The film version of the Broadway musical comedy of the same name. In the days leading up to July 4, 1776, Continental Congressmen John Adams and Benjamin Franklin coerce Thomas Jefferson into writing the Declaration of Independence as a delaying tactic as they try to persuade the American colonies to support a resolution on independence. As George Washington sends depressing messages describing one military disaster after another, the businessmen, landowners and slave holders in Congress all stand in the way of the Declaration, and a single "nay" vote will forever end the question of independence. Large portions of spoken and sung dialog are taken directly from the letters and memoirs of the actual participants. Written by
Dave Heston <heston@iName.com>
Ron Holgate, who portrayed Richard Henry Lee (VA), did all of his own riding - except for the trick mount at the end - in scene/song "The Lees of Old Virginia," despite the fact that he had never been on a horse before. See more »
John Dickinson was a pacifistic Quaker who objected to revolution, not a Tory leading the resistance to declaring independence. See more »
[Adams has barged into Jefferson's room, accompanied by Franklin, to read the results of Jefferson's work on the Declaration of Independence]
You've had a whole week, man. Is it done? Can I SEE IT?
[Jefferson indicates dozens of rejected drafts strewn crumpled about his floor]
Do you mean to say that it is NOT YET FINISHED?
No sir. I mean to say that it is not yet begun.
Good GOD! A whole week! The entire earth was created in a week!
[Jefferson turns to face him]
Someday, you must tell me how you ...
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The theatrical version has no credits at the beginning other than "Columbia Pictures presents" and the film's title. The Director's Cut and the extended laserdisc edition includes a main title sequence at the opening. See more »
1776 is a masterful representation of the emotion, logic and debate, leading to the critical creation and signing of the Declaration of Independence. It captures, beautifully and subtly, the moment the colonies crossed the line, one by one, to leave England's rule.
The writing is superb, and the direction is perfection itself. The music and lyrics add a bold exclamation point, for they range from funny to serious, simple to complex, in the richness of sound and appropriateness of placement.
Leading the charge is the cantankerous character of John Adams (William Daniels). It is nothing less than a remarkable and brilliant portrayal, probably one of the most difficult, and yet one of the best ever played. Daniels walks a very fine line, depicting the essence of a man who grates on his friends and foes, yet quickly pulls the audience to his side. You can't help but feel the desperation, frustration and passion of Adams, as he tries to persuade and pull reluctant and loyalist colonial representatives to his cause.
Frank Da Silva's Ben Franklin is equal to the challenge of the quality performance given by Daniels. Franklin is certainly the more popular figure among the characters, but nevertheless has many complexities, expertly brought out by the quality writing and Da Silva's fine skill as an actor of high caliber.
It is hard to write a review of such a fine film, without mentioning all the magnificent performances by a remarkably talented cast. It is far easier, and much more pleasurable, to simply view the film. Pay attention to the lighting and choreography. Watch the meeting room transform from a rather plain space, to one of intensity, as the room goes from static and flat, to lively and dramatic. It follows the mood of the film, as the issue of independence is moved from a side issue, to weave its way to the forefront. The oversized calendar reminds one of the ticking of a clock, as the days move inevitably to July 4th. And while we know the outcome of the events, it is too easy to be drawn into the process, and become captured by the suspense of those last six weeks leading to the formation of a new nation. The tally board, which records the votes of the colonies, also looms large on the wall. The movement from left to right, for and against independence, also adds to the suspense and drama of the film.
There are lighthearted moments, and witty banter, among the characters, as one would expect. But there are surprises too. And the viewer gets to see an amazing transformation of the irritable Adams to a much softer person, when he corresponds with Abigail. Please add 1776, with confidence, to your list of must-see movies. I think it is as fresh today as it was 30-years ago. It is time for a film re-release, or at least a revival on Broadway, but since such things rarely happen, do yourself a favor and rent or buy the movie. Personally, I think it was the finest of its kind. Can one rate it higher than a ten? Would that I could, for it deserves it. Kudos to the writer, director, and amazing cast. It was, for many, their very best performances, both behind the scenes and in front of the camera.
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