1776


2h 21m 1972
1776

Brief Synopsis

The founding fathers struggle to draft the Declaration of Independence.

Film Details

Also Known As
1776 the Musical
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Historical
Musical
Adaptation
Release Date
Nov 1972
Premiere Information
New York opening: 9 Nov 1972
Production Company
Columbia Pictures; Jack L. Warner
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures
Country
United States
Location
Burbank--Columbia Ranch, California, United States; Los Angeles--Columbia's Gower Street Studio, California, United States; Newhall--Disney's Golden Oak Ranch, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the musical play 1776 , music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards, book by Peter Stone, based on a conception of Sherman Edwards, produced on the New York stage by Stuart Ostrow (New York, 16 Mar 1969).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 21m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

In Philadelphia, on 8 May 1776, Massachusetts delegate John Adams urges the Continental Congress to debate whether officially to secede from England. Although many congressmen support the "independency" issue, all are offended by Adams' frequent tirades and implore him to sit down. Instead, the frustrated Adams leaves the building, but regains his composure by thinking about his wife Abigail, who remains in Massachusetts to manage their farm. In a letter, Adams writes Abby that the king is sending twelve thousand mercenaries to subdue the colonists and asks her to coordinate the neighboring women to make saltpeter to use in the manufacture of gun powder. In her reply, Abby refuses unless Adams agrees to send her sewing pins, which are scarce in wartime.

On another day, Adams complains about Congress' indecisiveness to Ben Franklin, who is one of three delegates from Pennsylvania. Franklin suggests that Adams let someone more popular lead the cause and convinces Richard Henry Lee, a Virginian delegate from an old, influential family, to solicit the support of the Virginia House of Burgesses. Meanwhile, Congress, headed by its president, John Hancock, receives by courier from Gen. George Washington of the Continental Army, frequent, depressing missives, reporting shortages, ill-trained soldiers and the intention of British troops to split the colonies in half at New York. When Lee returns, he presents Virginia's resolution for independence, but John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, leading the opposition, makes a counter proposal to postpone the issue indefinitely. As Charles Thomson, the secretary of Congress, calls the roll, six colonies vote in favor of postponement and six against, with one abstention. When Stephen Hopkins, one of three delegates from Rhode Island, returns from a brief trip to the privy down the street, he casts the deciding vote to continue the debate. A discussion then commences, in which Dickinson defends England, but other delegates complain about repressions, high taxes and abolished rights and Franklin suggests that America has spawned a new race requiring a new nation. Highly charged emotions temporarily erupt into a brawl, but Hancock restores order.

Edward "Ned" Rutledge of South Carolina claims that the South wishes to be ruled neither by England nor the North. Judge James Wilson of Pennsylvania, a toady to Dickinson, timidly suggests that more time is needed. Even Samuel Chase of Maryland, who supports independence, believes the decision must wait until Washington's military success is assured, to prevent them being hanged as traitors. Adams argues that an army needs inspiration, such as a flag and a purpose, and claims that Americans have "spirit." To this, Dickinson jeers and calls Adams a "madman," and the two come to blows, creating havoc. A gunshot fired into the air by a delegate quiets the room and cancer-ridden Caesar Rodney, one third of the Delaware delegation, decries that England is cutting off their air. Rodney then faints and, when revived, realizes he is too ill to remain. Apologizing for leaving Delaware split on this important issue, Rodney departs, aided by Scotsman Thomas McKean, another Delaware delegate.

Taking advantage of their absence, Rutledge proposes to end the debate and take the vote. Realizing the cause is lost without Delaware, Franklin stalls for time and is rewarded by the arrival of New Jersey delegates, who support independence. Dickinson proposes that the decision to secede must be unanimous, so that no colony is forced to fight England against its will. On the issue of unanimity, the colonists are again split, but the tie is broken by Hancock who explains that, without agreement, Americans will fight each other in military battles. Knowing that a unanimous vote is impossible, Adams and Franklin ask for postponement until they prepare a written document and, to everyone's surprise, the usually taciturn Virginian, young Thomas Jefferson, eloquently argues that a document is needed to explain to the world the reason for their action. During the vote, the colonies are again undecided, but Hancock breaks the tie in favor of postponement. A committee is formed by Adams, Franklin, New Yorker Robert Livingston, Connecticut's Roger Sherman and, against his will, Jefferson, who has been away from home for six months. When deciding who will write the document, all make excuses, leaving Jefferson with the responsibility, although he protests that he "burns" to see his wife.

Jefferson then spends the next week unsuccessfully trying to write. Realizing that Jefferson's "problem" must be solved before the bigger task is achieved, Adams sends for Jefferson's wife Martha and, when she arrives, the couple retreats from the world to sate their passions. While waiting, Adams conjures Abigail in his mind and imagines talking with her at their farm. The next morning, Franklin and Adams introduce themselves to Martha, who coyly praises the way her husband plays the violin. Meanwhile, Congress carries out mundane duties and McKean returns, predicting that Rodney will never leave home again. To no avail, Adams, Franklin and McKean try to win others to their side. When another dispatch from Washington reports disorder, confusion and an assembly of prostitutes at the New Brunswick army training ground, Adams convinces Chase and Franklin to accompany him to check out the situation. After Congress adjourns that day, custodian Andrew McNair and his assistant visit with the courier, who tells them about his horrific battle experiences. Near the end of June, Thomson reads Jefferson's draft, as Jefferson paces outside the room.

Upon returning, Franklin and Adams report that the soldiers are excellent marksmen who work well together if motivated, and that Chase is persuading the Maryland assembly to approve independence. As they wait for the reading to finish, Jefferson, Franklin and Adams discuss whether a dove, a turkey or an eagle should symbolize the new nation. For several days, delegates make amendments to the document, with Jefferson's approval and to Adams' annoyance. When Sherman questions the need to criticize the English Parliament, Adams cries out that they are having a revolution and must offend somebody. On 30 June, Dickinson tries to remove a reference to King George being a tyrant, but this change Jefferson refuses to make. By 1 July, after everyone seems satisfied, Rutledge contests a passage referring to the abolition of slavery. Angrily, Rutledge accuses Northerners of hypocrisy, pointing out that New England ships carried slaves from Africa to the South and, with the other Southerners, abandons the meeting.

Just then, Chase returns, announcing that Maryland approves independence. Although his pro-independence colleagues remain demoralized, Adams asks McKean to fetch Rodney from Delaware. After other delegates leave for the evening, Franklin, though against slavery, tells Adams that the offending passage must be forfeited. After an exchange of heated words, Adams climbs to the building's bell tower and imagines Abby's words of support. Unexpectedly, a shipment arrives containing several barrels of saltpeter made by Massachusetts women. With new confidence, Adams asks Jefferson to talk to Rutledge and sends Franklin to persuade Wilson. Then, Thomson shows him a message from a discouraged Washington, who asks, "Does anybody care?" Depressed, Adams remains in the assembly room late into the night, wondering whether he is alone in envisioning America's great future. At Adams' moment of despair, Dr. Lymon Hall of North Carolina reveals that he, too, is in the room.

Able to see what Adams sees, Hall has decided to change his vote. On 2 July, after McKean returns with Rodney, Congress commences the vote, knowing that a single "nay" will defeat the issue. Eight colonies vote in favor of the resolution, but Rutledge demands that the slavery passage be removed. Adams wants to object, but Franklin says that nothing else will matter unless independence is secured. Without commenting, Jefferson strikes out the passage, and the Southerners vote favorably. Last is Pennsylvania. Because Franklin is in favor and Dickinson, against, Wilson now realizes that his vote will determine the course of history. After telling Dickinson that he does not want that responsibility, Wilson votes in alignment with the others, and thus the resolution is adopted. Hancock signs the document, but Dickinson, apologizing, abstains. Instead, Dickinson announces he will fight in the Continental Army, but hope for reconciliation with England. On 3 July, Washington is in New York, preparing for battle. On 4 July, Hancock orders McNair to ring the bell, as each delegate signs the Declaration of Independence.

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Also Known As
1776 the Musical
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Historical
Musical
Adaptation
Release Date
Nov 1972
Premiere Information
New York opening: 9 Nov 1972
Production Company
Columbia Pictures; Jack L. Warner
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures
Country
United States
Location
Burbank--Columbia Ranch, California, United States; Los Angeles--Columbia's Gower Street Studio, California, United States; Newhall--Disney's Golden Oak Ranch, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the musical play 1776 , music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards, book by Peter Stone, based on a conception of Sherman Edwards, produced on the New York stage by Stuart Ostrow (New York, 16 Mar 1969).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 21m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Cinematography

1972

Articles

1776


A new nation was born as a Hollywood era ended with the release of the 1972 musical, 1776. Just as the film version of the award-winning Broadway hit offered a musical version of the thirteen colonies' battle for independence it also marked the last production for Hollywood pioneer Jack L. Warner, former production head of Warner Bros. Studios.

The American Revolution had hardly been a goldmine for the Broadway musical. Since A Daughter of the Revolution in 1895, only five shows had dealt with the topic, only two of them -- Rodgers and Hart's Dearest Enemy in 1925 and the Robert Preston vehicle Ben Franklin in Paris (1964) -- running more than 200 performances. That didn't stop history teacher Sherman Edwards, however, from pursuing his dream, the creation of a musical about the Continental Congress that culminated with the framing of the Declaration of Independence. Edwards was already a successful songwriter with such hits as "Broken Hearted Melody" and "Dungaree Doll" when he took on the seven-year job of researching the show and creating the score. He read all he could about the founding fathers, even drawing on John Adams' letters to his wife for some of the songs' lyrics. Then book-writer Peter Stone signed on for another two-and-half years of writing and re-writing.

1776 opened on Broadway on March 16, 1969, to strong reviews and impressive ticket sales, leading to a three-year run and two-years of touring. It captured Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Ron Holgate) and Best Director (Peter Hunt). But there was some controversy. At the time, Tony categories were assigned on the basis of billing, and although he was clearly the show's leading man, William Daniels, who played John Adams, was put into the featured actor category because he was not billed above the title. He declined the nomination, forfeiting an almost sure shot at the award. More political were some objections from President Richard Nixon. He requested the show be brought to the White House, but then Secret Service members informed the production company that they would have to cut two numbers -- "Cool, Considerate Men," in which conservative members of the Continental Congress sang of their opposition to U.S. independence, and "Mama, Look Sharp," an anti-war song delivered by a young man recently returned from battle. The producers declined to make the cuts, and the matter was dropped. At the performance, however, the President stood and cheered at the end of "Cool, Considerate Men," a surprise to the production company.

Another surprise came when Jack L. Warner, a long-time Hollywood conservative, bought the film rights. Long since departed from Warner Bros., the studio he had founded with his brothers, Warner was then working as an independent producer, He had scored a hit with Camelot in 1967 and was looking to put his stamp on another film musical. When he announced his acquisition of the rights, he also announced that he had hired the original Broadway creative team to adapt the show to the screen. This was news to director Peter Hunt, who had attended the press conference, but he was glad for the opportunity to make his film-directing debut on such a prestigious project. Also joining Hunt were Edwards, Stone and several members of the original cast, including Daniels, Howard Da Silva, Ken Howard, Holgate and Virginia Vestoff.

The film version of 1776 marked the first time Da Silva's vocals were recorded to disc. Just before the original Broadway cast album was recorded, he had suffered a heart attack, and his standby, Rex Everhart, had done the album instead. John Cullum, who had taken over the role of Edward Rutledge, also joined the film's cast, with Blythe Danner taking over from Broadway's Betty Buckley as Martha Jefferson. Danner's performance gives the film a footnote in Hollywood history. Twenty-three years later, her daughter, Gwyneth Paltrow, would play Martha Jefferson's daughter Patsy in the 1995 film Jefferson in Paris.

Although Warner had been drawn to the idea of producing a musical about the birth of the United States, however, he wasn't entirely sold on the play's political implications. During screenplay development, he would show up at meetings with Hunt and Stone with a script marked with paper clips at each passage he thought too liberal. For each one, the director and writer would explain the reason for the line, and he would back off. When Hunt asked him about this, he said, "He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day," which really didn't make a lot of sense at the time.

Hunt had hoped to shoot in Independence Hall, but aside from some establishing shots, 1776 was made almost entirely in Hollywood. The only problem this posed was for the final shot. Hunt wanted the camera to draw back as the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, re-creating a tableau that had garnered acclaim during the show's Broadway run. The sound stage wasn't large enough to accommodate the move, but since it was slated for demolition, they decided to take the shot after the rest of the film was finished and simply take out a wall of the soundstage. After 1776 was completed, however, plans to tear down the soundstage were dropped, so the production had to pay to have the wall replaced.

Hunt wanted to preview 1776 in San Francisco, but Warner objected, saying the town had "too many Jews and too many gentiles." This didn't make much sense, either, until Hunt realized that what Warner wanted to avoid were experts on the subject who might throw too much light on the film's factual errors. In truth, the Declaration of Independence was signed over the course of several months, not in the one day shown in 1776. Moreover, a key obstacle to Thomas Jefferson's (Howard) writing of the Declaration in the film is his loneliness for his wife. Ben Franklin (Da Silva) arranges for her to visit, which ends his writers block. In truth, no such visit took place. In fact, Martha Jefferson was so ill following a miscarriage, that she couldn't have gone anywhere in the summer of 1776. Afraid of complaints about such inaccuracies, Warner previewed the film in Phoenix, where it met with strong approval. Convinced he had a hit on his hands, Hunt took off on vacation with his wife, leaving the rest of the picture in Warner's hands.

When he got back, however, he learned that Warner had re-cut the film, eliminating most of the lines he had objected to earlier and two musical numbers, "Cool, Considerate Men" and "Mama, Look Sharp." When Hunt complained, Warner simply said, "He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day," which suddenly made more sense. According to Hollywood legend, Warner had screened the film for his good friend, President Nixon, and cut the numbers at his request. Other sources debate that version, suggesting that Warner cut "Cool, Considerate Men" for fear that a number featuring older, heavier actors dancing together would generate the wrong kind of laughter. "Mama, Look Sharp" was restored before the film's release, but "Cool, Considerate Men" would not be a part of the film until its 1992 laserdisc release.

1776 was the Thanksgiving attraction at New York's Radio City Music Hall, where it played to capacity crowds. When it went into national release, however, it bombed. That failure turned out to be the end for Warner. Although he continued looking for material for films, he never found another project that interested him. He passed away in 1978, with 1776 as his final credit.

Some historians have blamed the picture's failure on the times. The film musical was going through major changes in the early '70s. Bob Fosse's version of Cabaret the same year had made more traditional musicals like 1776 seem like dinosaurs. Politically, the film failed to unite audiences. Liberals were turned off by the reverential treatment of the founding fathers and the rationalization of their decision to strike any criticism of slavery from the Declaration of Independence. Conservatives found the contemporary humor, including jokes about irritable bowels and Jefferson's sexual relationship with his wife, in bad taste (as recently as 2004, the G-rated film was banned for showing at Fairfax County, Virginia, because there was too much "sexual innuendo"). And although critics were mixed, the negative reviews were so vehement they far outweighed anything positive written about 1776. In The New Yorker, Pauline Kael kicked off a review titled "Foundering Fathers," with the question "What could be more soul-curdling than a Broadway folk operetta featuring the founding fathers, and double-entendres, and national tragedy?" Her answer: "The movie version."

Yet the film also maintains a fervent group of supporters. Vincent Canby's original review in The New York Times may suggest its continuing appeal: "...1776...insists on being so entertaining and, at times, even moving, that you might as well stop resisting it. This reaction, I suspect, represents a clear triumph of emotional associations over material." Fans continue to buy new versions on DVD, watch the television airings of it and debate the film's historical accuracy on-line. The original show remains popular in local theatres and even schools, despite the objections of the Fairfax County school board. A 1997 Broadway revival, staring Brent Spiner of Star Trek: The Next Generation ran for almost a year (with Rex Everhart once again serving as standby for Benjamin Franklin).

Producer: Jack L. Warner
Director: Peter H. Hunt
Screenplay: Peter Stone Based on the musical by Stone and Sherman Edwards
Cinematography: Harry Stradling, Jr.
Art Direction: George Jenkins
Music: Sherman Edwards
Principal Cast: William Daniels (John Adams), Howard Da Silva (Benjamin Franklin), Ken Howard (Thomas Jefferson), Ronald Holgate (Richard Henry Lee), John Cullum (Edward Rutledge), Ray Middleton (Thomas McKean), Blythe Danner (Martha Jefferson), Virginia Vestoff (Abigail Adams).
C-166m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Frank Miller
1776

1776

A new nation was born as a Hollywood era ended with the release of the 1972 musical, 1776. Just as the film version of the award-winning Broadway hit offered a musical version of the thirteen colonies' battle for independence it also marked the last production for Hollywood pioneer Jack L. Warner, former production head of Warner Bros. Studios. The American Revolution had hardly been a goldmine for the Broadway musical. Since A Daughter of the Revolution in 1895, only five shows had dealt with the topic, only two of them -- Rodgers and Hart's Dearest Enemy in 1925 and the Robert Preston vehicle Ben Franklin in Paris (1964) -- running more than 200 performances. That didn't stop history teacher Sherman Edwards, however, from pursuing his dream, the creation of a musical about the Continental Congress that culminated with the framing of the Declaration of Independence. Edwards was already a successful songwriter with such hits as "Broken Hearted Melody" and "Dungaree Doll" when he took on the seven-year job of researching the show and creating the score. He read all he could about the founding fathers, even drawing on John Adams' letters to his wife for some of the songs' lyrics. Then book-writer Peter Stone signed on for another two-and-half years of writing and re-writing. 1776 opened on Broadway on March 16, 1969, to strong reviews and impressive ticket sales, leading to a three-year run and two-years of touring. It captured Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Ron Holgate) and Best Director (Peter Hunt). But there was some controversy. At the time, Tony categories were assigned on the basis of billing, and although he was clearly the show's leading man, William Daniels, who played John Adams, was put into the featured actor category because he was not billed above the title. He declined the nomination, forfeiting an almost sure shot at the award. More political were some objections from President Richard Nixon. He requested the show be brought to the White House, but then Secret Service members informed the production company that they would have to cut two numbers -- "Cool, Considerate Men," in which conservative members of the Continental Congress sang of their opposition to U.S. independence, and "Mama, Look Sharp," an anti-war song delivered by a young man recently returned from battle. The producers declined to make the cuts, and the matter was dropped. At the performance, however, the President stood and cheered at the end of "Cool, Considerate Men," a surprise to the production company. Another surprise came when Jack L. Warner, a long-time Hollywood conservative, bought the film rights. Long since departed from Warner Bros., the studio he had founded with his brothers, Warner was then working as an independent producer, He had scored a hit with Camelot in 1967 and was looking to put his stamp on another film musical. When he announced his acquisition of the rights, he also announced that he had hired the original Broadway creative team to adapt the show to the screen. This was news to director Peter Hunt, who had attended the press conference, but he was glad for the opportunity to make his film-directing debut on such a prestigious project. Also joining Hunt were Edwards, Stone and several members of the original cast, including Daniels, Howard Da Silva, Ken Howard, Holgate and Virginia Vestoff. The film version of 1776 marked the first time Da Silva's vocals were recorded to disc. Just before the original Broadway cast album was recorded, he had suffered a heart attack, and his standby, Rex Everhart, had done the album instead. John Cullum, who had taken over the role of Edward Rutledge, also joined the film's cast, with Blythe Danner taking over from Broadway's Betty Buckley as Martha Jefferson. Danner's performance gives the film a footnote in Hollywood history. Twenty-three years later, her daughter, Gwyneth Paltrow, would play Martha Jefferson's daughter Patsy in the 1995 film Jefferson in Paris. Although Warner had been drawn to the idea of producing a musical about the birth of the United States, however, he wasn't entirely sold on the play's political implications. During screenplay development, he would show up at meetings with Hunt and Stone with a script marked with paper clips at each passage he thought too liberal. For each one, the director and writer would explain the reason for the line, and he would back off. When Hunt asked him about this, he said, "He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day," which really didn't make a lot of sense at the time. Hunt had hoped to shoot in Independence Hall, but aside from some establishing shots, 1776 was made almost entirely in Hollywood. The only problem this posed was for the final shot. Hunt wanted the camera to draw back as the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, re-creating a tableau that had garnered acclaim during the show's Broadway run. The sound stage wasn't large enough to accommodate the move, but since it was slated for demolition, they decided to take the shot after the rest of the film was finished and simply take out a wall of the soundstage. After 1776 was completed, however, plans to tear down the soundstage were dropped, so the production had to pay to have the wall replaced. Hunt wanted to preview 1776 in San Francisco, but Warner objected, saying the town had "too many Jews and too many gentiles." This didn't make much sense, either, until Hunt realized that what Warner wanted to avoid were experts on the subject who might throw too much light on the film's factual errors. In truth, the Declaration of Independence was signed over the course of several months, not in the one day shown in 1776. Moreover, a key obstacle to Thomas Jefferson's (Howard) writing of the Declaration in the film is his loneliness for his wife. Ben Franklin (Da Silva) arranges for her to visit, which ends his writers block. In truth, no such visit took place. In fact, Martha Jefferson was so ill following a miscarriage, that she couldn't have gone anywhere in the summer of 1776. Afraid of complaints about such inaccuracies, Warner previewed the film in Phoenix, where it met with strong approval. Convinced he had a hit on his hands, Hunt took off on vacation with his wife, leaving the rest of the picture in Warner's hands. When he got back, however, he learned that Warner had re-cut the film, eliminating most of the lines he had objected to earlier and two musical numbers, "Cool, Considerate Men" and "Mama, Look Sharp." When Hunt complained, Warner simply said, "He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day," which suddenly made more sense. According to Hollywood legend, Warner had screened the film for his good friend, President Nixon, and cut the numbers at his request. Other sources debate that version, suggesting that Warner cut "Cool, Considerate Men" for fear that a number featuring older, heavier actors dancing together would generate the wrong kind of laughter. "Mama, Look Sharp" was restored before the film's release, but "Cool, Considerate Men" would not be a part of the film until its 1992 laserdisc release. 1776 was the Thanksgiving attraction at New York's Radio City Music Hall, where it played to capacity crowds. When it went into national release, however, it bombed. That failure turned out to be the end for Warner. Although he continued looking for material for films, he never found another project that interested him. He passed away in 1978, with 1776 as his final credit. Some historians have blamed the picture's failure on the times. The film musical was going through major changes in the early '70s. Bob Fosse's version of Cabaret the same year had made more traditional musicals like 1776 seem like dinosaurs. Politically, the film failed to unite audiences. Liberals were turned off by the reverential treatment of the founding fathers and the rationalization of their decision to strike any criticism of slavery from the Declaration of Independence. Conservatives found the contemporary humor, including jokes about irritable bowels and Jefferson's sexual relationship with his wife, in bad taste (as recently as 2004, the G-rated film was banned for showing at Fairfax County, Virginia, because there was too much "sexual innuendo"). And although critics were mixed, the negative reviews were so vehement they far outweighed anything positive written about 1776. In The New Yorker, Pauline Kael kicked off a review titled "Foundering Fathers," with the question "What could be more soul-curdling than a Broadway folk operetta featuring the founding fathers, and double-entendres, and national tragedy?" Her answer: "The movie version." Yet the film also maintains a fervent group of supporters. Vincent Canby's original review in The New York Times may suggest its continuing appeal: "...1776...insists on being so entertaining and, at times, even moving, that you might as well stop resisting it. This reaction, I suspect, represents a clear triumph of emotional associations over material." Fans continue to buy new versions on DVD, watch the television airings of it and debate the film's historical accuracy on-line. The original show remains popular in local theatres and even schools, despite the objections of the Fairfax County school board. A 1997 Broadway revival, staring Brent Spiner of Star Trek: The Next Generation ran for almost a year (with Rex Everhart once again serving as standby for Benjamin Franklin). Producer: Jack L. Warner Director: Peter H. Hunt Screenplay: Peter Stone Based on the musical by Stone and Sherman Edwards Cinematography: Harry Stradling, Jr. Art Direction: George Jenkins Music: Sherman Edwards Principal Cast: William Daniels (John Adams), Howard Da Silva (Benjamin Franklin), Ken Howard (Thomas Jefferson), Ronald Holgate (Richard Henry Lee), John Cullum (Edward Rutledge), Ray Middleton (Thomas McKean), Blythe Danner (Martha Jefferson), Virginia Vestoff (Abigail Adams). C-166m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. by Frank Miller

Quotes

She is your wife, isn't she?
- John Adams
Of course she is, look at the way they fit.
- Dr. Benjamin Franklin
Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Lee, Mr. Hopkins, Dr. Franklin, why have you joined this... incendiary little man, this BOSTON radical? This demagogue, this MADMAN?
- John Dickinson
Are you calling me a madman, you, you... you FRIBBLE!
- John Adams
Easy John.
- Dr. Benjamin Franklin
You cool, considerate men. You hang to the rear on every issue so that if we should go under, you'll still remain afloat!
- John Adams
Are you calling me a coward?
- John Dickinson
I never asked for much, after all, I am Mrs. John Adams. hat's quite enough for one lifetime.
- Abigail
Is it?
- John Adams
Well think John, to be married to the man who is always first in line to be hanged.
- Abigail
A second flood, a simple famine, plagues of locusts everywhere, or a cataclysmic earthquake, I'd accept with some despair. But no, You sent us Congress! Good God, Sir, was that fair?
- John Adams
Calling me an Englishman is like calling an ox a bull: he's grateful for the honor, but he'd rather have restored what's rightfully his.
- Dr. Benjamin Franklin
When did you first notice they were missing, sir?
- John Dickinson

Trivia

The 176 minute extended version is available on laserdisc. It contains 35 minutes cut from the original videotape release, including the song, "Cool, Considerate Men".

Gwyneth Paltrow, the real life daughter of Blythe Danner (Martha Jefferson) played Patsy Jefferson in the movie: Jefferson in Paris (1995).

William Daniels, who plays John Adams, also played John Quincy Adams (John Adams' son) in the mini series The Adams Chronicles, Samuel Adams (John Adams' cousin) in the TV movie the Bastard and John Adams again in the TV movie the Rebels.

Many of the actors were also in the Broadway production.

Ron Holgate did all of his own riding - except for the trick mount at the end - in "The Lees of Old Virginia", despite his never having been on a horse before.

Notes

The viewed copy was a restored DVD version, released in 2002, which, according to a Los Angeles Times article at the time of the DVD release, reinstated twenty-five minutes that had been cut from the original release. Within the story, the passage of time is conveyed by the "custodian" tearing each day's page from a large calendar hanging on the wall in the assembly room. A tally board on the wall listing the names of the colonies is used to clarify each colony's vote on the various issues depicted in the story, by sliding the name of the colony either to the left or right to indicate an affirmative or negative vote. In the assembly hall, whenever Gen. George Washington's reports are read aloud to the Congressman, the reading ends with a drum roll in the soundtrack.
       Peter Stone, the play's author, as well as the film's screenwriter, was the son of former history teacher-turned-writer and producer John Stone of Fox Studios. Songwriter Sherman Edwards, a former high school history teacher, was credited with conceiving the play as well as writing the music and lyrics. Edwards and Stone researched events prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence and endeavored to maintain historical accuracy. However, some liberties were taken, such as the timing of the signing of the document, which actually occurred over several months rather than on one day. John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, Roger Sherman and Thomas Jefferson formed the Committee of Five to draft the document Jefferson wrote, which was also depicted in the film. Personal details in the film and play, such as "Benjamin Franklin's" napping and gout, were true. According to modern historical sources, Jefferson did wish to return home to see his wife, but, according to modern sources, she May have been ill at the time. Although the real Caesar Rodney suffered a form of skin cancer and made a last-minute ride from Delaware to Philadelphia, an event depicted on the 1999 Delaware commemorative quarter, he became mortally ill several years later than the period depicted in the film. Judge James Wilson changed his vote, as shown in the film, although his reason for doing so is not known. As shown in the film, the real John Dickinson did not sign the declaration and he did fight in the Continental Army, as he promises in his last speech in the film, and later helped to write the Constitution of the United States.
       Much of the film's dialogue was taken from the writings of the historical figures. For example, the running joke describing "John Adams" as "obnoxious and disliked" were words the real Adams reported to his wife Abigail in his letters. Jefferson's defense for a written document declaring independence, several of Franklins' aphorisms and Adams' comment to Franklin that it would be wrong to remove the anti-slavery passage from the Declaration were lifted from actual writings. The quibble between Adams and Jefferson about the words "inalienable" vs. "unalienable" was also based on fact.
       Stone's musical play opened in New York on March 16, 1969, and ran for 1,217 performances. The play won several awards, among them, the Tony Award and New York Critics Circle Awards for Best Musical and a Grammy nomination for Best Cast Album. Peter Hunt, who made his directorial debut with the Broadway production, won a Tony Award for Best Director. To some contemporary observers, the success of the play, which had a patriotic theme, came as a surprise, as it opened when the country was divided over the Vietnam War. The London production, which Hunt also staged, was named "Best Play of the Year" by British critics.
       According to an April 1969 Hollywood Reporter news item, four unnamed, major film companies showed interest in obtaining the film rights for 1776, for which bidding would begin in May. In November 1970, a Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Jack L. Warner purchased the rights for the play, which was still running on Broadway and had two touring companies, for $1.25 million plus percentages. A March 1971 Daily Variety article reported that Warner, the long time president of Warner Bros. who had retired from the studio, bought the film with his own money.
       A March 1971 LAHExam news item reported that Warner and Columbia Pictures were teaming up to produce the picture and planning to cast mostly actors from the Broadway production and the national company. Actors who reprised their roles for the film included William Daniels, Howard Da Silva, Ken Howard, Roy Poole, David Ford, Ron Holgate, Emory Bass, Ralston Hill, Charles Rule, William Duell, Jonathan Moore and Virginia Vestoff. Noted stage actor John Collum, who portrays "Edward Rutledge," had been a cast replacement on Broadway in late 1969 and remained in the same stage role for two years. Rex Robbins, Patrick Hines, James Noble, Daniel Keyes, and Leo Leyden had also worked at various times either on Broadway or in touring productions of the show before reprising their roles in the film. New to the film were Blythe Danner as "Martha Jefferson," Donald Madden as "John Dickinson" and Stephen Nathan, who made his film debut as the "courier" and later became a writer and producer. Hunt, Stone, choreographer Onna White and costume designer Patricia Zipprodt, who had served on the stage production, also worked on the film.
       As noted by New York magazine film critic Judith Crist, the film was a faithful adaptation of the play. However, filmmakers were able to open up outdoor scenes depicting the gardens and city streets of Philadelphia and Adams' Massachusetts farm. More detailed representation of Independence Hall's anteroom, staircase and bell tower are presented in the film. Instead of opening with Adams' speech before the curtain, as in the play, the film opens with Adams in the bell tower and climbing down several staircases to confront his colleagues in the assembly room. Sequences depicting the correspondence between Adams and "Abigail" that are presented in the songs, "Yours, Yours, Yours" and "Is Anybody There?," which were based on actual correspondence between the real-life couple and Adams' other writings, were set, according to the play's libretto, in "certain reaches of John Adams' mind." Within the film, a transition was devised to emulate the technique used onstage, wherein the couple is initially shown talking directly to each other, but in their respective locations, Adams in Philadelphia and Abigail in Massachusetts. However, as the songs progress, the couple is shown together in the same setting, but never touching each other.
       A major difference between the libretto and script was the removal of the song, "Cool, Considerate Men," which was filmed, according to a September 2001 Los Angeles Times article, but was removed by Warner, who was a friend and campaign supporter of then president Richard M. Nixon. According to the article, Nixon had seen the stage show at a special White House performance in 1970 and, concerned about its negative portrayal of political conservatives who served as antagonists in the story, urged Warner to remove it from the released film. According to the article, Warner wanted the removed footage shredded, because he "did not want history second-guessing" his action; however, editor Florence Williamson surreptitiously kept it intact and placed it in storage. A July 2002 Los Angeles Times article stated that, according to Hunt, Warner told one of his closest friends before he died that he regretted cutting the song.
       According to studio production notes, Independence Hall was built on a Columbia sound stage. The art director, Philadelphia native George Jenkins, used William Birch engravings and other research from the Independence Hall archives to reproduce the building faithfully as it stood in the year 1776. The following information is taken from Hunt and Stone's commentary on the 2002 DVD version: The Independence Hall staircase was built at Columbia's Gower Studios and these scenes were some of the last to be shot there before Columbia moved from Hollywood to Burbank. Columbia's Burbank ranch was the location where the cobble-stoned sets representing Chestnut, and intersecting Fifth and Sixth Streets, Independence Square, High Street market and Jefferson's apartment, all set in Philadelphia, were shot. The Adams farm was shot at the Disney ranch, and many items, such as Jefferson's actual writing desk, were replicated for the film. Although the large calendar was a facsimile of the calendar hanging in the assembly hall in the year 1776, the tally board, a device used to heighten suspense that was displayed prominently in the play and the film, was not in the original hall. Although the film was originally recorded on multi-track, Warner released the film in monoaural. (However, the DVD restoration combines the original stereo tracks with modern technology.) According to an October 1992 Los Angeles Times article, the film was shot in forty-four days on a $4,000,000 budget.
       Despite a generally lukewarm critical response of the film, the New York Times reviewer credited 1776 as the first that he could recall that "treated seriously a magnificent chapter in American history." According to the Los Angeles Times review, the film was shown at a benefit performance for University of Southern California on the night before the film opened in Los Angeles. Harry Stradling, Jr. was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography. The film was nominated for Golden Globe Best Motion Picture-Musical Comedy and the Daughters of the American Revolution named 1776 the most outstanding picture of the year.
       As noted in the October 1992 Los Angeles Times article, 1776 was restored for release on LaserDisk by Joseph Caporiccio. The article reported that among the forty minutes cut before the theatrical release of the film was the overture (which included removing all the opening credits except for the title, according to the DVD commentary) and three verses of the song, "Piddle, Twiddle and Resolve." According to Hunt and Stone in their DVD commentary, the title sequence that was restored for the DVD release was shown theatrically only at a Phoenix preview and cut prior to release. They added that, at its release, the only opening credit was the title "1776", which was possibly placed just as Adams runs down the steps from the bell tower. In the background of the restored title sequence is a panoramic sketch by artist Mentor Huebner that depicts a bustling Colonial street scene, incorporating caricatures of himself and Hunt among the crowd of people.
       1776 marked the final film of Warner, although his film Dirty Little Billy (see entry above), which was produced early in 1971, was released around the same time. Warner died in 1978. In 1973, Hunt and Stone produced, and Hunt directed, the television series Adam's Rib, which reunited Howard and Danner in the starring roles and was based on the 1949 M-G-M film of the same name. According to Hollywood trade publications as of September 2006, producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan were planning a 120-minute adaptation the play 1776 to be aired as part of The Wonderful World of Disney television series. A television mini-series titled 1776 was also in preproduction in 2006, to be produced by Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman for HBO. That project, however, will focus on twelve months of George Washington's military campaign and is based on David McCulloughs' bestselling non-fiction book 1776.

Miscellaneous Notes

Named the most outstanding picture of the year by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture-Comedy.

Released in United States Fall November 1972

Based on the musical play "1776," produced on the New York stage by Stuart Ostrow (New York, March 16, 1969); music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards, book by Peter Stone, based on the conception of Sherman Edwards.

Released in United States Fall November 1972