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Seven Brides for Seven Brothers :
some background information

 
 


small movie poster imageSeven Brides for Seven Brothers faced many difficulties before becoming a finished product - including every scene having to be filmed twice so that cinemas which lacked the expensive new CinemaScope projectors would still be able to screen a version of the film.

The film premiered at Loew's, before being released at Radio City Music Hall in New York on July 22, 1954. Seven Brides was the longest-ever running film at Radio City in its time, and even President Eisenhower urged his fellow Americans to go and see it.

In its first run alone the film not only regained all of the expenses paid out for it ($2,539,712.08), but also made almost a further $4,000,000 in profits! Probably due to restrictions of time and funding, the film was completed on February 2, 1954, in the remarkably short period of 48 days. (As a comparison, Oklahoma! took 107 days to be completed.)

 
 

Portuguese movie poster The original title of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" was to be "The Sobbin' Women" (the title of the short story it was based on). However, MGM Publicity decided that no one would go to see a film with a title like that. They came up with "A Bride for 7 Brothers", but this was thought too titillating. They finally decided on the title "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" and the film went into production.

Interesting fact # 1: The dresses worn by the brides during the spring at the Pontipee farm were made out of real quilts.

Interesting fact # 2: 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.

You can find out more - much, much more - more, perhaps, than any human being needs to know - at this Internet site, to which thanks is due, and whence these snippets have been dredged by Jacket's editor: http://www.uq.net.au/~zzdmcana/SevenBrides/index.html

Stephen Vincent Benet's short story "'The Sobbin' Women" (surely one of the worst puns of the century) was itself an adaptation of the ancient legend of The Rape of the Sabine Women, retold by Roman historians Plutarch, Livy and others. Livy retells the legend of how the Sabine women were snatched from their families at a religious festival to populate Rome, and how their hearts and minds were won over by violence followed by sweet words and childbearing (blah, blah . . .)

 
 
The Roman state had become strong enough to hold its own in war with all the peoples along its borders, but a shortage of women meant that its greatness was fated to last for a single generation, since there was no prospect of offspring at home nor any prospect of marriage with their neighbours. Then, in accordance with the decision of the senate, Romulus sent messengers to the neighbouring peoples to ask for alliance and the right of marriage for the new people: cities, like everything else, start small but later if their own excellence and the gods assist them, they grow in strength and in fame. It was certain that at the beginning of Rome the gods had been propitiated and that it would not lack in valour. Therefore, men should not disdain to join blood and family ties with other men.

 
 

Poussin painting

Nicolas Poussin (French, 1594-1665.) "The Rape of the Sabine Women", detail, oil on canvas, 154.6 x 209.9 cm, painted 1636-37, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 
 
But nowhere were the emissaries given a fair hearing. Some scorned, others feared the great power growing in their midst, both for themselves and for their descendants. In more than one place the emissaries were asked, even as they were being sent packing, why they hadn't offered asylum to women (criminals) too: that way they'd have had their marriage and with others of their own rank! The youth of Rome took this insult badly and began to think seriously about the use of force. Romulus, to gain time till he found the right occasion, hid his concern and prepared to celebrate the Consualia, the solemn games in honour of equestrian Neptune. He then ordered that the spectacle be announced to the neighbouring peoples. He gave the event great publicity by the most lavish means possible in those days. Many people came, some simply out of curiosity to see the new city, and especially the nearest neighbours, from Caenina, Crustuminum and Antemnae; the entire Sabine population came, wives and children included. Received with hospitality in the houses, after having seen the position of the city, its walls, and the large number of buildings, they marvelled that Rome had grown so fast. When it was time for the show, and everybody was concentrating on this, a prearranged signal was given and all the Roman youths began to grab the women. Many just snatched the nearest woman to hand, but the most beautiful had already been reserved for the senators and these were escorted to the senators' houses by plebeians who had been given this assignment. The story goes that one woman, far and away the most beautiful, was carried off by the gang of a certain Thalassius, and because many wanted to know where they were taking her, they repeatedly shouted that they were taking her to Thalassius, and that it how the nuptial cry came to be.

 
 
Picasso, The Rape of the Sabine Women

Pablo Ruiz Picasso, Study for "Rape of the Sabines" (1962), oil on canvas, 73x60cm

 
 

The party was over, and the grieving parents of the girls ran away, accusing the Romans of having violated the laws of hospitality and invoking the god who was supposed to have been honoured at that day's festival. Nor did the girls themselves hold much hope. But Romulus went among them in person to assure them that none of this would have happened if their fathers hadn't been so inflexible in not letting them marry their neighbours. But now they would have the status of wives with all the material rewards and civil rights of citizenship and they would have children, than which nothing is dearer. They should cool their anger and give their hearts to the men who had already taken their bodies. A good relationship often begins with an offence, he said. And their husbands would treat them with extra kindness in hope of making up for the parents and country they so missed. The men added their blandishments, saying that they'd been motivated by love and passion, entreaties which are very effective with women.

 
 
"The rape of the Sabine women". Rome, traditionally 8th cent. B.C. (Livy, History of Rome 1.9. Late 1st cent. B.C.-early 1st cent. A.D. L)


Poster for the MGM film

You can read Ron Koertge's poem about the movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers in this issue of Jacket.

 


 
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