Americans have a propensity for getting chummy with heroic figures of the past. 1776, a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical and a film directed by Peter H. Hunt, trades on that peculiar tendency.
The Founding Fathers spent three months debating whether or not to include a clause against slavery in the Declaration of Independence. In writer Peter Stone's urbane scenario for the period, John Adams (William Daniels) is an officious, puritanical rebel who drove the Second Constitutional Congress to take action on secession from England. Benjamin Franklin (Howard Da Silva) is a wise and sophisticated diplomat with a penchant for food and pretty girls (in this case, he does a dance with Thomas Jefferson's lovely wife played by Blythe Danner). Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard) comes across as a scholarly Southern aristocrat who is forced to write the Declaration of Independence when no one else wants the job.
Most of the time, 1776 is a lightly amusing historical lesson. Part pageant and part historical comedy, the film's two best musical numbers are "The Lees of Old Virginia," a tongue-in-cheek tribute to a famed old American family, and " Sit Down John," a number sung by the members of Congress when they tire of Adams' repeated lectures. 1776 is a better-than-average family film bound to become a 4th of July holiday staple.
The new DVD release is a restored "director's cut" containing the vision of Peter Hunt. He is also featured on the best extra, an audio commentary with screenwriter Peter Stone.