Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Seven Brides Dancer Virginia Gibson Dies at 88

The cast of my favorite film, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954), has for the most part been long-lived, but time is inevitably starting to catch up as the film nears the 60th anniversary of its release.

Matt Mattox (Caleb) passed on in February of this year, following Jeff Richards (Benjamin), Howard Keel (Adam), and Betty Carr (Sarah).

I appreciate my friend and reader Mel letting me know of the recent death of Virginia Gibson, who played Liza; she's the fifth of the 14 principal cast members to pass away. She passed on in Pennsylvania on April 25th, at the age of 88.

Below is a scene from the legendary SEVEN BRIDES barn-raising dance, left to right: Virginia Gibson, Matt Mattox, Norma Doggett, Tommy Rall, Betty Carr, and Marc Platt. Kelly Brown and Russ Tamblyn can be seen in the background at the left and the right. Click on the photo to enlarge for a better look.

All of the SEVEN BRIDES photos in this post are scans from my personal collection, with the exception of the fourth picture down, which I do own but copied from the Internet.

Gibson is seen here with Jacques D'Amboise in a publicity photo from the film:

Gibson made several films at Warner Bros. in the early '50s, including TEA FOR TWO (1950), GOODBYE, MY FANCY (1951), PAINTING THE CLOUDS WITH SUNSHINE (1951), and SHE'S BACK ON BROADWAY (1953).

Another SEVEN BRIDES publicity photo:

A bit of trivia based on photos in my collection: While most of the cast took publicity photos only in their barn-raising outfits, as above, Gibson also posed in some photos in another dress, and she and Jacques D'Amboise were then cut and pasted into the cast photos, as seen below at the right.

D'Amboise was on loan from the New York City Ballet and there seems to have been an issue with his availability; if you watch the scene where Milly's baby is born, there is plainly a stand-in in D'Amboise's costume half-hidden behind the staircase!

After making SEVEN BRIDES in 1954, Gibson reunited with cast members Jane Powell and Nancy Kilgas (Alice) in the wacky musical ATHENA (1954). Gibson and Kilgas would later appear with castmate Ruta Lee (Ruth) in FUNNY FACE (1957).

Below, the end of the barn-raising dance. Sharp-eyed fans may notice that for some reason Gibson, here at the left, was matched up with Tommy Rall (Frank) for the last shot of the dance, while Rall's movie love interest, Betty Carr, is paired with D'Amboise.

THE INDEPENDENT published an admirably detailed obituary of the dancer-singer-actress, who in addition to films also did considerable work on Broadway. Gibson was a Supporting Actress Tony nominee for HAPPY HUNTING (1956). Her SEVEN BRIDES castmate Betty Carr (Sarah) was in the chorus.

She also worked steadily in TV throughout the '50s and '60s, including hosting the children's series DISCOVERY.

In 2009 Jane Powell reunited with Gibson and Norma Doggett (Martha) for an interview, which can be seen on YouTube here and here. The sound quality could be better, but it's worth hanging in there with it.

Gibson can also be seen briefly in this excerpt from a documentary on the film. The entire documentary is available on the 2-disc Special Edition DVD set.

Additional obituaries: The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times (paid notice), and Find a Grave.

I hope all of the SEVEN BRIDES cast members and their families realize how much joy they have brought to movie musical fans ever since the movie was released in 1954. I am deeply grateful.

Update: Here are additional reviews of Virginia Gibson movies: PAINTING THE CLOUDS WITH SUNSHINE (1951), STOP, YOU'RE KILLING ME (1952), ABOUT FACE (1952), and SHE'S BACK ON BROADWAY (1953).


Blogger Crocheted Lace said...

Why was Gibson paired with a different partner when dancing? It could be that one man made a more compatible dancing partner, while another man was more compatible for acting and closeups. Dancers are paired with the partner who works best, it's very carefully planned in order to get the best performance out of the ensemble.

9:49 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Winning in Painting The Clouds With Sunshine. A remake of Gold Diggers of 1935. It usually get very little love but has grown on me.

6:33 PM  
Blogger Dragan Banic said...

I have gone back to the scene when the baby is born and there is a guy in green who looks lost and not in tune with the other cast and clearly a stand in for the original actor,i could have watched the movie another ten times and not noticed it if not told about it.

12:13 AM  

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