Butterflies Are Free
Cast & Crew
Returning to her bohemian apartment in San Francisco one day, 19-year-old Jill Tanner discovers her new neighbor staring at her through a window and later, through their shared paper-thin walls, hears him arguing with his mother. Free-spirited yet worldly-wise, Jill decides to invite herself into the man's apartment. Jill's neighbor, twenty-year-old aspiring songwriter Don Baker, explains that his loud phone conversations with Florence, his overprotective mother, are about a pact in which she has agreed to allow him to live on his own for two months without her interference. After Jill then candidly talks about her first marriage at sixteen, she concludes that in order to avoid hurting people she has foresworn any commitments. When Jill learns that Don is blind and thus not a Peeping Tom, she naively asks him if he has a sixth sense. Don explains that, like many blind people, he does have "shadow vision," in which he can sense physical obstacles in front of him and thus avoid certain missteps. Moved by Don's determination and lack of self-pity, Jill explains her rootless existence with a quote from Charles Dickens' Bleak House in which a character begs to be as free as the butterflies. However, when Jill mistakenly names the author as Mark Twain, well-read Don corrects her and then sings of finding independence in his own song, "Butterflies Are Free." Although Jill asks him awkward questions about whether he has "seen" things, the unflappable Don encourages her to have more confidence in her abilities. Taking a walk to a local boutique together, Don shows Jill how he negotiates the city by counting steps to each destination, while Jill talks about her upcoming audition with theater director Ralph Santore, who wants to marry her. At Jill's suggestion, Ron buys a stylish new outfit, including a floral shirt, leather fringe vest and vintage French Legion hat, to enhance his hopes of success on the stage. Later at the apartment, Don talks about Florence's children's books in which young, blind superhero "Donnie Dark" performs amazing feats despite his disability. Although she wrote the books to encourage her son, Don remembers feeling only inadequate in the face of Florence's grand expectations. With the help of his neighbor Linda, Don found the courage to move away from home, but was left heartbroken when Linda took a lover. Jill shares Don's disappointment in love and suggests that they open the door between their apartments out of friendship. Attracted to Don, Jill offers to let him touch her face so that he might "see" her. Don is horrified when he accidentally pulls off Jill's false eyelashes and her hairpiece, which she uses to enhance her flamboyant style. Unfazed, Jill guides Don's hand to her breast, but as they kiss, Don pulls back, accusing Jill of patronizing him. Jill retorts that she does not have pity for any man who sleeps with her. The next morning, Jill tells Don that their lovemaking was like Christmas and Fourth of July combined and then shares the secrets of her keepsake box with him. Soon after, Don, recognizing the scent of his mother's perfume, calls out to Florence, who has entered unannounced. Appalled by Don's living conditions and by Jill scampering about in underwear, Florence caustically berates her son and rudely questions Jill about her background, insinuating that she is an unsuitable companion. When Florence then refuses to continue supporting Don financially and starts packing up his belongings to return home, Don announces that he will make his money from songwriting, lunges for the bag fruitlessly and then gropes his way out the door, humiliated. Inviting Jill to lunch, Florence suggests that Jill's inability to sustain a relationship will only hurt Don and reminds her that she only knows Don in his own environment, not in unfamiliar ones, in which he becomes panicked. When Florence demands that she leave her son, Jill retorts that although she might not be the right woman for Don, Florence dwells only on the negative, hurting Don's self-confidence. Late that night, as she waits with Don for Jill to return for their scheduled dinner, Florence, moved by Jill's candor, asks Don if as a mother she has given him confidence. Hearing traces of his earlier conversation with Jill, Don accuses Florence of secretly speaking with Jill to scare her off. Jill finally arrives hours late with Ralph and announces that she is moving in with Ralph. After explaining that she received a small role in the play as a nude heroin addict, Don questions why she must be nude, carefully suggesting that she is being manipulated. Ralph quickly intercedes, explaining that the avant-garde theater piece will be misunderstood by "giddy little matrons in Hillsboro," unaware that Florence is from the wealthy enclave. Unruffled, Florence retorts that she has little interest in his work. Jill further shames Don by asking him to feel Ralph's face to see how handsome he is. After the couple leaves, a crushed Don begs his mother to take him home with her, but Florence reminds him that girls walk out on sighted men as well. She then explains the reason behind creating "Donnie Dark." When, as a boy, Don became afraid of swimming, Florence created a story in which "Donnie" overcame his fear of water, and after Don returned to the water as a consequence of the story, Florence continued writing to help him overcome other obstacles. She admits that she finds it difficult to accept not being needed anymore, but finally leaves after a warm embrace with her son. Moments later, Jill rushes in with her suitcases to say goodbye. She confesses that, despite sex with Ralph being merely like Labor Day, life with Ralph requires less commitment and she is afraid of hurting Don. Don frankly states that he would rather be blind than as emotionally crippled, causing Jill to rush out. While Don listens to "Butterflies Are Free" and breaks down crying in disappointment and rage, Jill returns. She jokingly explains that she has had shadow vision and stopped cold in front of an obstacle hindering her: Ralph. They laugh and embrace with the promise of a loving and committed relationship.
M. J. Frankovich
Mike Frankovich Jr.
Charles B. Lang
Phil Mitchell Jr.
Charles M. Powell
Best Supporting Actress
Butterflies Are Free
Butterflies Are Free began as a hit Broadway play in 1969 written by Leonard Gershe and directed by Milton Katselas. It starred Keir Dullea as Don, Blythe Danner as Jill and Eileen Heckart as Don's mother. Leonard Gershe had been inspired to write the play after he heard the story of Harold Krents, a Harvard educated lawyer who happened to be blind. The production ran for 1128 performances and was nominated for three Tony awards, one of which Blythe Danner won for Best Featured Actress in a Play.
For the film version of Butterflies Are Free, Columbia Pictures kept several of the people involved with the original play including director Milton Katselas, actress Eileen Heckart, and writer Leonard Gershe, who adapted his work for the big screen. In one of his first screen roles, Edward Albert (son of actor Eddie Albert) was chosen to play Don, and Goldie Hawn came on board to play Jill.
Butterflies Are Free was an important film for 27-year-old Goldie Hawn. She had previously made her mark as a giggly bikini-clad regular on the popular TV show Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, and had already won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the 1969 comedy Cactus Flower. Her follow-up film $ (1971) with Warren Beatty, however, proved to be a disappointment. The role of Jill in Butterflies Are Free was more complex than her other work, and Hawn relished the chance to prove that she had range and depth as an actress.
Making Butterflies Are Free was a positive experience for Goldie Hawn. "Jill is turning out to be the most wonderfully written character and the most beautifully written relationship I've had in a film to this point," she said at the time. "I'm looking forward to going to work each day." She found a friend in director Milton Katselas who helped her overcome some bad habits she had developed in front of the camera from her days at Laugh-In such as giggling and rolling her eyes. "I found (the habits) surfacing quite a bit," said Hawn, "and I didn't like it because I realized that when I would roll my eyes and do those other Laugh-In kinds of things, I was feeling really insecure, didn't know what I was doing or saying, and was not putting any real thought into my work." Every time that Hawn subconsciously resorted to easy Laugh-In mannerisms, Katselas put a stop to it immediately by yelling, "Cut" and having her do the scene over. His attention to these details in Hawn's performance challenged her, and she credited him with helping her become a better actress.
The film version of Butterflies Are Free opened in the summer of 1972 and was a commercial and box office success. "Miss Hawn, funny and touching, is a delight throughout," said Variety, "and Miss Heckart finally gets another film role that enables her to display the versatility that has been evident for a long time in her stage roles." Time magazine said, "Goldie Hawn, as the girl next door, has come a long way from her giddy role in Laugh-In; she is often genuinely touching."
The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Sound, Best Cinematography, and Best Supporting Actress, which Eileen Heckart won for her nuanced performance of a mother who must learn to let her son go.
Producer: M.J. Frankovich
Director: Milton Katselas
Screenplay: Leonard Gershe (play and screenplay)
Cinematography: Charles B. Lang
Art Direction: Clayton Shair
Music: Bob Alcivar
Film Editing: David Blewitt
Cast: Goldie Hawn (Jill Tanner), Edward Albert (Don Baker), Eileen Heckart (Mrs. Baker), Michael Glaser (Ralph), Michael Warren (Roy).
by Andrea Passafiume
Butterflies Are Free
TCM Remembers - Eileen Heckart
Eileen Heckart, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Butterflies Are Free (1972), died December 31st at the age of 82. Heckart was born in 1919 in Columbus, Ohio and became interested in acting while in college. She moved to NYC in 1942, married her college boyfriend the following year (a marriage that lasted until his death in 1995) and started acting on stage. Soon she was appearing in live dramatic TV such as The Philco Television Playhouse and Studio One. Her first feature film appearance was as a waitress in Bus Stop (1956) but it was her role as a grieving mother in the following year's The Bad Seed that really attracted notice and an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Heckart spent more time on Broadway and TV, making only occasional film appearances in Heller in Pink Tights (1960), No Way to Treat a Lady (1968) and Heartbreak Ridge (1986). She won one Emmy and was nominated for five others.
TCM REMEMBERS DAVID SWIFT, 1919-2001
Director David Swift died December 31st at the age of 82. Swift was best-known for the 1967 film version of the Broadway musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (he also appears in a cameo), Good Neighbor Sam (1964) starring Jack Lemmon and The Parent Trap (1961), all of which he also co-wrote. Swift was born in Minnesota but moved to California in the early 30s so he could work for Disney as an assistant animator, contributing to a string of classics from Dumbo (1941) to Fantasia (1940) to Snow White (1937). Swift also worked with madcap animator Tex Avery at MGM. He later became a TV and radio comedy writer and by the 1950s was directing episodes of TV series like Wagon Train, The Rifleman, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Playhouse 90 and others. Swift also created Mr. Peepers (1952), one of TV's first hit series and a multiple Emmy nominee. Swift's first feature film was Pollyanna (1960) for which he recorded a DVD commentary last year. Swift twice received Writers Guild nominations for work on How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and The Parent Trap.
TCM REMEMBERS PAUL LANDRES, 1912-2001
Prolific B-movie director Paul Landres died December 26th at the age of 89. Landres was born in New York City in 1912 but his family soon moved to Los Angeles where he grew up. He spent a couple of years attending UCLA before becoming an assistant editor at Universal in the 1931. He became a full editor in 1937, working on such films as Pittsburgh (1942) and I Shot Jesse James (1949). His first directorial effort was 1949's Grand Canyon but he soon became fast and reliable, alternating B-movies with TV episodes.. His best known films are Go, Johnny, Go! (1958) with appearances by Chuck Berry and Jackie Wilson, the moody The Return of Dracula (1958) and the 1957 cult favorite The Vampire. His TV credits run to some 350 episodes for such series as Adam 12, Bonanza, Death Valley Days and numerous others. Landres was co-founder in 1950 of the honorary society American Cinema Editors.
BUDD BOETTICHER 1916-2001
When director Budd Boetticher died on November 29th, American film lost another master. Though not a household name, Boetticher made crisp, tightly wound movies with more substance and emotional depth than was apparent at first glance. Instead of a flashy style, Boetticher preferred one imaginatively simple and almost elegant at times. Because of this approach films like The Tall T (1957), Decision at Sundown (1957), The Bullfighter and the Lady (1951) and Ride Lonesome (1960) have withstood the test of time while more blatantly ambitious films now seem like period pieces.
Budd was born Oscar Boetticher in Chicago on July 29th, 1916. With a father who sold hardware, Boetticher didn't come from a particularly artistic background. In college he boxed and played football before graduating and heading to Mexico to follow what's surely one of the most unusual ways to enter the film industry: as a professional matador. That's what led an old friend to get Boetticher hired as a bullfighting advisor on the 1941 version of Blood and Sand. Boetticher quickly took other small jobs in Hollywood before becoming an assistant director for films like Cover Girl. In 1944, he directed his first film, the Boston Blackie entry One Mysterious Night. Boetticher made a series of other B-movies, like the underrated film noir Behind Locked Doors (1948), through the rest of the decade.
Boetticher really hit his stride in the 50s when he began to get higher profile assignments, including the semi-autobiographical The Bullfighter and the Lady in 1951 which resulted in Boetticher's only Oscar nomination, for Best Writing. Sam Peckinpah later said he saw the film ten times. Other highlights of this period include Seminole (1953) (one of the first Hollywood films sympathetic to American Indians), the stylishly tight thriller The Killer Is Loose (1956) and the minor classic Horizons West (1952). In the late 50s, Boetticher also started directing TV episodes of series like Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip.
In 1956, Boetticher started a string of films that really established his reputation. These six Westerns starring Randolph Scott are known as the Ranown films after the production company named after Randolph Scott and producer Harry Joe Brown. Actually the first, Seven Men from Now (1956), was produced by a different company but all of them fit together, pushing the idea of the lone cowboy seeking revenge into new territory. The sharp Decision at Sundown twists Western cliche into one of the bleakest endings to slip through the Hollywood gates. The Tall T examines the genre's violent tendencies while Ride Lonesome and Buchanan Rides Alone (1958) have titles appropriate to their Beckett-like stories. The final film, Comanche Station, appeared in 1960.
That was the same year Boetticher made one of the best gangster films, The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, before watching everything fall apart. He and his wife decided to make a documentary about the famous matador Carlos Arruza and headed to Mexico. There Boetticher saw Arruza and much of the film crew die in an accident, almost died himself from an illness, separated from and divorced his wife (Debra Paget), and then spent time in various jails and even briefly a mental institution. This harrowing experience left him bankrupt but he still managed to complete the film, Arruza (1968), which gathered acclaim from the few who've been able to see it.
Boetticher managed to make just one more film, My Kingdom For... (1985), a self-reflexive documentary about raising Andalusian horses. He also made a cameo appearance in the Mel Gibson-Kurt Russell suspense thriller, Tequila Sunrise (1988). He died from complications from surgery at the age of 85.
By Lang Thompson
TCM Remembers - Eileen Heckart
I could love you if you'd let me.- Jill
Butterflies Are Free was based on Leonard Gershe's play by the same title, which was directed by Milton Katselas, who also directed the film. The play opened in New York on October 21, 1969 and closed July 2, 1972, only a few days before the movie opened. According to a October 28, 1969 Hollywood Reporter news item, George Englund was, at that time, interested in the purchasing the film rights to the play and wanted Eileen Heckart and Keir Dullea to reprise their roles. However, on June 19, 1970 Hollywood Reporter reported that producer M. J. Frankovich had bought the rights for a Columbia release. Heckart and Michael Glaser reprised their roles for the film. Blythe Danner co-starred with Dullea in the Broadway production of the play. Although the play was based on life in New York City's Greenwich Village, the film was set in San Francisco, CA, where location shooting took place.
The title was taken from a line in Charles Dickens' novel Bleak House. In the film, both Goldie Hawn as "Jill Tanner" and Edward Albert as "Don Baker" quote from Bleak House in an effort to explain their need for independence: "I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free. Mankind will surely not deny to Harold Skimpole what it concedes to the butterflies."
Gershe was inspired to write the play when he heard a radio show interview with Harold Krents, a blind Harvard Law School graduate who gained public attention after making witty remarks about being mistakenly drafted. According to a October 4, 1971 LAHExam article, Krents became completely blind at nine years of age and later became a lawyer and advocate for the disabled. He served as a technical advisor on the movie and, soon after, published an autobiography, To Race the Wind, which was made into a television movie under the same title in 1980.
Although the onscreen credit for Albert (1951-2006) reads "And Introducing," the actor, son of actors Margo and Eddie Albert, made his film debut in the 1965 film The Fool Killers. A modern source adds Debralee Scott to the cast.
Heckart won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. The film was also nominated for Academy Awards in Cinematography (Charles B. Lang) and Sound (Arthur Piantadosi and Charles Knight). In 2002 Columbia Pictures announced plans to make a television remake of Butteflies Are Free to star Rebecca Romijn. In 2003, the company again announced a remake of the story, this time a feature starring Tori Spelling; however, neither project came to fruition.
Released in United States on Video April 23, 2002
Released in United States Summer July 1972
Based on the Leonard Gershe play "Butterflies Are Free," produced on the New York Stage by Arthur Whitelaw (New York, Oct 21, 1969).
Binnie Barnes was married to producer Mike Frankovich.
Released in United States on Video April 23, 2002
Released in United States Summer July 1972