On Thursday night the TCM Road to Hollywood Tour made a stop in the network’s hometown of Atlanta, GA, with a screening of Stanley Donen’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). The event was held in the Rich Theatre at Woodruff Arts Center in Midtown Atlanta. Thanks to TCM I received two VIP tickets which guaranteed me a reserved seat at the free event. My guest for the evening was Tony Dayoub, owner of the film blog Cinema Viewfinder. Confession: neither Tony nor I had seen Seven Brides for Seven Brothers prior to this special event. What a way to see it for the first time!
The Richard H. Rich Theatre is a small venue, seating approximately 420 patrons. Although I would have much preferred the palatial setting of The Fox Theatre for this event, I appreciated the small and intimate atmosphere for a first time viewing of a beloved musical. The space was filled to capacity and the excitement was at a high. Promptly at 7:30 the adored and revered Robert Osborne took the stage amidst a roar of applause to introduce the film and the evening’s special guest Jane Powell.
Mr. Osborne graciously thanked the audience for their enthusiasm and began highlighting some of the most anticipated events for the 3rd Annual TCM Classic Film Festival in April: the opening night gala screening of Cabaret (1972) featuring co-stars Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey, the rare presentation of How the West Was Won (1962) at the Cinerama Dome, and Disney’s first full length animated feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Osborne accidentally spilled the beans when he announced director Mel Brooks as a featured guest at the Festival. He stopped short of naming the film Brooks is scheduled to introduce saying “Oops! That hasn’t been announced yet!” The audience gasped, and everyone had a good laugh.
After Osborne’s brief plug for the Festival, he welcomed Jane Powell to the stage. Entering the theatre to a standing ovation, Ms. Powell skipped down the aisle with the same energy and grace that made her famous in the MGM days. Upon her arrival to the stage, an audience member on the front row handed Powell a bouquet of flowers. During their pre-film chat, Osborne asked his good friend of her time as a contract star at MGM. Powell noted that she was incredibly lonely, as much of her family back in Oregon turned her away because of her stardom. Luckily Powell had the love and support of her parents, who she happily credits for much of her success. Powell also talked about her relationship with Elizabeth Taylor. When Powell married her first husband Geary Steffen in 1949, Taylor was a bridesmaid. In 1950 Powell returned the favor when Taylor married first husband Conrad “Nicky” Hilton. Powell laughed and said, “I’m glad we stopped being each other’s bridesmaids. We would have done it for our whole careers!” During a brief Q&A session with the audience, Osborne and Powell talked about the filming of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Powell said the budget for the film was very small because MGM placed all its focus on the filming of Brigadoon (1954). When it was time for its release, Seven Brides premiered at Radio City Music Hall, in the spot originally set for Brigadoon. In addition to questions about the film, one audience member asked Powell what was on every single mind in the room: ”You look fantastic! How do you stay so young?’ Powell replied, ”Pilates. Every day. And lots of walking.” Note to self: start Pilates immediately.
Like many of the TCM screenings I have attended, the print shown was 35mm. To be honest, it wasn’t the greatest quality print; the color was quite dull in spots and there was noticeable wear. That said, I savor every chance I get to see a film in its original medium, especially alongside other classic film fans. The audience was engaged in the presentation from start to finish. Some sang along or hummed, tapped their feet, clapped after each number. Although I had not seen the film before, I was familiar with many of the songs including “Goin’ Courtin’,” “Sobbin’ Women,” and the famous ”Barn-Raising Dance” scene. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, despite the brides’ apparent Stockholm Syndrome. Watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers with an appreciative and respectful audience enhanced the experience for this first time viewer.
The Road to Hollywood is a brilliant way to bring a tiny piece of the TCM Classic Film Festival to cities across the country. By making these events free and open to the public, TCM has opened the door for all to enjoy. I hope this touring festival continues to grow and the network considers the possibility of hosting other events throughout the year.
Here are some photos from the event, courtesy of TCM Public Relations: