“To this great land of jive and juleps, the Dutch once came to plant their tulips…
They grit their teeth, pulled in their belts, produced New York – and the Roosevelts…
Enriched this best of melting pots with their traditions, towns and tots…
Behold! In Michigan today there’s still a Holland – U.S.A.
A town that flaunts its windmill touch, to prove you just can’t beat the Dutch!”
With these opening lines my interest in Seven Sweethearts immediately increased, as a native Michigander. Sadly, the film wasn’t actually shot in Michigan, but it’s rare (perhaps unheard of) to see a shout-out to Holland in classic Hollywood, so I was excited to watch regardless.
Seven Sweethearts tells the tale of, well… seven sweethearts. Seven sisters, rather, from a Dutch family living in a small Michigan town. They run the local hotel and live an old-fashioned life with their father (S. Z. Sakall). The family is visited one day by reporter Henry Taggart (Van Heflin), who is covering the local tulip festival and wishes to stay at the hotel.
Each of the seven girls aside from the oldest, Regina (Marsha Hunt), has a traditionally male name (Albert, Cornelius, etc.) and Papa has decided that they can only marry in order of age. Regina is unmarried and has no romantic prospects on the horizon, much to the frustration of her younger sisters, who are all secretly engaged except for Billie (Kathryn Grayson).
The arrival of Henry complicates the lives of the sisters, with several encouraging Henry to pursue Regina, while he actually begins falling for Billie.
Frank Borzage directs 1942’s Seven Sweethearts. Appearing in the film alongside the above-noted cast members are Cecilia Parker, Peggy Moran, Frances Raeburn and Carl Esmond.
Seven Sweethearts is a schmaltzy, fluffy little musical, a slice of World War II-era escapism. The story is quite predictable, but there are several positives to the film, one being the lovely songs that are performed. Kathryn Grayson’s Disney princess-like vocals are put to good use.
Grayson’s musical gifts aside, the film is packed with solid performances. Six of the sisters are very lovable, Grayson most of all, while Regina is comically overdramatic and snooty. (She wants to be an actress, and her mannerisms are very much suited to someone who wants to be an actress without understanding the craft of acting — very stagey and ultra-proper.)
As for the men… Van Heflin was a good choice for the lead male, a reporter caught in a somewhat odd love triangle, leading one sister on while forming a true romantic bond with another.
And S. Z. Sakall as Papa! He’s always fun to watch in any role, and he plays the high-strung, somewhat frazzled, traditional Dutch father very well.
Adding to the film’s charm, Heflin and Grayson make a cute pair as Henry and Billie.
Seven Sweethearts isn’t the greatest musical romance ever produced, but it’s a sweet and light watch well worth a viewing for fans of the genre or of Kathryn Grayson. The score: 3/5