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>
Many of the characters' lines were actual quotes by these historic men, including Hancock's justification of his own signature and Franklin's: "Those who would forfeit liberty to obtain a little temporary safety..." as well as his saying, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." See more »
John Adams and Martha Jefferson waltz during "He Plays the Violin". The waltz did not become popular until 1780, when it became the rage at the Hapsburg court in Vienna. It spread to other countries several years later. See more »
[Adams stands with the Liberty Bell, lost in thought]
Mr. Adams? Mr. Adams? Mr. Adams! Well, there you are. Didn't you hear me calling, Mr. Adams? You could have shouted down something, save me climbing up four flights. A man that likes to talk as much as you do, I think...
[Adams turns and gives McNair a hard stare]
What do you keep coming up here for, Mr. Adams? Afraid someone's gonna steal our bell?
Well, no worry. Been here more than fourteen years and it ain't been ...
[...] See more »
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 »
Probably even before the musical 1776 finished its run on Broadway of
1217 performances from 1969 to 1972 this film was getting ready for
release. The musical won a Tony Award for being the best in that
category for Broadway and a pity it wasn't similarly honored by the
Academy. All it received was a nomination for cinematography.
None of the score, excellent though it is by Sherman Edwards, was
calculated to make the hit parade. The songs don't really stand alone,
but they are part and parcel of the telling of the tale of the American
Declaration of Independence. But what 1776 does is tell just how
difficult it was to achieve a consensus for American independence even
after we had been fighting the might of the British armies in the
northern colonies for over a year.
Two of the men at the Second Continental Congress John Adams (William
Daniels) and Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard) became American presidents.
Others there are more or less widely known, depending how deeply one
has read into American history or paid good attention in class during
school. I think most people would have more than a nodding acquaintance
with Benjamin Franklin (Howard DaSilva). All three of these players
came over from the original Broadway cast as did most of the film's
All of these people as Franklin said are the cream of their colony's
society even if that society was built on human slavery. That the
South's peculiar institution as they liked to phrase it came from the
mother country is sometimes conveniently forgotten by critics of the
USA. But slavery's existence was the biggest stumbling block towards
building that consensus as 1776 graphically shows.
The founding fathers as we Americans call these guys are shown to be
flesh and blood. Franklin who was the wisest one in the bunch
deprecated in the film and in real life the demigod status that would
attach to them. One founding father however does get a raw deal from
1776. James Wilson was not in the indecisive ninny who only craved
obscurity. Emory Bass who also came over from Broadway played him that
way because he was written that way. In fact Wilson who should have had
the Scottish burr in his speech that was given to Ray Middleton's
Thomas McKean, was a man of great distinction and learning. If he
didn't shine at the 2nd Continental Congress, he more than made up for
it at the Constitutional Convention. A lot of what is in the
Constitution is there because of him. He was also one of the original
members of the Supreme Court that George Washington appointed. Not at
all like the fellow you see in 1776.
The ladies aren't ignored, Martha Wayles Jefferson appears in the flesh
to give Tom Jefferson some relief from some tension he was having and
is played by Blythe Danner. Virginia Vestoff plays Abigail Adams who
only appears in William Daniel's imagination. It's fascinating to see
Adams yearning for the wife, but still tending to business. When he
became our second president, Abigail stayed in Braintree, Massachusetts
which was their home and John spent as much time as he could with her
and not really staying on top of things in Philadelphia and later in
the new capital of Washington, DC. That's another subject for another
In fact watching these gentlemen reach the consensus for American
independence is watching them reach said consensus, but also knowing
how they all became some really bitter enemies later on after the
nation's freedom was secured. I hope some who read this review and see
1776 will take the time and trouble to see just what happened with the
rest of these people.
And if the film stirs your curiosity about how America was founded,
than 1776 will be well worth watching.
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