I have decided to start a new Independence Day tradition for myself. Every Fourth of July, I will pull my copy of 1776 : The Musical off of my DVD shelf and dust it off for viewing. (Actually, it doesn't gather much dust. I love that show.) Today, though, I can leave my copy on the shelf as Turner Classic Movies has taken it upon itself to show the widescreen, uncut version of the movie as it is meant to be seen. Uncut? Let me re-phrase that. Uncensored. Yes, in 1972, President Richard M. Nixon, having seen a pre-release screening, pressured the producers to remove a few scenes and one entire musical number, "Cool, Cool, Considerate Men," which he felt to be an indictment of the Republican Party and potentially influential in the 1972 elections. The studio caved, and the scenes were removed.
Thankfully, nothing like that could ever happen now. Right? (The scenes are fully restored on the DVD.)
A very book-heavy musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it is not as light and airy as many other "Broadway-to-Hollywood" favorites, but I find it highly informative, provocative, and damned entertaining. It is surprisingly accurate for a musical, and what artistic license is taken is largely forgiveable.
By the time you read this, it may be too late to catch the TCM airing, but I encourage you to rent the DVD and watch it this weekend. And, if you should have the opportunity to catch a live production of the show, do so. (Town Hall Arts Center's recent mounting was particularly good.)
Every American should know the story (somewhat dramatized or not) of the beginning of this country, that, for its many flaws, is still the best damn country on this planet. The future is what we make it, and I think a look to the past can give us a clearer perspective on where we ought to go.
Plus, I dare you to not tap your feet to "The Lees of Old Virginia."