Seven Sweethearts (1942) is no cinema masterpiece. But it’s certainly worth an hour and 42 minutes of your time.
The film centers around the annual tulip festival in the Dutch town of Little Delft, Michigan and the seven sisters of the Van Maaster family. The patriarch of this Dutch family, played by the loveable S.Z. Sakall, insists that his daughters must all marry in the order they were born, oldest daughter first, youngest daughter last. This proves problematic when New York reporter Henry Taggart (Van Heflin), comes to town to cover the tulip festival for his paper and falls in love with Billy (Kathryn Grayson), the youngest of the Van Maaster sisters.
Seven Sweethearts: The Cast
Most classic film fans are quite familiar with the very Hungarian character actor, S.Z. Sakall. In Seven Sweethearts, Sakall does not fail to deliver his usual charm. But with his thick Hungarian accent, Sakall is obviously not Dutch. At times, this cultual mismatch can be distracting. Somehow, the casting still works, probably because of Sakall’s old world charm and propensity for playing lovable father figures.
Kathryn Grayson is cute as a button as Billy. It’s easy to see why this film jump-started Kathryn’s career. Everything she does is adorable, from her character’s recurrent nose twitch to the little ear tug she does to control her temper. You understand why Henry Taggart falls for her.
Kathryn sings a number of songs in the film. The English language songs are not classics by any stretch of the imagination, but Kathryn makes them work. And opera fan or not, anyone who listens to Kathryn sing can’t help but appreciate the technique, feeling, and talent behind her exceptional voice.
The Sisters of Seven Sweethearts
The rest of the Van Maaster sisters in the film are also very well cast. Marsha Hunt plays the melodramatic oldest sister, Regina, who basically uses everyone around her to get what she wants–to be an actress in New York. She’s the perfect foil for Kathryn Grayson’s Billy. Another standout sister in the film is Frances Rafferty, who plays middle sister George. And Kathryn Grayson’s real life sister, Frances Raeburn, plays Van Maaster sister Cornelius in the film. Just like Kathryn, Frances is an absolute doll.
The Ever Consistant Van Heflin
Van Heflin as Henry Taggart is the proverbial glue that holds the film together. He’s potentially the only character in Seven Sweethearts that could actually be a real person. Heflin is such a consistently believable actor in all his films, and Seven Sweethearts is no exception.
An interesting side note about the film, MGM was sued seven years after its release by Hungarian playwright Ferenc Herczeg, who claimed that with Seven Sweethearts, MGM plagiarized his 1903 play, Seven Sisters. Though Seven Sweethearts was released in 1942, Herczeg did not sue until 1949 because he was interred in a Hungarian concentration camp when the film came out during World War II.
The suit was eventually settled outside of court, with Herczeg receiving a hefty sum from MGM.