Guest Author - Amber Grey
“1776" was a musical 193 years in the making when it became a Broadway hit and Tony Award-winning musical, telling the story of America’s founding fathers. The musical premiered in 1969, six years shy of the end to the Vietnam War. Three years later, “1776" was adapted into a grand musical-film. The adaptation reunited a few of the original Broadway cast members including William Daniels, Virginia Vestoff in her Tony-nominated performance as “Abigail Adams”, and Ron Holgate in his Tony-winning performance as “Richard Henry Lee” with their Tony-award winning director Peter H. Hunt. Although Hunt did not have any prior experience in working with film, Hunt’s skills effortlessly transcended “1776" from stage to screen. The audience is allowed to view the musical as if it would be on stage while maintaining a natural environment for the story.
“1776" draws the audience into a perfect formula of tension around the “piddle, twiddle and resolve” the congress continually find themselves in. The film breathes life and characterization into each of America’s founding fathers. It does not forget that they were visionaries but also shows them as human beings with some of their own reservations on whether or not independence from Mother England is really worth it all. Of course, with the exception of “John Adams” (played by William Daniels) who wholeheartedly believes in the American spirit from the beginning and never waves his beliefs – in fact, his beliefs are so strong that he annoys the other men in congress with them.
When the film was finished, President Nixon was treated to an exclusive viewing by producer Jack Warner. It took an ironic turn for free speech when after the viewing, Nixon wanted the musical number "Cool Cool Considerate Men" cut from the film because of the negative impression it gave of the Republican Party. Without Hunt's permission, Warner cut the musical number from the film. If one is lucky to see the director’s cut of the film, available on DVD, “Cool Cool Considerate Men” is edited back into the film.
“1776" is by far one of the best film adaptations of how America was founded – a piece of history that should never be forgotten especially in the face of today and it is the perfect film to sit down with the family on July 4th.