American Playhouse

Season 1 Episode 9

The Fifth of July

Aired Tuesday 9:00 PM Mar 09, 1982 on PBS

Episode Fan Reviews (2)

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  • Beautiful Example of Lyric Realism

    Lanford Wilson's The Fifth of July makes the transition from stage to screen beautifully, retaining all of the loveliness of the original staging. Having a document of performances of these actors creating beautiful roles is invaluable. While Richard Thomas was a replacement for Christopher Reeve, who was in turn a replacement for William Hurt, Thomas shatters the then iconic John-Boy Walton image. His is a brave performance for an actor who initially made his name in such a wholesome television project. Playing opposite him is Jeff Daniels in his first substantive role, and he is as reliable and moving as in any of his later work like "The Hours". Swoozie Kurtz won the Tony for this performance, though the ensemble is the star of the show. Wilson turns Missouri into a Chekovian landscape, rife with the rhythms of the 70's as they bleed into the 80's. This is an important play - dealing with an honest gay couple in a time when that wasn't quite the norm it is today, one of whom is a disabled Vietnam veteran. There is just so much "stuff" here, from Sally's loss of her life's love Matt, to the idea of belonging to a place and the traditions of family and the betrayal of believed friends.

    Of special note is a young Cynthia Nixon - you can see the adult woman we still know in the adolescent girl and she handles some of Wilson's most poetic lapses beautifully - a short of Williams character in training.

    It may prove difficult to watch as it is somewhat stage-bound, but, really, get over it and take it for was it is - a document of a beautifully staged, produced, designed and acted play.
  • This is another episode that came from Broadway but this time through LA's Mark Taper Forum with much of its cast intact.

    This is one of Lanford Wilson's early plays. It was a major success in Los Angeles but got lost in the Broadway season.

    This is the first part of the Talley family saga (actually cronilogically the last but the first to be written). It deals with remnants of the Talley clan. Kenneth Talley, jr. has returned from Vietnam a parapalegic. He has returned to the family home with his lover Jed (Jeff Daniels) And the two Talley girls Gwen (Swoozie Kurtz)and June (Joyce Reehling). This is a story of a family that was once great but is now at its end. The play takes place on the 5th of July but it also refers to the let down the day after a major event or holiday.

    As stated before this is the first of three plays (more promised but never written). Talley's Folly is the second play and deals with these character's parent's courtship. And A Tale Told was a companion play that takes place at the same time as Talley's Folly but in a different location.

    This show launched the careers of Jeff Daniels and Swoozie Kurtz (who recieved her first Tony Nomination for this show.) Also look for a young Cynthia Nixon before she found sex in the city. The main cast change was Richard Thomas replaced Christopher Allport in the lead.

    This production is a beautiful show about a family in its decline and struggle to survive.