1776 (1972)

1776 movie poster musical
6.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 6/10

Decent cast

Dull musical that feels like reading a kid's version of the founding of America

Movie Info

Movie Name:  1776

Studio:  Columbia Pictures

Genre(s):  Musical/Drama

Release Date(s):  November 17, 1972

MPAA Rating:  G

1776 musical benjamin franklin thomas jefferson john adams william daniels howard da silva ken howard

Let’s rock the British!!!

The colonies are on the verge of revolution and the Continental Congress in Philadelphia is trying to decide what steps they want to take.  While John Adams (William Daniels), Benjamin Franklin (Howard Da Silvia), and Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard) are tasked with crafting a Declaration of Independence in order to convince the other delegates to side with them while John Dickinson (Donald Madden) stokes the opposition.  When debate about the slave issue is raised by Edward Rutledge (John Cullum) of South Carolina, the whole quest for independence might collapse before it begins.

Directed by Peter H. Hunt, 1776 adapts the historical musical from 1969.  The movie was met with mixed reviews and an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography.

1776 feels like a bad idea on paper.  A historical drama which has the Founding Fathers singing and dancing.  It could have been a n interesting look into the dynamics of the Founding Fathers and the birth of a nation…instead, it is the bad idea that you thought it might be.

1776 musical john adams thomas jefferson william daniels ken howard

Mr. Jefferson, you’re trying to seduce me…aren’t you?

The story is one you know and it is presented like a basic kid’s history book.  In that presentation, “shortcuts” are taken by the writers that simplify the story and amplify its presentation.  The skewered history feels like it is for the benefit of younger viewers, but then songs and talks by Martha Jefferson, John Adams, and Ben Franklin about how Thomas Jefferson’s libido is raging don’t seem as family friendly.

The cast is relatively strong but seem like cut-out historical clichés of the people.  Most of the cast comes from the Broadway production of the show.  William Daniels is basically the star of the film as John Adams and Howard Da Silva channels Ed Wynn as Benjamin Franklin.  John Dickinson as played by Donald Madden is almost a villain though he is justified the end.  Though both Blythe Danner as Martha Jefferson and Virginia Vestoff as Abigail Adams are important, the movie feels like it could have boosted their roles since it is rather trapped in the hearings.

1776 musical slavery song molasses to rum john cullum

Ah…the slavery song!

The movie largely takes place in a mock-up of Independence Hall.  The limited sets and location make the musical feel pretty stuffy and bland.  It really can’t be helped, but it adds to the problem that the musical just isn’t much fun.

1776 feels like a throwback musical.  It feels like every kid’s history book you read (mixed with a little adult entertainment).  It isn’t very good, it’s bloated, and it kind of feels like you’ve entered Disney World’s Hall of Presidents but with the Continental Congress…stick with better musicals if you are going to watch a “classic”.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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