Saturday, July 4, 2009

Hooray for the R/W/B!

(Some of this is from my blog of last 4th of July; the 2009 edition adds a few new thoughts and a couple of videos.)

One of my favorite movies - and my favorite to watch today - is 1776, closely adapted from the Broadway musical of the same name. My inner history geek warns you to not take it too much as literal history (hey, it's a musical)! But much of the dialog between John Adams and his wife Abigail is lifted from their letters to each other during the period. And lots of the dialog of other characters - including Jefferson - is quoted from correspondence, too, much of it from later years as 1776 was remembered.

Here's my favorite number from the show, Ben Franklin (Howard Da Silva), Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard) and John Adams (William Daniels) are in the hallway outside of the Continental Congress meeting room as the Declaration of Independance is read for the first time - and the three are already making myths for the new United States:

One musical number, Cool, Cool Considerate Men, is a slap at conservative southern-colony representatives - most of them astride vast land holdings and considerable family fortunes - who balked at signing, or even debating, the Declaration. When the play was presented at the Nixon White House, legend has it that the President asked composer Sherman Edwards to cut the number from the show. According to that legend, Edwards refused.

What seems pretty certain, however, was that when the play became film, then still-President Nixon asked old California friend and movie magnate Jack Warner to delete the offending tune. Warner, who produced the movie, complied.

The film was released without the offending song and the eventual VHS version was that one.

Years later, when the DVD was compiled, several scenes were reinstated, including CCCM. Here it is. See what you think of it:

I'm sure that's the version that'll be on TV tonight. It's scheduled to be shown on cable channel TCM (commercial-free, I believe) at 7:15pm PDT.

Or rent from Netflix.

Sidebar: In the year 1776, Benjamin Franklin had recently returned from five years in England where he'd been appealing to Parliament to reverse oppressive taxes and/or grant Parliamentary representation to the American colonies which, he was sure, would rebel if these considerations were not made. Frustrated in his attempts, he returned to America, became a member of the Congress and, well, you know the rest.

Franklin was also probably the wealthiest man in America at the time. His fortune, essentially due to his ad-supported publishing enterprises, is the reason why he is considered by some historians as "America's first advertising man."