In 1954 MGM released two musicals in the new widescreen CinemaScope format. One was a lavish adaptation of the smash hit Broadway musical “Brigadoon” the other was a musical written especially for the screen, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” Despite “Seven Brides” having a score that featured lyrics by perhaps the greatest lyricist to ever live, Johnny Mercer, MGM put all their gusto behind “Brigadoon,” cutting the budget of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” essentially treating it like a B picture. Despite having an all-star cast that included Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse, “Brigadoon” flopped when it was released, not recouping it’s over three million dollar budget at the box office.
“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” on the other hand, was a smash hit, bringing in over nine million on a mere two and a half million dollar budget. Film fans today are still mixed in how to view “Brigadoon,” while “Seven Brides” is undeniably a classic and one of MGM’s best. Directed by Stanley Donen and starring Jane Powell and Howard Keel, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” takes place in 1850 in the Oregon Territory. Backwoodsman Adam Pontipee (Keel) comes to town looking for a bride, upon finding one the newlyweds return home, only for Adam’s new bride Milly (Powell) she finds that not only has she gotten a husband, but an instant family of his six brothers too.
It’s downright impossible not to get swept up in the charms of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” if the film doesn’t have you fully hooked by the amazing barn-raising sequence, then maybe musicals just aren’t your bag. Warner Archive has brought “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” to blu-ray in a most impressive two-disc set that brings both the original CinemaScope 2.55:1 version of the film to HD, and the little-seen alternate 1.77:1 “flat” version of the film that was shot at the same time as the CinemaScope film, but made of entirely different takes. This was an experiment MGM only did on three films, this one, “Brigadoon,” and “The Student Prince.” The feeling was that if CinemaScope flopped—or if not enough theaters are equipped to show it, they’d still have a releasable version of the films in the bank.
Both films are presented in new 2K scans, and both look quite good. The CinemaScope version of “Seven Brides” is really quite impressive when you realize how little there is to work with, the film’s original CinemaScope negative was badly damaged in the late 1960s, and the film was shot in Ansco color—which faded rapidly over time. The flat version of the film has a slight edge color wise—MGM wound up never releasing it and the negative sat untouched for decades until being made available for the first time on a 1999 deluxe laserdisc set of the film.
This blu-ray set mirrors the bonus material from the 2004 deluxe DVD release of the film, which is perfectly fine as all the extras are quite solid. There’s a commentary track from director Donen, a making-of feature, newsreel footage of the film’s premiere, and a short subject celebrating MGM’s 30th anniversary—also in CinemaScope and in a rich, 5.1 mix. “Seven Brides” was released in four-track stereo, and the CinemaScope version features a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix created from those original elements, the “flat” version features a mono soundtrack, also in DTS-HD MA. It’s a fine release of one of the most beloved movie musicals of all time.
Also out from Warner Archive, making its blu-ray debut, is director Vincente Minnelli’s 1957 charmer “Designing Woman” starring Lauren Bacall and Gregory Peck. Bacall plays a fashion designer and Peck a sportswriter. Both meet in Los Angelas and fall in love, marry, then return home to NYC after a weekend romance and begin to realize that they don’t actually know each other all that well. This is a fun film and starts off with a great opening scene that has the characters breaking the fourth wall and addressing the camera directly. Bacall and Peck are a fun duo together, and the film breezily moves along thanks to an Oscar-winning screenplay This new blu-ray from Warner Archive features a new 1080p transfer of the film made from original CinemaScope elements—it looks terrific! Bonus materials include a mini-documentary with costume designer Helen Rose and the film’s theatrical trailer. Both of these films are fine additions to your home video library and another excellent job from Warner Archive. I hope you’ll give both of them a look soon. See you next week.