Neither particularly entertaining nor historically accurate, this is a musical attempt at reconstructing the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. The founding fathers are depicted as a less than exemplary lot, given to weakness and vices but nonetheless committed to liberty. At
least, most of them are, and none more than John Adams (William Daniels), the Second Continental Congress' prime advocate of independence from England. Adams' abrasive personality works against his cause, however, and his colleague Benjamin Franklin (Howard Da Silva) suggests that the more popular
Richard Henry Lee (Ronald Holgate) do the talking. Ultimately, though, Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard) is given the task of drafting the document detailing the sovereign aims of the Congress. When his work is impeded because he misses his missus (Blythe Danner), Franklin arranges for her to be
brought to Philadelphia, and Jefferson gets back on track. Debate over the abolition of slavery and other issues divides the delegates, but eventually the Declaration is signed and the rest is history (well, sort of). Toilet humor, anachronistic gags, and 1970s slang garner more than a few laughs,
but in the final analysis they work against the material. Ken Howard's performance was singled out by a number of critics at the time, but most of the other actors' work is undistinguished. Sherman Edwards' weak music is the element working most strongly against the film. Cinematographer Stradling
earned an Oscar nomination for his work here.
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