Premiered November 17, 1972
"A rebellion is always legal in the first person, such as "our rebellion." It is only in the third person - "their rebellion" - that it becomes illegal." - Benjamin Franklin
We're going to depart from our normal format here on the presumption that most people have some understanding of the basic events of the American Revolution.
|John Adams exhorts members of the Second Congress to "Vote For Independency!"
The story is framed around the Second Continental Congress with a focus on John Adams (as portrayed by William Daniels), Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard), and Benjamin Franklin (Howard DaSilva).
|Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams contemplating the prospect of a new nation
At first glance, it might seem incongruous to have chosen to treat the subject of the Declaration of Independence in a musical format, but it works surprisingly well.
|The stage version is definitely evident in the way 1776 was filmed.
That being said, 1776 should not be read as any sort of documentary film. There is a lot of artistic license taken. For instance, since the action takes place entirely in Philadelphia and mostly indoors, we need an antagonist, and John Dickinson of Pennsylvania (portrayed in the film by Donald Madden) becomes the primary villain for dramatic purposes.
|John Dickinson vs. John Adams in the film
|The film incarnation of Dickinson leads the conservatives in singing "Cool, Considerate Men."
For example, we get this exchange between John Adams and Ben Franklin:
Adams: "Mark me, Franklin ... if we give in on this issue [the question of slavery], posterity will never forgive us."
Franklin: "That's probably true, but we won't hear a thing, we'll be long gone. Besides, what would posterity think we were? Demi-gods? We're men, no more, no less, trying to get a nation started .., First things first, John. Independence, America. If we don't secure that, what difference will the rest make?"
|"Virginia abstains." - Jefferson is less than pleased that he hasn't seen his wife in over 6 months.
There are only 2 roles for women in the film -- Adam's wife Abigail (Virginia Vestoff) appears via dramatized versions of the letters the two exchanged, and Jefferson's wife Martha (Blythe Danner) serves as muse to her husband making a(n entirely fictional) journey to Philadelphia to (*ahem*) encourage him to write.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie involves the Declaration Committee's song "But, Mr. Adams" which involves Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Roger Sherman (Rex Robbins) and Robert Livingston (John Myhers) bickering over who will actually do the writing of the declaration whilst dancing up and down on the staircase of what is now known as "Independence Hall" -- a hilariously preposterous take on a serious subject.
|"Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, refuse to use the pen!"
|Don't they look happy to not be the primary authors?
If you only know John Cullum's work from Northern Exposure, ER or Mad Men, it's well worth seeing his performance to hear what an amazing baritone voice he has and why he has been nominated for and won several Tony Awards over the years!
|Richard Henry Lee (Ron Holgate) and friend.
|Does this fountain look familiar?
|The same fountain as it appeared in the opening credits of Friends!
|RigbyMel (right) and her little brother doing our own version of a number from 1776 on a visit to the real Independence Hall!
|Lobby card for the film
4 American Flags!