For a long time, I thought we were the only ones who considered 1776 to be a necessary part of celebrating July 4. Facebook and Twitter have made it quite clear we are not alone.
I saw 1776 during its original run on Broadway from nosebleed seats. I'm pretty sure it is the very first show I saw on Broadway. Some group or other at Hofstra had arranged a bus and group tickets and I found out about it because I used to hang out with a bunch of the theatre students who lived in the dorms. It was love at first sight for this history major. When the filmed version opened at Radio City Music Hall a few years later, I had tickets for it. If the show was playing anywhere within my knowing, I would get tickets for it.
Fortunately, when I met Len Wein, I quickly learned he was equally enamored of the show. We bought the restored film when it came out on laser disk. We bought the DVD. We've seen it done in Santa Barbara and in Glendale, and if we had time this close to Comic-con would drive out to Camarillo to see it this weekend.
Roger Rees was in the production we saw at UCLA a few days after 9/11. (We lost the poster signed by the entire cast as a fundraiser in our house fire.) Len may have seen the revival with Brent Spiner in New York on one of his trips east.
As far as I am concerned, William Daniels is the definitive John Adams, just as Howard da Silva was born to play Benjamin Franklin (oh that voice) and the young and handsome Ken Howard was perfect as Thomas Jefferson. No matter how much liberty was taken with the truth, it is an inspiring production that has you worrying that they will never, ever reach their goal of declaring independence from England. Since much of the dialogue was taken from correspondence and other writings of the day, I can't help but long for a time when language was elevated and insults were so much more interesting.
We missed the TMC broadcast during the afternoon because we went out to buy me a new car and because Len had a signing at a local comic book shop for Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1. But we had a few members of the Sunday Super Supper Squad who came over to use the pool and throw food on the grill as a celebration of the Fourth, with the intention of watching the film after supper.
We got the first half of the film in before folks went off in search of fireworks (I was actually able to see some from our front yard) and then when everyone came back, we watched the rest of it. I am always struck by the song Cool, Considerate Men, which Richard Nixon succeeded in having excised from the original film release as "too lefty." Here's an article about the cut from the LA Times in 2001. We are so lucky the film's editor ignored the order to shred the negative footage.
During that pointed song, there is a brief exchange between John Hancock and John Dickinson that rings with irony in this day of the Astroturf Tea Party: Dickinson had asked Hancock why he sided with Adams when he (Hancock) was a man of property. Hancock
tells Dickinson, "Fortunately there are not enough men of property
in America to dictate policy," and Dickinson replies, "Perhaps not. But
don't forget that most men without property would rather protect the
possibility of becoming rich, than face the reality of being poor. And that is why they will follow us." And the chorus finishes the sentence singing "ever to the right."
Come ye cool cool considerate men
The likes of which may never be seen again
With our land, cash in hand
Self-command, future planned
And we'll hold to our gold
Tradition that is old, reluctant to be bold.
We say this game's not of our choosing
Why should we risk losing?
Think about that as you face the upcoming election.