Rev­o­lu­tion­ary restora­tion

With a re­stored, re­cut Blu-ray ver­sion, the direc­tor re­calls drama over edit­ing the film.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Su­san King su­san.king@la­times.com

Af­ter 43 years, the direc­tor’s cut of “1776” with Ken Howard, above, is now out on Blu-ray.

Direc­tor Peter H. Hunt left for Europe af­ter he fin­ished post­pro­duc­tion on “1776,” the pa­tri­otic mu­si­cal based on the Tony Award­win­ning Broad­way hit about the Found­ing Fa­thers.

“The pic­ture was locked,” re­called Hunt of the film. He won a Tony for di­rect­ing the 1969 Broad­way pro­duc­tion. But not for long. In Hunt’s ab­sence, the film’s leg­endary pro­ducer, Jack L. Warner, who had been the long­time head of Warner Bros., reed­ited the 1972 Columbia re­lease.

“He was very proud of the pic­ture,” said Hunt. So proud Warner de­cided to show the com­pleted film to his friend, Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon. “What he showed the pres­i­dent was what Jack wanted the world to see.”

But the world saw a dif­fer­ent ver­sion when “1776” opened for the hol­i­days that Novem­ber.

“When Warner brought him the print, he said it’s won­der­ful and it will fit in with the re­elec­tion,” Hunt said.

But Nixon had ob­jec­tions. There were some lines he wasn’t fond of that he wanted edited out, and then he asked Warner to cut “Cool, Cool, Con­sid­er­ate Men,” a pow­er­ful song sung by the con­ser­va­tives of the Con­ti­nen­tal Congress in which they re­late why they want to re­main un­der Bri­tish rule.

The song, said Hunt, “was the cen­ter­piece of all the trail­ers that were al­ready in the theater. When I got home, I dis­cov­ered that this had hap­pened, to my hor­ror. I rushed into Jack’s of­fice and said, ‘What have you done?’ The rest is his­tory. He did go on to say, ‘I’ve shred­ded the neg­a­tive so his­tory can­not sec­ond-guess me.”’

Thank­fully, Warner hadn’t de­stroyed all the neg- atives. “At Columbia, he didn’t have the con­trol he thought he had,” Hunt said.

And now af­ter 43 years, Hunt’s direc­tor’s cut of “1776” has been re­leased on Blu-ray. The re­stored ver­sion of the mu­si­cal com­edy-drama, as well as an ex­tended cut, was re­stored in ul­tra-high def­i­ni­tion from the orig­i­nal cam­era neg­a­tive un­der the su­per­vi­sion of Hunt and Grover Crisp, Sony’s ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of as­set man­age­ment, film restora­tion and dig­i­tal mas­ter­ing.

Over the years, bits and pieces of the film had been found in the Sony vaults. For its 2002 DVD de­but, which re­in­stated “Cool, Cool Con­sid­er­ate Men,” Crisp said, “we re­ally dug in and started a se­ri­ous search to see if we could find this ma­te­rial.”

“No one could find the neg­a­tive un­til fi­nally Grover found it,” said Hunt. “It was in an un­marked box. It was like Sher­lock Holmes.”

Crisp noted that the neg­a­tive had faded to some de­gree, “and some of the lit­tle sec­tions we needed to put back in had faded to dif­fer­ent de­grees. You want to make it one seam­less shot. It was a lit­tle bit tricky to get the colors to match.”

Fea­tur­ing a witty book by Peter Stone and a smart score by Sher­man Ed­wards, “1776” was the toast of Broad­way, win­ning three Tony Awards: best mu­si­cal, direc­tor and sup­port­ing ac­tor for Ron Hol­gate as Richard Henry Lee.

Still smart­ing from com­plaints that he didn’t cast orig­i­nal Broad­way star Julie An­drews in his 1964 Os­car­win­ning pro­duc­tion of “My Fair Lady,” Warner cast most of the “1776” Broad­way en­sem­ble in the movie, in­clud­ing Wil­liam Daniels as John Adams, Howard Da Silva as Benjamin Franklin, Ken Howard as Thomas Jef­fer­son, Hol­gate as Lee, and Vir­ginia Vestoff as Abigail Adams. New to the cast was Blythe Danner as Martha Jef­fer­son.

Howard, cur­rently the pres­i­dent of SAG-AFTRA, said the mu­si­cal man­aged to ap­peal to con­ser­va­tives and the coun­ter­cul­ture who were protest­ing the Viet­nam War.

“It was a way for peo­ple re­gard­less of their po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sion to feel pa­tri­otic,” Howard said. “It was a won­der­ful orig­i­nal idea hatched by Sher­man Ed­wards, but it also has a won­der­ful book by Peter Stone.”

Howard said he en­joyed do­ing the film, es­pe­cially get­ting a chance to work again with Da Silva. “I loved that Howard Da Silva was back in it. Howard had a mi­nor heart attack a few days be­fore [the Broad­way open­ing], and he was determined to do the open­ing.” And Da Silva did. “When the show was over, they had an am­bu­lance wait­ing for him and he was gone,” Howard said.

Af­ter he re­cov­ered from his heart attack, Da Silva re­turned to the show, but by that time Howard had left to make a movie.

The film was a huge hit, said Hunt, at least when it opened as the Christ­mas pre­sen­ta­tion at Ra­dio City Mu­sic Hall in New York City.

“They ex­tended it,” said Hunt. “I think Columbia just rested on their lau­rels and thought this was go­ing to take off, and then it didn’t. It wasn’t pro­moted in the right way and the big mu­si­cals were kind of com­ing to an end. Luck­ily over the years, it has con­tin­ued to grow and grow and grow and has be­come a won­der­ful lit­tle mi­nor clas­sic.”

Columbia

Columbia

KEN HOWARD, left, Howard Da Silva and Wil­liam Daniels starred in a 1972 film ver­sion of the mu­si­cal.

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