Tag Archives: entertainment

The 1972 Movie of the 1969 Musical, “1776”

Assembly Room, Independence Hall, Philadelphia via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.5)

There’s no going out on the 4th of July at my house. The evening is allocated to the soothing of an anxious dog. The shift runs from dusk (around 8:30 in my Northwest corner of the U.S.) until the bad noises stop. It’s a good night for movies. Thanks to a recommendation from Salon, I landed on 1776, the 1972 movie version of the 1969 musical.

“1776” brings to life the vibrant personalities that helped bring America to life. You have Daniels as the acerbic, indignant and unshakably honorable Adams, Da Silva as the sly and charming but deeply idealistic Franklin and Howard as the quiet and cerebral Jefferson. Like all of the best works about history, it forces audiences to see important figures from the past as flesh-and-blood human beings rather than stodgy icons.

Spoiler alert: the vote goes to independence and the rest is (sorry) history.  I did not read the entire Salon piece up front; I didn’t want to know anything more than “Yep, this movie is a great choice (for those of you stuck under 15 pounds of quaking dog) for July 4th.”

Because I didn’t read the entire write up, I didn’t know that none other than President Richard Nixon had feelings about the movie. It’s thanks to him the song “Cool, Cool, Considerate Men” was cut; it’s since been restored.

In the musical “1776,” the song “Cool, Cool, Considerate Men” depicts Revolutionary War era conservatives as power-hungry wheedlers focused on maintaining wealth. So it’s not surprising that then-President Richard Nixon, who saw the show at a special White House performance in 1970, wasn’t a big fan of the number.

What is surprising is that according to Jack L. Warner, the film’s producer and a friend of the president, Nixon pressured him to cut the song from the 1972 film version of the show–which Warner did. Warner also wanted the original negative of the song shredded, but the film’s editor secretly kept it intact.

Small wonder — it’s a scathing number. “Don’t forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor,” scowls John Dickinson. (Dickinson refused to sign the Declaration of Independence.) The cast breaks into a second verse about the joys of conservatism.

We’re the cool, cool considerate men
Whose like may never, ever bee seen again
With our land, cash in hand
Self command, future planned

And we’ll hold to our gold
Tradition that is old
Reluctant to be bold

We say this game’s not of our choosing
Why should we risk losing?

No wonder Nixon hated it. It was the Broadway version of the 1776 version of “We’ve got ours, we’re good, thanks.”

The movie holds up well enough for 1972, though I’m fairly certain Martha Jefferson would not have sung to John Adams and Ben Franklin about her husband Thomas’ prowess at… violin, sure, that song is about his musical skills, sure. I found Franklin too cartoonish, though I liked William Daniels’ Adams a lot (he played Benjamin’s dad in The Graduate). I was riveted by “Molasses to Rum,” the number praising, among other things, the slave trade.

Once the credits rolled, I had to research any number of things — where Edward Rutledge stood on slavery, what happened to John Dickinson after he declined to sign the Declaration, and what about that Abigail Adams anyway?

I don’t know how I got through the 70s without seeing 1776. When I posted to Facebook that I was watching it, my feed lit up with commentary — including one friend admitting he would like to play Andrew McNair, the long suffering custodian/bell-ringer who keeps trying to open the windows to let some air into what’s now known as Independence Hall.

All those men in brocade, arguing in the heat of a Philadelphia summer. It must have stunk to high heaven in the room where it happened.


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America’s HGTV Obsession: A Reading List

Let’s get this out of the way: I can binge-watch House Hunters for hours. In the past, I’ve devoured episodes of House Hunters International and Tiny House Hunters as well, but the original House Hunters gives me the most satisfying fix: its predictable formula has never felt stale, even after many seasons.

America’s most popular home renovation and real estate network, HGTV—the home of House Hunters, its spinoffs, and a growing network of lifestyle porn—succeeds because of its consistent programming in useful escapism. In a single episode, I might learn how to refresh the color palette of my bathroom or see how much space $800K will buy me in the vacation rental market in Maui. In a half-hour dose, I can experience that strangely pleasurable thing called House Hunters rage: I’m inspired, enlightened, and incensed in equal measure, my voyeuristic side piqued by the entitled and pointless arguments over whether the kitchen countertop is the right shade of granite or whether an older house has enough “character.”

Regardless of what you think of its shows, HGTV knows the formula for successful programming. Here are six reads that touch on why this network can dish out exactly what its audience wants, hour after hour. Read more…

The Art of Paint-and-Sip Franchising

The paint-and-sip industry is a little more than a decade old. People show up to drink while an instructor slowly guides them, step-by-step, through the creation of a prechosen design. The idea was pioneered by Painting With a Twist, which two women in New Orleans started while looking for a reason to gather after Hurricane Katrina; it now has 200-plus locations, more than a third of which opened last year. Based on growth, it was rated the No. 1 franchise in Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500 list.

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A typical Paint Nite teacher is a young, full-time artist or an older art teacher. Many, like Boston’s Callie Hastings, who is now on staff at the company, once taught preschool. She says teaching 4-year-olds how to paint isn’t all that different from teaching drunk people: “They have short attention spans. So you have to talk in short sentences.” She was surprised to find that people didn’t choose classes based on date or location, but on the painting itself. They will drive an extra 45 minutes, past two other Paint Nite locations, to execute the pastoral landscape that will go perfectly in their dining room. To avoid copyright issues, all the paintings have been created by Paint Nite artists, and there’s a huge selection. One of Paint Nite’s first crises came when artists got mad that other people were using their works in classes. Now instructors give $10 per session to the creator of the work.

Choosing the painting that brings in a crowd is an art in itself: The work can’t look so challenging that you’d have trouble reproducing it drunk; it should involve nature and have enough contrast to look good on social media; and, if possible, it should knock off a famous impressionist. Most artists learn this the hard way, despite the advice in Paint Nite’s starter kit. “A lot of them pick paintings based on what they like,” McGrail says. “One artist, Raisin—that was his first and last name—had a giraffe coming out of an elephant penis. Not surprisingly, it didn’t sell that well.” After years of pushing artists to hire a nude male model—Hermann and McGrail wanted to call it Asstastic night—without anyone taking them up on it, they recently got an instructor to do it in Boston in June. Demand was so high they had to rent out a theater.

—Joel Stein, in Bloomberg Businessweekprofiles a franchise with a $39 million valuation called Paint Nite, which arranges painting classes led by artists at bars. Participants pledge not to use the words “mine sucks.”

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The Challenges of Translating Seinfeld for a German Audience

Seinfeld’s Jewish references posed a unique challenge: as Sebastian explained, “The Germans have a certain you-know-what with the Jewish.” Her editor was worried about some of Seinfeld’s Jewish jokes. “We better not say it like that,” she remembered her editor saying, “because the Germans may be offended.” She added later, recalling the incident to me, “They should be offended, in my understanding. They did it!”

Sebastian appreciated Seinfeld’s direct approach to Jewish history. She wanted to use jokes in direct translation, but the editor wouldn’t let her. She lost several battles. It was a fine line: Der Suppen-Nazi? Sure. Subtle reference to an uncle who survived a concentration camp? Not so fast. An entire episode based on George being mistaken for a neo-Nazi was problematic. So were references to the TV miniseries Holocaust and the film Schindler’s List. Take Elaine’s voiceover narration in “The Subway” episode when her train gets stuck: “We are in a cage. … Oh, I can’t breathe, I feel faint. Take it easy, it’ll start moving soon. Think about the people in the concentration camps, what they went through.”

— At The Verge, Jennifer Armstrong, the author of the upcoming book Seinfeldia: The Secret World of the Show About Nothing That Changed Everything, describes Sabine Sebastian’s translation and production of all 180 Seinfeld episodes for German television.

‘Arrested Development’ Creator Mitch Hurwitz on His First Encounter with Michael Cera

“Michael Cera, I had seen him in a pilot and I reached out through the casting director, like, ‘there was this kid in this pilot, can you please try to track him down.’ Two weeks went by, and we’d seen all these — you know, kid actors in Hollywood, a lot of them come up through that Disney channel, or through — back then it was Barney. So you get really, like, these hammy kids. Precocious, you know. So I’m waiting to hear, and finally the casting director says to me, ‘great news, Michael Cera likes the script.’ And I’m like, ‘who’s Michael Cera?’ ‘The kid that you wanted us to get.’ ‘That was Michael Cera? We’ve been waiting to see whether this 12-year-old likes the material? Good, uh, I’m glad he likes the material.’ And, you know, that’s Michael Cera — you know what I mean? Only Michael Cera would be as a 12-year-old, ‘Yeah, I like this. This is good.’ It’s such an important part — television is so much about continuing to work with people, and I mean, that was just fortune. All of them.”

Mitch Hurwitz, creator of Arrested Development, in a conversation with New York magazine (2013).

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

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If 'The West Wing' Were Run By NBC Executives, It Would Have Become 'Schindler's List'

JOHN WELLS, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: I had a deal at NBC because they wanted me to continue to be involved in ER. So we developed West Wing there, but they didn’t want to do it right away. “The American audience isn’t interested in politics” and “there’s plenty of that on Sunday morning television” were some of the things I recall hearing. But I insisted on getting it made if I was going to stay with ER.

AARON SORKIN: Don Ohlmeyer and Warren Littlefield were running NBC at the time the pilot script was delivered. Sitting in a meeting in Warren’s office with John, my sense was that the network executives were respectfully underwhelmed. Referring to one of the stories in the pilot that was about Cuban refugees fleeing to America on inner tubes and should we or should we not send the Coast Guard out to help them, one of the execs suggested that it might be better if [Bradley Whitford’s character] Josh Lyman went out and saved them himself. I tried not to make it an awkward pause before I said, “You mean actually swim?” He said, “No, that would be ridiculous. I mean he rents a boat. A motor boat, a skiff, but the boat’s too small to get all the refugees on board and he has a moment like Oskar Schindler where he’s saying, ’I could have rented a bigger boat! I could have saved that guy over there and those kids over there!” It was hard to avoid the awkward pause then because I honestly didn’t know if I was being messed with or not, and I didn’t want to insult the executive or appear to be difficult to work with (even though I badly needed the network to pass because by this point ABC had ordered 13 episodes of Sports Night) so I said, “That’s worth thinking about.”

From The Hollywood Reporter’s oral history of “The West Wing.” Read more oral histories from the Longreads Archive.

'You Hollywood Idiots!' George R.R. Martin on Collaboration and the Creative Process

I think the look of the show is great. There was a bit of an adjustment for me. I had been living with these characters and this world since 1991, so I had close to twenty years of pictures in my head of what these characters looked like, and the banners and the castles, and of course it doesn’t look like that. But that’s fine. It does take a bit of adjustment on the writer’s part but I’m not one of these writers who go crazy and says, “I described six buttons on the jacket and you put eight buttons on the jacket, you Hollywood idiots!” I’ve seen too many writers like that when I was on the other side, in Hollywood. When you work in television or film, it is a collaborative medium, and you have to allow the other collaborators to bring their own creative impulse to it, too.

Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, in an in-depth interview with Vanity Fair’s Jim Windolf, about the HBO show, his progress on completing the seven-book series, and working inside and outside Hollywood. Read more on Martin and Game of Thrones.