1776(director: Peter H. Hunt; screenwriter: Peter Stone/based on the play by Mr. Stone; cinematographer: Harry Stradling Jr.; editor: Florence Williamson; music: Sherman Edwards; cast: William Daniels (John Adams), Howard da Silva (Benjamin Franklin), Ken Howard (Thomas Jefferson), Donald Madden (John Dickinson), Blythe Danner (Martha Jefferson), John Cullum (Edward Rutledge), David Ford (John Hancock); Runtime: 141; MPAA Rating: G; producer: Jack L. Warner; Columbia TriStar Home Video; 1972)
Long and boring musical about the American Revolution.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Peter H. Hunt directs and Peter Stone scripts from his play this long and boring musical/comedy about the American Revolution that tries to humanize the Founding Fathers by portraying some of their sexual peccadilloes. It is straightforwardly adapted from the 1969 Pulitzer-Prize winning Broadway stage version. This is just another in a long list of unimaginative films about the American Revolution that fails to get the job done. It covers the framing and passing of the American Declaration of Independence, with large portions of spoken and sung dialog derived directly from the letters and memoirs of the actual participants. The story is set during the days leading up to the first Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was drafted by such Founding Fathers as John Adams (Daniels) and Benjamin Franklin (Da Silva) and Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard).

The action is over what’s to go into the Declaration, as the nays and yeas seesaw back and forth. One debate over a clause against slavery is fussed over for three months and the patriots still got it wrong. To make things light Franklin and Jefferson do a high-step dance routine and also sing, in fact the entire cast sings.

Unfortunately, the music isn’t memorable and the staging is ham-fisted. The American Revolution deserves a better fate than this film. Its only value is as camp. Try digging the musical number “Cool, Cool Considerate Men,” and see if that makes you teary eyed with nostalgia or gagging at the bit from horror. Though special credit must be given to William Daniels and Howard Da Silva for their delightfully realized performances, and for John Cullum’s show stopping number “Molasses to Rum.” Another two numbers that worked well were “The Lees of Old Virginia,” and ” Sit Down John,” which is sung by all the members of Congress after Adams’ repeated pompous lectures. If Hunt only made the film more lively and cinematic friendly, this Revolution could have been salvaged and had the same success as the long-running Broadway show.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”