TBT: Brigadoon (1954)


Before Outlander, before Braveheart, perhaps no screen production influenced how Americans thought of Scotland more than Brigadoon (1954), which was a Broadway musical in 1947 before being adapted for film. Surrounded by swirling tartans and misty heather-covered moors (filmed in MGM’s soundstages), Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse were the doomed, time-traveling lovers of their day. Brigadoon tapped into the 19th-century tartan mania built up by Sir Walter Scott and his ilk, and the musical stoked the flame tickled by spate of earlier Scotland-themed films like Mary of Scotland, plus popular Tin Pan Alley ‘Scotch’ comics. All this made for one heapin’ helping of Scottish cliches in a rainbow of plaid and tam o’ shanters, bleeding with bagpipes, and loaded with lochs.

Brigadoon (1954)

The story begins with two present-day (for the ’50s) New York guys on a hunting trip in the Scottish highlands who get lost. Wandering through the mists, they stumble on the little town of Brigadoon, which has been preserved in time, totally unchanged, for 200 years, and it only pops up on the modern map one day every 100 years (hey, time travel back to Scotland, sounds familiar…). The guys quickly get involved in the town’s happenings, invited to a wedding, cause problems, and, most importantly, one of the fellas falls in love with a local gal. Songs are sung, dances are danced, true love is almost thwarted, but not really.

Brigadoon (1954)

Charlie’s getting married in the morning! Wait, wrong musical.

Tommy and Jeff serve up some soft shoe in trade for highland flings.

Brigadoon (1954)

Sisters Jean and Fiona discuss the former’s impending wedding and pretend to know something about weaving lace.

Brigadoon (1954)

The ladies sing about love ‘n stuff in their ‘200-years-ago’1950s New Look peasant dresses.

While the plot is fairly predictable, what’s more interesting is seeing how many Scottish stereotypes are packed into the 100 or so minutes of this movie. Brigadoon capitalized on previous ideas and helped make them concrete in American mass media so subsequent movies and TV shows could use them with abandon.

Brigadoon (1954)

The costumes in Brigadoon are made for dancing more than anything, and this is most apparent when Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse are on the move.

Brigadoon (1954)

Although the neckline on this dress really bugs me. But hey, her dress has pockets!

Brigadoon (1954)

This is only a promotional image, but dayum, I love it, and the waistcoat / shirt look is vaguely reminiscent of 18th-century women’s riding habits, so it’s the most historical costume so far.

Brigadoon (1954)

Charlie and Jean’s wedding, so pretty. Oh look, in the background, there’s her sister, Fiona…

Brigadoon (1954)

Fiona and Tommy, in a big clinch. Her red dress in a key scene. Makes you wonder.

Brigadoon (1954)

Tommy has to go back to his timeline … or does he?


Are you waitin’ for my dearie in Brigadoon?


About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

14 Responses

  1. Al

    Didn’t the movie remove the whole subplot about the sexy village wench who seduces the other dude? Or maybe they just took out her song about how sex is “the real love of her life”. Either way, total ripoff

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Yup, removed from the movie! I think they were filmed & are available on some soundtrack & DVD versions (they weren’t in the version I watched on TMC tho — that was the shorter theatrical release).

    • MoHub

      They not only cleaned up Meg, they changed the best line in “My Mother’s Wedding Day”—originally “I ought to know, for I was there”—to remove Meg’s illegitimacy.

  2. LydiaR

    My mom was in the chorus of a local production of Brigadoon when I was pretty young. I loved every minute of it, but one song had me very confused. My mother had two older sisters, Bonnie and Jean, and I wondered why one man on stage wanted to go home with both of my aunts, who already had husbands of their own.

    This movie is one of my favorites, though. Gene Kelley is my most enduring Hollywood crush, and Cyd Charisse has always been one of my standards for grace and elegance.

  3. Jamie Jo

    the accents are horrific torture to listen to. and the play is MUCH better.

  4. Susan Pola Staples

    Wasn’t there a televised version with Bob Goulet, Sally Anne Howe’s & Peter Falk? That one had the other sexy wench seducing Falk.

    • Gail

      I have vague memories of a tv production …. the movie is horrible (save for the Gene Kelly dances) – but as a staged play, it has wonderful charm and a delightful score. “My Mother’s Wedding Day” – the song cut from the movie version – is a hoot. Early Lerner and Lowe. There are so many 50s movie musicals that just make one wince.

    • MoHub

      Yep. Marilyn Mason played Meg. Also, Edward Villella—yum!—danced Harry Beaton.

  5. Constance

    The MGM head was the biggest prude and Mommy’s boy ever born. He was also a lover of corny shit like this and went full out on sterotypes all the time, despite being an immigrant himself. I can barely watch MGM films anymore after reading so many books about his weirdo tastes and fetishes…and hate musicals in part thanks to him lol.