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1776 is a masterful representation of the emotion, logic and debate,
to the critical creation and signing of the Declaration of Independence.
captures, beautifully and subtly, the moment the colonies crossed the
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.
This movie scarcely saw the light of day in Britain and has not been seen on T.V. there for 20 years and this is their loss as this intelligent,witty and tuneful musical is up there with the best of its genre. Okay,so no-one goes round whistling these tunes like they do for the likes of Rodgers and Hammerstein and Lerner and Loewe but the music and lyrics provided for "1776" work like a dream and all are zestfully performed.As for the cast,you imagine that if you were to travel back in time these 200 years and more and asked the likes of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin to sing to you,this is what they would have sounded like and these are the words they would have sung.William Daniels,short in stature but long in charisma was perfect here as John Adams.A shame that the big screen did not make greater subsequent use of this gifted performer.Full marks to all of those involved.
As a person who has gained a college degree in History, I first fell in love with this movie when I saw it as the stage play with the Broadway cast in my junior year in high school, in 1976. The movie is surprisingly accurate with direct quotations from key congressional members, such as Adams, Franklin and Jefferson as borne out in David McCullough's "John Adams." Yes, there were a few licenses taken with history such as the dramatic scene with Wilson,Dickinson, and Franklin when Wilson is forced to decide the entire question of independence on his vote. But it is these few licenses that bring out the true seriousness of the founding of our nation. One particular scene that I am glad was restored from Jack L. Warner's shameful caving in to Richard Nixon is the piece "Cool, Cool, Considerate Men." That piece clearly fleshed out the Conservative's viewpoint in Congress. William Daniels is perfect for the part of John Adams. His Boston twang (even though he was born in New York) is excellent. One cast change that I am glad they made is putting Blythe Danner in the role of Martha Jefferson in the movie version, in place of Betty Buckley. No offense to Ms. Buckley, I love her as an actress in her roles, but her voice comes across too nasal and strident in her singing of Tom's qualities. (I own the stage play LP to make this comparison) The rest of the cast is perfect. Donald Madden was excellent as John Dickinson, even if you can forgive his singing voice in "Cool, Considerate Men." I will always think of Howard Da Silva and Ken Howard as Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, respectively. All in all, it is a movie that should be seen by everyone in their High School History or Civics class.
Musicals are often looked at as foreign movies. Since most younger generations are not familiar with the musical genres of the 1930's and the 1970's, they don't understand the art form and style of communication / entertainment that the musical is. To screen this movie to a group of 7th graders, it will be a challenge to get them to enjoy let alone get "it". The entire cast is perfect. Each actor is their character. Although actors William Daniels and Howard Da Silva are known for other roles, here they are Adams and Franklin. 30 years since its premiere in cinemas, many of the actors are long gone. Many have been dead for a good ten years. Still, their performances live on for modern audiences to enjoy. More then that, it remains one of the better musicals made in a movie. Especially for a post 2001 audience, there are moments interesting to watch. The issues of protection, fear and terrorism are made clear, even for 1776. This remains a great film even though its audience is small.
I promised my mother that I would once again put this wonderful movie
on the video player this week end. There is a wonderful comment in the
book "Lets put on a musical" about the fact that half way through the
story you wonder if you really do know how it is going to end!
William Daniels,is of course spectacular as John Adams,the linchpin of the show. Howard DaSilva and Franklin is just jaded enough(read dirty old man), and Ken Howard is delightful as Jeffrson. One person who was not in the stage production but is a definite asset to the movie is John Cullum as Rutledge.especially in his big solo number,Molasses to Rum.
A real treat for eyes and ears ,and a history lesson to boot.
Although at first, it's surprising to see a musical about the writing of the Declaration of Independence, the viewer is soon caught up in the politics and emotions of this important American event. It should be watched more than once, because it can be appreciated on several different levels. There are some of the biggest laughs, some of the most poignant moments, and the sweetest love songs you'll see in movies. Much of the dialog is taken straight from the documented letters and conversations of the principal characters, and we get to see them as real people with real worries and real feelings, rather than as the marble statues seen in the history books. This is definitely a must-see movie (and stage play, if you get the chance), and one you won't forget.
Sherman Edwards was a modest teacher of history when he got the idea of
creating a musical telling of the tale of the birth of the United
States. As it turned out, even though the story of the Declaration of
Independence was one most every American schoolchild knew, there was a
lot more to it than the signing of a paper and the ringing of a bell.
The Broadway version of "1776" became a sensation with audiences and went on to win the Tony Award for Best Musical of 1969.
During this era of film-making, the musical was still considered to be a draw for audiences, so it was natural to take this show and bring it to the big screen. And best of all, John Warner brought the bulk of the cast from the show to the film. William Daniels IS John Adams to a lot of people, and his portrayal of the feisty proponent for independence is one of the great performances of any "real life" character. Daniels is equaled by his fellow Congressional cohorts, Ken Howard as the author of the document, Thomas Jefferson, and the amazing Howard Da Silva as the good doctor, Benjamin Franklin.
To me, the most remarkable element is the facts of the story are pretty much accurate, the timing of the events, measured with a wall calendar, keeps the tension going as we count down to that particular date... July 1st, 2nd, 3rd...
But it's more than just the story of the founding of the country, it's a love story, or really two, with the Jeffersons Martha, played by Blythe Danner and the Adams pair, with the incredible Virginia Vestoff as John's Abigail who interacts with her husband only in his mind.
For a musical, it is something of a "warts and all" examination of the process, as the south refuses to sign a declaration that freed their slaves, as Jefferson had intended in the original draft. John Cullum brilliantly voices this discussion as the genteel South Carolinian, Edward Rutledge, in the hypnotic and haunting "Molasses to Rum." In fact, every song in the score is well thought out, clever, truthful and very entertaining!
Maybe this isn't *exactly* how the USA began, but, at least once a year, let's say it is.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have seen "1776" both on Broadway and on the screen as well as acted
in it as an amateur. The piece humanizes people we often look upon as
flawless icons. Well, they did have flaws. The North's hands were
stained with the blood of slavery as well as the South's. Delegates
sometimes tended to represent their colony's interests over those of
the collective group's. Today we fail to realize that independence from
the mother country had never been successfully accomplished. If some
had reservations, they had good reason. "1776" brings this out. In the
song "Mollasses to Rum to Slaves", South Carolina delegate Rutledge
(John Cullum) reveals the complicity of New England in the triangle
trade. In his showstopper "Is Anybody There?", John Adams (William
Daniels) encapsulates the conflict between delegates while expressing
his vision of a nation where all are free. Based on Adams' own
writings, this song resonates long after the final scene.
The wittiness of this piece also endears it. One scene is particularly noteworthy, for it lampoons the New York Legislature with uncanny accuracy. Space forbids me to elaborate but any New Yorker, or anyone else frustrated with politicians, will enjoy it.
Although based on historical facts, "1776" entertains and helps us understand the real people to helped bring forth "..a new nation, conceived in liberty..."
1776 is the 1972 film version of the groundbreaking Broadway musical that chronicles the people and events that led to the writing and signing of the Declaration of Independence. The musical centers on soon to be second President, John Adams, who according to this musical was a tireless but obnoxious advocate for the thirteen colonies independence from Great Britain and it was his zeal for this cause that led him to being central to the creation of the Declaration of Independence. William Daniels brilliantly recreates his Tony-winning Broadway role as John Adams, the restless and ever-vocal spokesperson for Independence who would not be silenced. He receives solid support from Howard da Silva, who does a scene stealing turn as Benjamin Franklin, Ken Howard as Thomas Jefferson, John Cullum as Edmund Rutledge, and the lovely Blythe Danner as Martha Jefferson. Virginia Vestoff also recreates her Broadway role as Abigail Adams, John's wife who is presented as communicating with John through letters brought to life. The heart-pumping musical score features highlights such as "Sit Down, John", "He Plays the Violin", "Yours, Yours, Yours", "But Mr. Adams", "The Egg", "The Lees of Old Virginia", and the haunting "Molasses to Rum" (brilliantly performed by Cullum). One number, "Cool Considerate Men" was cut during the film's original release but has been restored to some prints. If you're a musical comedy fan with an open mind willing to experience something a little different, give this treasure a try.
The NYC Broadway Musical was a great experience for me to have seen.
However for some reason I did not see the film version until it was
shown in Arcola, Illinois on a 4th of July celebration! William Daniels
(John Adams)"Her Alibi",'89, gave a great performance
along with Howard Da Silva(Dr. Benjamin Franklin),"The Great Gatsby",'74 who looked exactly like the many pictures of Ben Franklin. Ken Howard,(Thomas Jefferson),"At First Sight",'99, gave all his fellow Planner's of the Declaration of Independence a very hard time, playing a violin and enjoying the pleasures of romance with his wife. It is a wonder the Declaration was ever accomplished! The music and singing was very comical among the politicians. This is a great outstanding American FILM which all Americans can enjoy seeing every 4th of July for many generations!
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