Tuesday, July 7, 2015

1776: The Musical

Turner Classic Movies broadcast 1776 on Independence Day. I missed some of it on Saturday but I have seen it before. Of course I know we should always be careful of taking our history from dramatizations like this and we have to grant that they may or may not be attempting to depict history accurately, but this movie and the musical play on which it is based is very disappointing.

It's disappointing in part because the musical numbers are so dull compared to my favorite musicals. Then all the historical inaccuracies pile up--John Adams was not the irritating man he's depicted to be; Martha Jefferson never came to Philadelphia that summer; James Wilson was certainly not the non-entity his character wants to be, and Caesar Rodney was not an old man when the Continental Congress was meeting etc, etc.

The inaccuracy--through omission not commission at least--that irritated me the most was leaving Charles Carroll of Carrollton out among the signers at the end of the movie/play, which were I know only representative of all the signers. Since he was the only Catholic and the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, passing him over seems dramatically and historically foolish.

Turner Classic Movies did make up for this lackluster musical offering with Meredith Wilson's The Music Man later Saturday night. It has clever, rousing, poignant, and beautiful songs, including counterpoint numbers. Even though it's not about Independence Day, it is about brass bands, small-town America, and love. You know, of course, that Marian's song Goodnight, My Someone" is just "Seventy-six Trombones" in waltz time.

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