by Randall Allen Dunn
A lot of people enter their marriage with a personal agenda. It’s unspoken and perhaps unknown, even to themselves. But in their hearts and minds, they imagine what their married life will be like. How they’ll talk with their spouse, how they’ll share chores, how they’ll show affection for one another.
The problem is that these dreams begin and end in the mind of one person, and may have no relation to the dreams forming in the mind of their spouse.
In the musical, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”, we meet fourteen of such people. Seven men and seven women with grand imaginations of their perfect married life that will one day come true. But they learn that to make a marriage work, they each have to make a genuine commitment to walk through life with the one they love, which means sacrificing a few things. Like their unrealistic dreams.
When mountain man Adam Pontipee (Howard Keel) arrives in town and tells a local couple he’s seeking a wife to bring back with him that same day, they’re stunned. The wife is appalled and the husband scoffs at Adam’s chances.
But Adam is determined, as he demonstrates by wandering through town with his eyes peeled, singing “Bless your beautiful hide, whoever you are …” A pure demonstration of his naïve brutish innocence.
He meets a hard-working, beautiful woman named Milly (Jane Powell), and decides she’s the one for him. He explains his proposition to her and asks, “How ‘bout it?”
Milly is attracted to Adam and intrigued by his offer of marriage, but she insists he get down on one knee and ask her properly. Adam happily does so, insisting he must have her answer that day because he’s returning to his mountain home and can’t return to town for several months. Milly quickly decides she’s ready to leave her life of cooking and cleaning for a bunch of sloppy, ungrateful men. She wants a life of her own in a house of her own, with just one husband to care for.
So she agrees and leaves with Adam. Upon arriving, she discovers that Adam had wanted her not only for himself, but also to help cook and clean for his six brothers, who all share the same house with him.
They should have compared notes.
Milly is crushed, but determines to make the best of it, the way she has always done. But when Adam’s brothers come charging to the dinner table like a pack of wild animals, pushing and shoving one another on the way to grab whatever food they find, she refuses to serve them and walks out.
She also refuses to let Adam share the same room with her for their “honeymoon” night, feeling he tricked her into slaving for his family. So Adam decides to sleep on the tree limb outside their window. Although still angry, Milly doesn’t feel right letting him spend his first night of marriage sleeping in a tree, so she invites him back in.
The next morning, Milly tells the brothers to bathe and shave and surrender their filthy clothes for her to wash … if they want any breakfast. After she describes the sumptuous meal they would miss, the boys agree to do things her way.
From then on, the boys recognize that if they want to get wives of their own, they’ll have to behave like gentlemen. Milly teaches them how to court a woman by showing proper respect and manners, then teaches them how to dance for the upcoming barn-raising ceremony, where they’ll meet plenty of townswomen.
Adam doesn’t put much stock in Milly’s lessons on manners, but he’s been learning a few things from her himself, from all her reading. Unfortunately, a little knowledge becomes a dangerous thing. After his brothers’ failed attempts to court six townswomen, Adam suggests they do what Milly told him about, in the tale of “the Sobbin’ Women” (that is, Sabine women), when men raided a town and grabbed the women they wanted.
So Adam leads them back to town to grab the women they’ve fallen in love with and herd them back up the mountain, while the townspeople give chase. Adam and the boys cause an avalanche to cut them off, barring the path until the spring thaw.
When they return home, Milly is outraged. She brings the kidnapped girls inside to comfort them, while ordering the men to sleep in the barn, ashamed of them all. Stunned by her response, having thought he did the right thing, Adam leaves in a rage, deciding to spend the winter alone at the trapping cabin further up the mountain.
Not knowing that Milly is pregnant with their first child.
Throughout the winter, the girls get back at their would-be grooms by dumping icy water on their heads and hurling snowball-covered rocks at them.
But they also realize what they knew before: they actually love these mountain men, despite their appalling ignorance and brutish behavior.
Benjamin (Jeff Richards) visits Adam and puts him in his place for abandoning his wife and newborn child. Adam sulks, but considers that he might have made a mistake.
When he finally returns to Milly and sees his child, he tells her he’s been thinking about the baby. He realized that if anyone ever harmed his little girl – the way they kidnapped the townswomen – he would be enraged. He agrees they should never have taken them, and orders his brothers to take them back, now that the pass has opened up.
But the brothers don’t want to, and the women don’t want to leave them, either. So the women run off, forcing the men to chase them down, just as their worried families arrive to rescue them. Seeing the mountain men chasing them, they assume the women are being attacked. They’re ready to do away with the Pontipee brothers for good, when they hear a baby crying. When they ask whose child it is, each of the women claims it to be her own … resulting in a classic shotgun wedding.
Of course, a lot of this craziness – and violence – could have been avoided by talking things out. It would have helped for Adam to explain his home and family life to Milly, and for Milly to explain she hoped to have more time alone with her husband.
It would have helped for the brothers to express their true feelings in words, rather than a nighttime kidnapping. It also would have helped for the women to express their true feelings toward the men instead of letting the other townsmen chase them off.
It would have helped for Adam to stick it out at home when he got mad, rather than running off for the winter, holding onto his pride instead of reaching out for his wife.
It also might have helped for Milly to be more careful which stories she read Adam, or at least to include a footnote that said, “Don’t try this at home.”
At the same time, Adam and Milly save their marriage with the things they do right. It does help that Adam listens to his wife’s ideas, even if he doesn’t immediately see the wisdom in them. It does help that he respects her, even when he doesn’t agree.
It does help that Milly and the other townswomen recognize the good intentions and sincere hearts beating behind those brutish chests, to know the Pontipee brothers mean well, even if they can’t figure out how to express it.
Expecting the best of one another is the first step in showing respect.
A lot of marital problems can be solved by respect, sensitivity and honest communication – before and during your marriage.
Want to know how you should treat your spouse?
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Find more reviews of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” at amazon.com!
by Randall Allen Dunn
A disturbing shadow falls over a forgotten town, unnoticed by everyone except for an old shopkeeper …
Nothing ever changes in the vanishing town of Aaronton, Illinois. After all the years of running his little shop, Sam Wells can measure every detail of the morning routine like clockwork.
So he notices when something is out of place. Something that smells of danger. But can Sam and his aging friends realize what’s happening before it’s too late to stop it?
Friday, February 1st, 2013