But, Mr. Adams...: The 1776 Appreciation Thread

In honor of the Fourth of July, I’d like to pay tribute to one of my favorite stage and movie musicals, 1776.

Who would have thought that a musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence would be so terrific? But it WORKS, every bit of it…songs, script, everything.

The DVD with all the restored footage is probably one of the most faithful stage-to-screen adaptations you’ll find (especially since nearly all of the original stage cast reprises their roles). Unfortunately, it does leave out a little bit here and there (including the tag-end of “The Lees of Old Virginia”, which, strangely enough, was on the laserdisc), but that doesn’t make it any less good.

I first saw this in my sixth-grade class. However, our teacher had cut out most of the songs since he thought it would only make the class laugh at it. (He reckoned without one musical-theater nut.) So I didn’t hear how good the songs were until I caught it on television a few years later.

However, songs aside, this has probably one of the best scripts of any musical ever. I learned more about the Founding Fathers, their personalities, and their conflicts from this show than six years of history classes and an entire childhood of Schoolhouse Rock (nothing against that, though). The question of states’ rights versus federal rights. The problem of anti-slavery men having to grit their teeth and accept slavery for the time being in order to make any progress. The fact that John Dickinson had several good points in his arguments against independence, and wasn’t just a villain. The fact that even the North’s hands weren’t entirely clean in the matter of slavery.

What’s interesting is the notes by Peter Stone and Sherman Edwards at the end of the published script explaining what was accurate and what wasn’t. They based as much as they could on concrete information, and where they didn’t have that, they made educated guesses. One point they made was, “why should people even HAVE to ask if it happened this way? There were so many different issues and personalities in that building in July 1776, and our COUNTRY was born from them…doesn’t that deserve more in classrooms than a one-dimensional rah-rah session?”

It’s on TCM tonight…but not until 1:30 AM. :mad: So you’ll have to get your hands on the DVD to see what I mean. In any case, highly recommended.

I absolutely love this movie! I say that because I’ve never seen the show live.

I love the part where Mrs Jefferson shows up and Adams then admits to Franklin that he’d sent for her, in order to help cure Jefferson’s “writer’s block” Adams then says something to the effect that now Jefferson can get busy writing, and when Franklin demurs and says it might take a little longer Adams is aghast.

“You don’t mean they’re going to…in the middle of the afternoon?”

“Don’t worry John, the history books will clean it up.”

And as goofy as the characters seem to act sometimes I’ve often thought that it was truer to what probably went on, in spirit at least. As you said Hermione, history is more than a one dimensional rah rah session. These were living breathing people with a huge variety of attitudes, educations, and backgrounds.

The polling of Franklin’s delegation was a good inclusion. Not all of them were fire-breathing revolutionaries.

And I love the music.

Does anyone else remember the episode of St. Elsewhere, in which Dr. Craig(played by William Daniels) goes to Philadelphia with his wife to consult a surgeon on the repair of his broken hand? As they are strolling along Mrs. Craig asks her husband "Mark, why did we have to come to Philadelphia in the summer? It’s too damned hot!" and he starts singing “It’s hot as hell in Philadelphia.”

Well, I love the play, but hate the music.

Did we really need to know that Jefferson was such a lady’s man because he played the violin, and then a whole song about violin-playing?

For me, there were only two songs that ‘worked’ to advance the plot: the one where they were arguing who would compose the declaration, and the slave-supporters’ rationale-song. All the other songs were pretty shoe-horned and pretty forgettable.

The actual drama is fantastic and witty and inspiring and shouldn’t be missed. I recommend watching it with fast forward for anyone who finds a particular song unnecessary.

But if you’re going to hear the music, I recommend this breakdown of the violin song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBB7wJBVEkA

You missed the point of that song. It’s not about Jefferson playing the violin. It’s about both love and bitter shortness of life. But it also explains a great deal about John Adams, because he’s not all curmudgeon. He too has a romantic streak, if not one he plays up.

Frankly, all the songs are fairly short and reflect either real historical events or further develop important character moments. They’re about as disposable as the Mona Lisa, and the loss of them would severely hurt the movie.

Indeed, this is among the most classic American films of all time.

Yes, yes, yes. One of my handful of favorite musicals of all time. The book is simply glorious and the songs are wonderful. Oddly, the music is by Sherman Edwards, who thought up the idea for the show in the first place, and this is the only Broadway play he wrote the songs for.

I love 1776! A fun show, with great witty lines. And yes, I remember the bit from St. Elsewhere and laughed my head off at the time.

A few months ago we were on a driving trip to Philadelphia, and the soundtrack to 1776 came up on the MP3 player. My daughter said “It doesn’t get more American than this!” :smiley:

Ah, memories. I was in a college production of 1776, playing the Rev. John Witherspoon, the late-arriving New Jersey delegate. It was a lot of fun (although Witherspoon takes part in the fewest songs of any of the cast, IIRC). Later, in law school, I researched and wrote an essay on Witherspoon and learned a lot more about him. He was imprisoned during a Scottish uprising, permanently damaging his health; was only reluctantly persuaded to cross the ocean to head what would later become Princeton University, where he taught a number of key early American leaders including James Madison and Aaron Burr; was the target of some nasty British war propaganda; and was a very important figure in the American Presbyterian church. Years later, without looking for it, I stumbled across a statue of him at Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C.

I recently saw the HBO miniseries John Adams, which is excellent, and which actually includes Abigail saying to her pacing husband, “For God’s sake, John, sit down!” Nice.

The writers of 1776 certainly took some liberties (ahem) with history, esp. how the final vote unfolded (poor James Wilson!), but overall it really is a good, informative musical. I’ve long wished someone would write a similar work about the Constitutional Convention.

I’ve seen the show three times since in different amateur productions and always enjoy it. My all-time favorite song, hands down, is “But, Mr. Adams.” My favorite line: “I’d invite you along, John, but talking makes her nervous.”

May you all have a Glorious Fourth! Mr. Adams, of course, would want it that way.

My favorite musical. Hearing John Cullum sing “Molasses to Rum” is one of the most chilling things ever filmed. I probably watched 3 seasons of Northern Exposure before I realized it was the same guy. Powerful voice. The final letter from G. Washington chokes me up every time. “Is anybody there?”

I saw the show on broadway with Brent Spiner and Pat Hingle. The cast was fantastic and Spiner did a great job as Adams. One of my best broadway experiences.

o/ But no, you sent us Congress. Good God, sir, was that fair?! o/

My husband (who is Andy L) and I love this movie!

I first saw part of it when the cast of the show from our local high school came to my elementary school and sang a few songs. Their kick line in “But Mr. Adams” was one for the ages.

But I didn’t remember the name of the show, so when my sister told me I had to watch this awesome movie about the Declaration of Independence, I didn’t want to. She insisted, and when “But Mr. Adams” was sung, everything clicked.

Too many favorite lines to count, but the one that always brings a tear to my eye is: “Yes, Mr. Adams. I do.”

To this day, Mama, Look Sharp brings a tear to my eye.

One of my favorite movies. Second reading the notes by Stone in the script.

Even though there’s little resemblance twixt William Daniels and John Adams, the two are forever conflated in my mind, far more than Giamatti (who gave a great performance in the HBO miniseries) will ever be.

Years old thread with some good trivia.

Lot of dust in the air, honest:p

1776 is one of my favorites also, it is one of the few things permanently locked into my DVR [along with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum] and on the SD chip in my phone, and my tablet. [If you must pry, 1776 and M are the 2 movies that are pretty much my ‘comfort food’ movies, and the books are all of the Bujold books, all the Lindsey Davis Falco series, and the Belisarius series.]

I’m a huge fan of the musical, which i saw on Broadway in its original run, then on-screen. I performed in it in college, as Charles Thomson, secretary to Congress. I had more lines than anyone else.
Random thoughts:

1.) Iloved the restored version, with not only the “Cool Cool Men” number that was cut, but the original opening and the little bit in Congress whgere they run to the window.

2.) Peter Stone (who also wrote the mystery movies *Charade, Mirage, * and Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe, not to mention the Broadway musical Titanic) researched it, in part, at Rutgers University Library, where I frequently went.

3.) There was a cut scene that had Adams and Franklin in New Brunswick, sharing a hotel room. It was based on a real incident, recalled by Adams. It was cut after out-of-town performances, but I’d love to read it. The hotel they likely stayed at is still in existence. The indian Queen tavern was STILL a going business (under a different name, but in the same building) at the foot of Albany Street in New Brunswick until they decided to drastically re-arrance the city in the mid-1970s. It had a sign advertising “Cocktails” out front. It has since been moved to East Jersey Olde Towne, and restored to its original, pre-neon appearance.

4.) This film probably had the highest proportion of actors reprising their roles of any stage-to-screen musical I know of (as noted above). One reason, I understand, is that a lot of the cast were soap opera actors, who were already in town. Some, I think, even continued their TV roles while appearing in the play. If you look them up on the internet movie database, a lot of them have few or even NO other movie credits.

5.) I think one reason I love the musical is that its songs weren’t ransacked for commercial purposes (although the composer Sherman Edwards probably feels differently). But you never got into an elevator or waited for the dentist while listening to “For God’s Sake John, Sit Down!”

6.) The play, while entertaining, isn’t really fair to all its characters. Judge Wilson certainly wasn’t a nonentity. Thompson, the secretary I played, wemnt on to a distinuighed career and was adopted by the Delaware Indians.

7.) It seems t me that Historian David McCullouch has some sort of animosity towards this play. He doesn’t mention it in his works (although it would be appropriate at the end of John Adams, where he mentions other works, or even for his own book 1776). He is careful to use many of the same quotations used in the play which Stone had given to ther characters (a practice he admitted to) but placing them in the right mouths, as if to “show him up”. McCullouch is right, of course, to properly attribute quotes, but he seems to have gone out of his way to use many not-common quotes for this reason. It looks deliberate.

8.) When we put this on, at MIT, and Adams and Jefferson are wrangling at the end about whether it ought to be “inalienable” or “unalienable”, Adams asserts “I am a graduate of Harvard” and the guy playing Jefferson, instead of using the proper line (“And I attended William and Mary”), at one performance unhistorically announced “And I attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” Brought down the house.

Oh man, that’s ridiculous. The songs are supposed to be funny!

Jefferson: “Once again, you stand between me and my lovely bride / Mr. Adams, you are driving me to homicide!”
Franklin, Livingston & Sherman: “Homiciiiiide…homiciiiiide…”
Adams: “QUIET!!!”

I watch this every year on July 4th. In fact, I’m about to put the DVD (restored edition, of course) in.

One of my favourite exchanges is between Franklin and Dickinson.

Franklin: But to call me an Englishman is like calling an ox a steer. He’s grateful for the honor, but he’d rather have restored to him what’s rightfully his.

Dickinson: When did you first notice they were missing?

There’s a story about that exchange in the other thread.

It’s one of my all time favorites. I brought the Original Broadway Cast recording, after I saw it performed at a dinner theater in 1976 New Rochelle, NY. I saw the movie and was disappointed that “Cool, Cool Men” wasn’t in the movie. I was glad that it was on the restored copy of the movie. I plan on taping it on my dvr, so I can watch it tomorrow. My sisters sing part of the musical all the time.:smiley:

Which other thread? :confused: The google does nothing!