It’s time for another look at (relatively) recent Blu-Rays and DVDs aimed at the hardcore movie lover — though more casual viewers looking for something beyond Hollywood’s latest mass-market offerings are certainly allowed to kibitz at the Corner as well. Today’s selections are from Hollywood, off-Hollywood, England, and France and were made mostly in the 1930s or the 1970s, though we will be looking at one from 1998 — only yesterday!
Well, I always pretty much have the same one, and it’s showing today on TCM at 11:30/2:30.
Fans of the terrific HBO “John Adams” miniseries in particular might find this a refreshing alternative take on the founding fathers and just how the Declaration of Independence came to be written and signed. True, it’s a little stagy and far from the best Broadway-to-Hollywood transfer in movie history, at least on a strictly cinematic level. At the same time, it’s a cracking entertainment with first-rate wrting and indelible performances by William Daniels (“The Graduate,” “St. Elsewhere”) as Adams, Screen Actors Guild President Ken Howard (“The White Shadow”) as eventual president Thomas Jefferson, and the once-blacklisted veteran character actor Howard Da Silva (“The Lost Weekend,” “Sgt. York”), for me, the definitive Benjamin Franklin. There’s also a nice appearance by a crush-inducing Blythe Danner (she became Gwyneth Paltrow‘s mom the same year the 1972 film was released) as a slightly ahistoric Martha Jefferson.
Now, if this is the first time you’re hearing of “1776,” there is one major difference between this and other cinematic history lessons, but you’ll that figured out by about 2:47 or by reading the name of the video.
Yeah, it’s a musical. The songs are by the late Tin Pan Alley songwriter turned history teacher Sherman Edwards and the great, if necessarily theatrical, dialogue is written by Peter Stone (“Charade”). Live with it. Here’s another favorite number with great work by Daniels, Da Silva, and Howard based on real opinions the three great men held.
Howdy folks, I’ve been a bit distracted by a couple of big pieces I did earlier, but the movie world moves on and, in the tradition of the White House emitting unpleasant stories late on Fridays to avoid too much notice, we have a couple of new bummer items and some more typical stuff from before that I missed.
* Nikki Finke is breaking the news of some possibly very serious fiscal problems at MGM, though I have to admit that these sorts of details are about as clear as mud to this innumerate fiscal ignoramus. In any case, the once-dominant studio has long been a shadow of its former self and isn’t even really a studio anymore (though it owns UA, and boy is that a complicated story for a tired guy to follow/remember right now). It sold off its historic lot in 2004 — where I actually spent a few hours on Tuesday, as it happens — to Sony, which is a change I’ve yet to get used to. Still, they have their fingers in a few pies. As Finke reports, if the not-studio really does go bankrupt, it could affect both the upcoming adaptations of “The Hobbit” and the ever-present James Bond series through its ownership of the also much-smaller-than-it-used-to-be United Artists.
* In news that is worse because it’s certain, the popular Cinevegas Film Festival is taking a break next year and, it sounds like, the year after that and who knows for how long if the overall economy doesn’t pick up. Of course, Las Vegas is probably one of the most shell-shocked places in the U.S. by the real estate bubble and general over-development. During the boom times, I would go to Vegas, look at all the ultra-high end restaurants, spas, and especially the stores and wonder when they’d run out of rich people.
Also, I forgot to mention it yesterday in my post about it, but “1776,” the wonderful, if flawed, and still oddly controversial musical about the writing of the Declaration of Independence, is showing tonight (10:15 est/7:15 pst) on TCM. There are worse fireworks alternatives.