The award winning musical comes to the screen.
The first independent production of former studio mogul Jack Warner, 1776 was adapted from the hit 1969 Broadway musical by Peter Stone and Sherman Edwards. William Daniels, Ken Howard, and Howard Da Silva are among the many actors who recreate their Broadway roles. The story is set during the first Continental Congress, when the Declaration of Independence was drafted by such founding fathers as John Adams (Daniels) and Benjamin Franklin (Da Silva). The script attempts to "humanize" these remote historical figures by contemporizing them -- particularly the character of Ben Franklin. Blythe Danner's character of Martha Jefferson is expanded for the film version to allow for an elaborate outdoor production number. After 1776, Warner made only one more film, the 1972 "grunge Western" Dirty Little Billy. On an added note: the picture was originally rated G with its theatrical running time of 141 minutes. It was later expanded to 166 minutes; the added scenes caused the MPAA to re-rate it PG (for language) in 1992. Both versions are available on video.
Jack L. Warner bought the screen rights to the musical for $1.25 million.
Many members of the original Broadway cast, including William Daniels, Ken Howard, John Cullum, and Howard Da Silva, reprised their roles for the film. Ralston Hill and Charles Rule also repeated their roles from the Broadway production, marking their only appearances in feature film.
Exteriors were filmed at the Warner Ranch in Burbank, California, the former Columbia Pictures backlot, where they built an entire street of colonial Philadelphia. Most of the colonial sets were destroyed by a fire in the mid-1970s.
The water fountain seen during the musical number "The Lees of Old Virginia," with Ben Franklin, John Adams, and Richard Henry Lee, is best known to current television viewers as the fountain seen at the beginning of the TV show Friends. This fountain still exists directly across the street from the Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie houses.
Interiors were shot at the old Columbia studio on Gower Street in Hollywood. 1776 was among the final films shot at Gower Studios before the Warner/Colombia merger in 1971.
In its theatrical and original home video releases, the film was rated G; following the restoration of various parts cut by producer Jack Warner, the DVD was rated PG. The Laserdisc version, out of print, contains additional footage and background music not contained on the DVD release. The 168-minute version is considered director Peter Hunt's preferred version, hence its "director's cut" moniker. The film was the Christmas attraction at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
"Cool, Cool, Considerate Men" was cut from the film prior to its release and not included on the soundtrack recording nor on the first VHS tapes and laserdiscs. The footage, some of physically poor quality, was restored for the later laserdisc and DVD releases
Release Date: November 12, 1972 @ Radio City Music Hall