daniel (Marc Platt), Ephraim (Jacques d’Amboise), Frank (Tommy Rall) and Gideon (Russ Tamblyn) to female desirability and so they set out to abduct the only available women in town to be their wives.
Having kidnapped their ladies, they escape their pursuers when a convenient avalanche keeps the avengers away until Spring. Milly upholds law and morality by turning the cabin into a girls’ dormitory and relegating the boys to the barn.
Come Spring and the once reluctant girls refuse to go back home and the film ends up with seven shotgun weddings.
The movie was based on a short story by Stephen Vincent Benet called The Sobbin’ Women, who took his plot from the Rape of the Sabine Women incident in Roman mythology.
Johnny Mercer and Gene DePaul’s catchy tunes Bless Your Beautiful Hide, Goin’ Courtin’ and Spring, Spring, Spring are well sung by leads Howard Keel and Jane Powell.
Also notable is director Donen’s decision not to make the film on location but keep it on a set that looks like a set so you can concentrate on the action and not the scenery.
Rightly a sensational commercial success in its day, especially in Britain, this joyous romp remains one of the freshest and most satisfying of movie musicals.
The spectacular wild and whirling ‘barn raising’ dance number is an absolute showstopper and the high-spot of the film.