Looking for a 7/4 movie suggestion?

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.

  

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Choose your American creation myth

Every year about this time, my thoughts turn to a movie that is actually not very well made. Director Peter H. Hunt apparently had no clue how to turn “1776” from a Broadway musical into a movie back in 1972, but I still love the thing. An incredibly sharp, if still very theatrical, script by original writer Peter Stone (1974’s “The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3”) and really fun performances seal the deal, even if the director can’t. Besides, if the Founding Fathers were great, how much greater would they be singing and dancing their way to freedom from English tyranny? It’s like the “John Adams” miniseries only funnier and with a quasi-18th century beat. Are you with me? Are you??? Well, take a look, anyway.

If you live in the Los Angeles area and this seems like your thing, it just so happens that the American Cinematheque is screening the restored version of the film tonight at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater, with director Hunt in attendance (don’t tell him what I said). However, if it’s not your thing — and I understand that may be the case — perhaps you’d prefer a more, er, manly retelling of how our nation came to be.

  

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