1776: The Musical

As we approach the 4th of July holiday in the U.S., I can't resist putting in a plug for my favorite Revolutionary War movie: "1776", which is a musical about the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.

If you've never seen "1776", I highly recommend it. It came out in 1972 (based on the Broadway musical of the same name) and I think I've seen it almost every year since I was nine or so. That tradition continues to this day; my family always watches it on DVD every July 4th, and we will do so again this year.

Diana Gabaldon likes it, too; I've heard her describe it as "hilarious, moving, and very singable". I asked her specifically about the costumes, because I'm fascinated by the details of the 18th century clothing in this movie, and she said they're pretty accurate.

For those of you who have read AN ECHO IN THE BONE: Can you watch Ben Franklin in this movie without thinking of the scene in ECHO where he's "air-bathing", stark naked? <g> That image is burned indelibly into my brain now, and I don't think I'll ever forget it.

Here are a couple of my favorite songs from the movie:

1) "The Egg" - Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson choose America's national bird.

2) "Sit Down, John" - This is the movie's opening number.

You can get "1776" via Amazon here. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!


Tracey R. said...

Sigh...I wish you lived in NJ, b/c I was supposed to see an outdoor stage production of it last night and everyone bailed. :-( Glad to see that SOMEONE appreciates this show/movie! I too am a HUGE 1776 fan since way back. Can't remember the first time I saw the movie but have seen it MANY times since, along with several stage productions (including an outdoor one in downtown Philly on the bicentennial July 4).

I love all the songs you mention, but in terms of Outlander context, one additional song stands out (in fact, it's on my "Echo in the Bone" playlist): "Momma Look Sharp." I kept hearing that song as I read every Echo battle description--it's just such a moving description of a young soldier's experience.

As an aside, don't know if you were ever a St. Elsewhere fan--William Daniels was the star of that show, and he played basically a 20th century surgeon version of his John Adams. Anyway, they used to throw 1776 references into his scenes all the time--they'd play music from it in the operating room, for example--and once they even had him refer to himself as "obnoxious and disliked"--LOL!

Enjoy the annual family viewing! (And for anyone who doesn't have the DVD, 1776 is on TCM on July 4 at 2:30 est.....)

Karen Henry said...


I grew up in New Jersey, actually (in New Providence, near Summit). Have not been back there in a long time, though. I remember watching 1776 on one of the local stations (WOR, I think) back in the mid-70's, when I was in elementary school. They used to run it on July 4th every year, then they quit for a few years when I was a teenager (made my whole family very frustrated!) I got it on tape the next time (with commercials, of course), ensuring we wouldn't miss another year.

The minute I heard it was out on VHS, I bought a copy, and I replaced it with the DVD about a year and a half ago. My parents and I will watch it tomorrow for sure. :-)

Good point about "Momma Look Sharp" -- think about Claire looking for Jamie after the battle where he injured his hand. Such a poignant, moving song!

I have never seen it performed live, and I would have loved to see that show in NJ. Too bad you couldn't convince anybody else to go with you.

Have a great 4th!


Jari Backman said...

Dear Karen,

Thank you for this information. I did feel the first clips a bit too much musical but Momma Look Sharp was quite something. Unfortunately, TCM here won't show it again in the near future.

We had the John Adams aired here and though it did have several strange Hollywood/HBO 'director license' issues, the way the Adams Couple was portrayed was really nice. Also, the clothes and surroundings gave a good impact from the 18th century.

Unknown said...

I first saw 1776 when I was 13 years old. I fell in love with Thomas Jefferson and have favored tall redheads ever since....

Ken Howard in costume... albeit the 1970s Ken Howard, would be my pick for Jamie.

I have also used this movie for two decades to teach American history- most recently overseas as a shortcut for foreign kids who had no background on the topic. My 11th grade Emerati girls swooned over Jefferson...

This movie is remarkably accurate, informative, entertaining and accessible.

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