SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954)
Directed by Stanley Donen
Cinematography by George J. Folsey
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is the subject of The Film Experience’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot episode this week, a musical I love despite its rather problematic premise. Much of my love for the movie is due to the dancing, brilliantly choreographed by Michael Kidd. I wrote about that particular aspect of the film a few years ago here, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much and keep it brief in this post, though I’ll admit it was a bit of a challenge for me to focus solely on George J. Folsey’s Oscar-nominated cinematography when there was all the great dancing happening in the frame. So with that said, I ended up zeroing in on two of my favorite musical numbers from the film.
I strongly considered picking a frame from the “Lonesome Polecat” number, which is impressively filmed in one continuous shot, but I couldn’t decide on which moment I liked best. Still, I wanted to shout out this scene, as I love how the camera seems to move with such ease following six of the brothers from medium to wide shots as they brood over their loneliness.
Going into this edition of HMWYBS, I knew my pick would be from the iconic barn-raising dance, so it was just a matter of deciding on which shot I wanted to highlight for my top choice. Any of these easily could’ve been a contender (along with possibly a few others from this sequence) as they show how well the widescreen aspect ratio is utilized. But I’ll add what’s tough with selecting one shot from this number is that what I found to be among the best was so full of motion, that a single frame doesn’t really do it justice in showing the complete artistry on display.
I ultimately decided on this early moment from the barn-raising dance because of how it takes advantage of CinemaScope, even for a small gesture between two of the titular characters. I also want to mention that my pick was practically inspired by an old TCM feature that I was reminded of during my recent rewatch, wherein Martin Scorsese talks a bit about the use of widescreen for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and its importance to help move the story forward as well as showing all the dance movements in full.
Be sure to check out what others have chosen as their best shot from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers here!