“I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace, that two are called a law firm, and that three or more become a congress.” – John Adams, 1776 … and he’s played by Mr. Feeny (William Daniels)!
In 1972, someone decided they should film a musical about the Declaration of Independence. Now, to tell someone that this is a movie worth watching using that very description can be a difficult sell. It’s one of those things that you just have to see to understand. For one, it’s hilarious. Really, that’s the big point here. Oh, sure, they put in plenty of historical accuracy, including some things we usually don’t consider – such as the roles of women, how truly nightmarish the army was, how unlikely the success really would appear, and the fact that it was truly that new of a movement. Sure, there had been wars and insurgencies before, but a colony becoming a country? Well, we considered it quite new, anyway.
If you’re trying to learn the fundamentals of the Revolution, this could be a good way to do it (that’s how I was introduced to the film in the first place – and it worked!), especially if you have an ear for lyrics and quotations. If you’re not that into history, then it can be fun to watch how the Founding Fathers interact with lots of drama, personal agendas, bawdy humor, and really silly musical numbers.
Silly musical numbers? That’s right, and this includes Ben Franklin, the inventor of the modern world. There are songs that accurately describe politics, visions of the time, actual debates, and then some rather silly pieces that are just that quotable – with bonus points for putting the following words into a song: Connecticut, homicide, extemporania, pop the cork, participle, predicate, and sexual combustibility. These are in no particular order. Now, you have to go watch it to see how they managed it.
This is a great selection for your Independence Day celebrations or for winding down after them tonight (also, TCM is playing it today at 2PM). Most of the material is a picture of the issues and politics back then, as well as the politics now – not much has changed, except there were possibly a greater population of men with brilliant minds and true vision for progress (Ben Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, and others a little less known, all in one room). Still, it was still a political game. Overall, it’s both effective and entertaining. The debates did happen. The dirty jokes and entendres probably happened. The musical numbers probably didn’t, but now we know how awesome it would have been if they had.