1776: Damn, I feel old. - Jay Maynard

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Friday, 20 March 2009


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0827 - 1776: Damn, I feel old.

At a committee meeting the other evening, we were discussing the political problems inherent in a proposal we were working on and, in particular, the fact that the involvement of a few folks might make its passage somewhat more difficult. I trotted out what I thought would be a well-understood reference: "He's obnoxious and disliked. You know that, sir." I was greeted with blank looks.

Being a child of the 60s, when it came time to do American history in school, it was right around the time that the bicentennial hype was getting into full swing. The movie 1776 came out right in the middle of that, and of course we watched it in class. It seemed at the time like everyone else saw it, too, and it's been a basic part of my cultural background ever since.

It's a musical treatment of the wrangling leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The history isn't far wrong, it's loaded with quotable lines, the acting is superb, and it's a fun time all around. Performances by William Daniels as John Adams, Howard da Silva as Ben Franklin, and Ken Howard (in his first major role) as Thomas Jefferson stand out to the point that they've indelibly stamped themselves on my mental images of the people in history.

The runtime in theaters was 2:22, growing to 2:48 on the director's cut DVD and a full three hours on the laserdisc (which is the one disc not in my parents' collection that I wish I had). There's a lot of story to tell, and they manage to keep the suspense going even though we all know damned well what the outcome will be. That it kept a classroom full of eighth graders watching for that long is a testament to just how entertaining it is.

Here's the song "But, Mr. Adams", the one that contains the reference I mentioned:



I was pleasantly surprised to see that the stage musical had been revived a few years back, with Brent Spiner as Adams. That must have been something to see. In any case, it's definitely worth watching, in any form. I hope it doesn't become something that just us old farts remember and enjoy.

location: 56031
current mood: [mood icon] curious

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Comments:


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From:sideband
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From:howardtayler
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I don't think I've ever seen it. I loved the clip. I may have to acquire the DVD.
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From:rook543
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Normally I really can't stand most musicals, but I love "1776"
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From:michaelmink
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I actually DID see Spiner as Adams; 1776 came to one of the local summerstock theatres a few years ago. He was effective.

And that is one of the best songs in the story.
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From:thecanuckguy
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This is one I haven't seen either, but I'm sure it was on either TCM or AMC recently, as I saw my wife watching and it got my interest (which is saying something, since I usually don't like movies), she seemed to be enjoying it (she's roughly the same age as you I think, whereas I would have been too young to remember it even if I was an American).

I do think that something like this is what is needed to teach kids history in class today, they'd undoubtedly enjoy it more if they had this rather than boring old lectures ("1066 and all that"...), after all isn't this the MTV generation, or am I dating myself?

That and School House Rock. How kids know (if they even do) how bills become law without one singing on the steps of Capitol Hill I have no freakin' idea ...
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From:jaegan438
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1776 is one of my favorite movies of all time, for all the reasons you named. I will forever regret not taking a few days off when I was in college to go see Brent Spiner as Adams on Broadway.
Silly me I was stupid enough to think classes should be a priority.
I did partially rectify this last year by taking time off work to go see Hal Holbrook doing "Mark Twain Tonight" a couple hours away from me.
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From:selenite
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Wandering over from ESR's . . .

1776 is a tradition in my family. Every July 4th we show the kids the movie, then my wife reads them Patrick Henry's speech and I read the Declaration.

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