Cinderella Liberty


1h 57m 1973
Cinderella Liberty

Brief Synopsis

A lonely sailor falls in love with a single mother during an extended liberty.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Drama
Romance
Release Date
Dec 1973
Premiere Information
not available
Country
United States
Location
Tacoma, Washington, USA; Seattle, Washington, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 57m
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

An earnest sailor, held over temporarily in a port city, falls for a pool shark/quasi-prostitute and her illegitmate mulatto son.

Videos

Movie Clip

Cinderella Liberty (1973) -- (Movie Clip) The Ship Is Under Way After opening with his ship arriving in Seattle, Navy Boatswain Dobbs (James Caan), having just learned he’ll have to stay behind for a medical test, wishes his mates farewell and learns (from nurse Diane Schenker) that he has liberty until midnight, thus the title, cueing the credits, in Mark Rydell’s film from Darryl Ponsican’s novel and screenplay, Cinderella Liberty, 1973, also starring Marsha Mason.
Cinderella Liberty (1973) -- (Movie Clip) I Get Favors From Sailors After a quick liaison in her Seattle apartment, sailor Dobbs (James Caan) and cordial hooker Maggie, who owed him after losing at pool, conversing, and parting before he’s due back at the ship, meeting her supposedly sleeping son (Kirk Calloway), early in Cinderella Liberty, 1973.
Cinderella Liberty (1973) -- (Movie Clip) I Was Too Much Man For Her Still stuck in Seattle, pulling Shore Patrol duty while waiting out a medical matter, sailor Dobbs (James Caan) shows up with a Navy birthday cake he rescued, at the home of Doug (Kirk Calloway), son of his hooker friend, who winds up going out with him and chatty partner Alcott (Bruno Kirby), in Cinderella Liberty, 1973.
Cinderella Liberty (1973) -- (Movie Clip) What Are You Willie Mosconi? With time to kill before his official “liberty” expires, Navy sailor Dobbs (James Caan) in a Seattle barroom meets Marsha Mason, unusually skimpily attired, as working-girl Maggie, shooting pool, her first scene, in director Mark Rydell’s Cinderella Liberty, 1973.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Drama
Romance
Release Date
Dec 1973
Premiere Information
not available
Country
United States
Location
Tacoma, Washington, USA; Seattle, Washington, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 57m
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Actress

1973
Marsha Mason

Best Music Original Dramatic Score

1974

Best Song

1973

Articles

Cinderella Liberty


The hooker with a heart of gold is a stock character as old as the Bible and Sanskrit drama and as enduring in cinema as Marlene Dietrich's Shanghai Lily in Shanghai Express(1932), Shirley MacLaine's Irma la Douce (1963), and Julia Roberts' Pretty Woman (1990). Marsha Mason, with her broad, warm smile and apple-cheeked wholesomeness, makes an effective stab at it here in Cinderella Liberty in her first of four Oscar-nominated roles.

Mason's character isn't the only old chestnut in this story adapted by Darryl Ponicsan from his 1973 novel of the same name and directed by Mark Rydell (The Rose, 1979; On Golden Pond, 1981). She has a troubled 11-year-old mixed-race son badly in need of firm guidance (presumably from a father figure) and meets a lonely, adrift sailor on shore leave ready to fall in love with her and act as a surrogate parent.

The title of the picture is derived from the Navy term for a shore pass allowing a sailor to leave base or his ship and roam around freely as long as he's back by a specified curfew. As the sailor, James Caan, fresh off his successes in the TV movie Brian's Song (1971) and as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather (1972), wanders the streets of Seattle where location production took place. At one point, he's approached by a real panhandler, who didn't realize shooting was taking place. The moment was kept in the film.

The release of Cinderella Liberty in December 1973 was a double boost for Ponicsan's reputation, coming as it did less than a week after the debut of The Last Detail (1973) another Navy-centric picture based on his 1970 novel. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association thought well enough of Ponicsan's work here to nominate him for a Best Screenplay Golden Globe, along with nods for Best Motion Picture, Best Original Score, and Most Promising Newcomer (Kirk Calloway, who plays Mason's son). Mason received a Best Actress - Drama award.

Besides Mason, the Academy gave nods to the music, both the original score and the song "Nice to Be Around," with lyrics by Paul Williams. The music was composed by John Williams, still relatively early in his career but already with six Oscar nominations to his credit, including from Rydell's The Reivers (1969) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972), and a win for adapting the score of Fiddler on the Roof (1971) when the Broadway hit was brought to the screen. Now, of course, Williams is one of the most respected composers in screen history, with five Oscars and 31 additional nominations plus a host of Golden Globe, BAFTA, Emmy and other accolades, as well as a 2016 AFI Life Achievement award.

The picture's distinctively 1970s look is due to one of the period's key cinematographers, Vilmos Zsigmond, here a few years before his Oscar win for Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) but already with sterling credits for McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), Deliverance (1972) and The Long Goodbye (1973) under his belt by the time of this movie's release.

The film had enough talent in front of and behind the camera to avoid the usual clichés of the plot set-up. Many reviewers, however, while praising some of the work, thought the potential was rather wasted.

The supporting cast, including Eli Wallach, Burt Young, Bruno Kirby, Allyn Ann McLerie, Dabney Coleman, and Sally Kirkland, did much to sell the story and gain what praise critics could muster for the drama. But Mason was the player who received the most attention. Roger Ebert, while lamenting the "fictional clichés" inherent in such stereotypical characters, noted that Mason "is able to make us see the almost paralyzing feelings of inadequacy beneath her character's spunky surface." Vincent Canby of the New York Times called the picture "an aggressively false and sentimental comedy" but said Mason was "so good that you wish the script were equal to the complicated feelings that the actors every now and then manage to project." And Judith Crist, writing in New York magazine said the actress "is that rare creature who not only makes being over 25 seems something less than senility but also makes her whore-with-heart-of-gold role perfectly acceptable."

Although he wasn't as acclaimed as his co-star, Caan later said that he liked the film a lot and that it was one of the exceptions to the regrets he had about his choices in roles immediately following The Godfather.

Director/Producer: Mark Rydell
Screenplay: Darryl Ponicsan, based on his novel
Cinematography: Vilmos Zsigmond
Editing: Patrick Kennedy
Production Design: Leon Ericksen
Original Music: John Williams
Cast: James Caan (John Baggs Jr.), Marsha Mason (Maggie Paul), Kirk Calloway (Doug), Eli Wallach (Lynn Forshay), Burt Young (Master at Arms)

By Rob Nixon
Cinderella Liberty

Cinderella Liberty

The hooker with a heart of gold is a stock character as old as the Bible and Sanskrit drama and as enduring in cinema as Marlene Dietrich's Shanghai Lily in Shanghai Express(1932), Shirley MacLaine's Irma la Douce (1963), and Julia Roberts' Pretty Woman (1990). Marsha Mason, with her broad, warm smile and apple-cheeked wholesomeness, makes an effective stab at it here in Cinderella Liberty in her first of four Oscar-nominated roles. Mason's character isn't the only old chestnut in this story adapted by Darryl Ponicsan from his 1973 novel of the same name and directed by Mark Rydell (The Rose, 1979; On Golden Pond, 1981). She has a troubled 11-year-old mixed-race son badly in need of firm guidance (presumably from a father figure) and meets a lonely, adrift sailor on shore leave ready to fall in love with her and act as a surrogate parent. The title of the picture is derived from the Navy term for a shore pass allowing a sailor to leave base or his ship and roam around freely as long as he's back by a specified curfew. As the sailor, James Caan, fresh off his successes in the TV movie Brian's Song (1971) and as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather (1972), wanders the streets of Seattle where location production took place. At one point, he's approached by a real panhandler, who didn't realize shooting was taking place. The moment was kept in the film. The release of Cinderella Liberty in December 1973 was a double boost for Ponicsan's reputation, coming as it did less than a week after the debut of The Last Detail (1973) another Navy-centric picture based on his 1970 novel. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association thought well enough of Ponicsan's work here to nominate him for a Best Screenplay Golden Globe, along with nods for Best Motion Picture, Best Original Score, and Most Promising Newcomer (Kirk Calloway, who plays Mason's son). Mason received a Best Actress - Drama award. Besides Mason, the Academy gave nods to the music, both the original score and the song "Nice to Be Around," with lyrics by Paul Williams. The music was composed by John Williams, still relatively early in his career but already with six Oscar nominations to his credit, including from Rydell's The Reivers (1969) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972), and a win for adapting the score of Fiddler on the Roof (1971) when the Broadway hit was brought to the screen. Now, of course, Williams is one of the most respected composers in screen history, with five Oscars and 31 additional nominations plus a host of Golden Globe, BAFTA, Emmy and other accolades, as well as a 2016 AFI Life Achievement award. The picture's distinctively 1970s look is due to one of the period's key cinematographers, Vilmos Zsigmond, here a few years before his Oscar win for Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) but already with sterling credits for McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), Deliverance (1972) and The Long Goodbye (1973) under his belt by the time of this movie's release. The film had enough talent in front of and behind the camera to avoid the usual clichés of the plot set-up. Many reviewers, however, while praising some of the work, thought the potential was rather wasted. The supporting cast, including Eli Wallach, Burt Young, Bruno Kirby, Allyn Ann McLerie, Dabney Coleman, and Sally Kirkland, did much to sell the story and gain what praise critics could muster for the drama. But Mason was the player who received the most attention. Roger Ebert, while lamenting the "fictional clichés" inherent in such stereotypical characters, noted that Mason "is able to make us see the almost paralyzing feelings of inadequacy beneath her character's spunky surface." Vincent Canby of the New York Times called the picture "an aggressively false and sentimental comedy" but said Mason was "so good that you wish the script were equal to the complicated feelings that the actors every now and then manage to project." And Judith Crist, writing in New York magazine said the actress "is that rare creature who not only makes being over 25 seems something less than senility but also makes her whore-with-heart-of-gold role perfectly acceptable." Although he wasn't as acclaimed as his co-star, Caan later said that he liked the film a lot and that it was one of the exceptions to the regrets he had about his choices in roles immediately following The Godfather. Director/Producer: Mark Rydell Screenplay: Darryl Ponicsan, based on his novel Cinematography: Vilmos Zsigmond Editing: Patrick Kennedy Production Design: Leon Ericksen Original Music: John Williams Cast: James Caan (John Baggs Jr.), Marsha Mason (Maggie Paul), Kirk Calloway (Doug), Eli Wallach (Lynn Forshay), Burt Young (Master at Arms) By Rob Nixon

Cinderella Liberty - Marsha Mason & James Caan in CINDERELLA LIBERTY on DVD


This charming tough-love romance is yet more evidence why the early 1970s is considered one of the most creative times in Hollywood. Basically a story about a link-up between a sailor and a pool hall tramp, Cinderella Liberty overcomes traditional problems with such material. The "R" rating for once allows such characters to talk as they might, although our nice-guy hero has a thing against profanity. Darryl Ponicsan's story acknowledges the desperation of sailors to find female companionship, especially when on 'Cinderella Liberty,' a shore pass that expires at midnight. Also breaking with Hollywood tradition, the film allows Marsha Mason's hooker to be credibly profane and self destructive, and yet still be worthy of our concern. The movie has its share of emotional compromises but by the last act we're only hoping that things turn out well for our deserving main characters.

Synopsis: Set ashore for minor surgery, Navy Boatswain John Baggs Jr. (James Caan) is stuck in the port of Seattle. After missing his boat, he is told that his records have been lost. Deprived of pay and reassignment, he gravitates toward Maggie Paul (Marsha Mason), an alcoholic pool hustler and occasional prostitute. Maggie's eleven year-old son Doug (Kirk Calloway) is well on his way to becoming a juvenile menace. Baggs knows the Navy will discourage him from making a serious commitment to this pathetic family, and Maggie threatens to go back to the bottle and other men. But Baggs persists in searching for a solution to their problems.

It's difficult to argue with perfect casting; James Caan and Marsha Mason have terrific chemistry. John Baggs and Maggie Paul's romance must endure an uphill struggle, as neither the Navy nor common sense holds out much hope for their future together. Maggie and her son Doug would simply be homeless if it were not for her skill at separating sailors from their money. John Baggs beats her at her own tricks in a pool game, winning her favors. A more sentimental film would let Baggs prove his nobility by declining to collect on his bet but Cinderella Liberty wisely acknowledges that sex is the easy part. When it's over, Baggs realizes that he wants a different kind of relationship. Maggie has plenty of reasons to be suspicious yet Baggs repeatedly proves to be both sincere and honest. John finds a way into Doug's good graces, despite meeting the boy over a hostile switchblade.

Cinderella Liberty looks at Baggs and Maggie's entire social situation. Without official records John Baggs Jr. is in a bureaucratic limbo. He has no choice but to stand endless watches as a shore patrolman (with the talkative, amusing Bruno Kirby) and do without pay for weeks. The Navy finally makes an effort to find the missing papers because an irate officer (Dabney Coleman) wants to get Baggs on a ship and out of port, away from ideas of getting married.

Things are even worse for Maggie. A social worker yanks Maggie's welfare and food stamps, claiming that Baggs is 'assuming the role of provider.' After Baggs tells her the full story the social worker reverses her position and tries to help, but the damage has already been done. Even under normal conditions Maggie has difficulty finding ways to feel good about herself. She can't take having her hopes raised, only to see them dashed yet one more time.

A sidebar plot deals with Baggs' growing disillusion with the Navy. He runs into Lynn Forshay (Eli Wallach), a career sailor drummed out for mistreating an important man's son. Forshay has taken a job as a strip club tout and would do anything to get back with the fleet. The conclusion ties up this part of the story rather neatly, while leaving us unsure whether Baggs will be able to keep his newly formed family intact.

Star James Caan was fresh from his celebrated role in The Godfather. Mark Rydell had to make a fuss to get Fox to accept young Marsha Mason as Maggie. It's probable that her debut feature Blume in Love hadn't even opened when she got this part. Ms. Mason is just sensational, projecting the bravado of a proud woman near the edge of collapse. Mason starts with a difficult acting feat, acting the good sport while losing a humiliating bet. How many actresses could portray losing such a bet, and laugh it off this good-naturedly? Ms. Mason is vivacious, genuinely funny and surely the most arresting star discovery of the year. Instead of using acting tricks to reveal Maggie's vulnerable side, Mason simply has the woman endure her problems until she can't take any more. Then she falls apart, all at once. Caan's Baggs can't pick up the pieces every time.

Several heart-wrenching events in the last act turn the light romance into a straight drama. It's still more hopeful than the same year's The Last Detail, a less forgiving story of the underside of Navy life. Cinderella Liberty allows us to leave feeling good about its characters, even though their future is uncertain.

The production has a realistic feel for the life of sailors. The U.S. Navy refused to cooperate with the producers because a major plot point depicts desertion of duty without consequences. To stand in for an American craft, Fox rented a small ship from the Canadian Navy. The rest of the show seems 100% authentic.

Fox's Cinema Classics Collection of Cinderella Liberty comes in a sparkling enhanced transfer that optimizes cameraman Vilmos Zsigmond's edgy camerawork. The disc is a substantial improvement over the original theatrical release prints, which were grainy and green. Pan-scanned 16mm TV prints looked like bad color Xeroxes. Visually, the film now seems alive again. Some dialogue is difficult to make out so closed captions are recommended to hear every line clearly. An alternate audio channel offers an isolated music and sound effects track, the better to appreciate the fine work of composer John Williams.

Director-producer Rydell offers an enthusiastic commentary; he has every right to be proud of his picture. A character listed as "Gutteral Mischief" is played by an actor credited as Marty Augustine. As that's Rydell's character name in the Robert Altman movie The Long Goodbye, we can be forgiven for assuming that it's really Rydell in a cameo. Fox's Cinema Classics Collection keep case slides into a card sleeve printed with identical information, making its function unclear.

For more information about Cinderella Liberty, visit Fox Home Entertainment. To order Cinderella Liberty, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson

Cinderella Liberty - Marsha Mason & James Caan in CINDERELLA LIBERTY on DVD

This charming tough-love romance is yet more evidence why the early 1970s is considered one of the most creative times in Hollywood. Basically a story about a link-up between a sailor and a pool hall tramp, Cinderella Liberty overcomes traditional problems with such material. The "R" rating for once allows such characters to talk as they might, although our nice-guy hero has a thing against profanity. Darryl Ponicsan's story acknowledges the desperation of sailors to find female companionship, especially when on 'Cinderella Liberty,' a shore pass that expires at midnight. Also breaking with Hollywood tradition, the film allows Marsha Mason's hooker to be credibly profane and self destructive, and yet still be worthy of our concern. The movie has its share of emotional compromises but by the last act we're only hoping that things turn out well for our deserving main characters. Synopsis: Set ashore for minor surgery, Navy Boatswain John Baggs Jr. (James Caan) is stuck in the port of Seattle. After missing his boat, he is told that his records have been lost. Deprived of pay and reassignment, he gravitates toward Maggie Paul (Marsha Mason), an alcoholic pool hustler and occasional prostitute. Maggie's eleven year-old son Doug (Kirk Calloway) is well on his way to becoming a juvenile menace. Baggs knows the Navy will discourage him from making a serious commitment to this pathetic family, and Maggie threatens to go back to the bottle and other men. But Baggs persists in searching for a solution to their problems. It's difficult to argue with perfect casting; James Caan and Marsha Mason have terrific chemistry. John Baggs and Maggie Paul's romance must endure an uphill struggle, as neither the Navy nor common sense holds out much hope for their future together. Maggie and her son Doug would simply be homeless if it were not for her skill at separating sailors from their money. John Baggs beats her at her own tricks in a pool game, winning her favors. A more sentimental film would let Baggs prove his nobility by declining to collect on his bet but Cinderella Liberty wisely acknowledges that sex is the easy part. When it's over, Baggs realizes that he wants a different kind of relationship. Maggie has plenty of reasons to be suspicious yet Baggs repeatedly proves to be both sincere and honest. John finds a way into Doug's good graces, despite meeting the boy over a hostile switchblade. Cinderella Liberty looks at Baggs and Maggie's entire social situation. Without official records John Baggs Jr. is in a bureaucratic limbo. He has no choice but to stand endless watches as a shore patrolman (with the talkative, amusing Bruno Kirby) and do without pay for weeks. The Navy finally makes an effort to find the missing papers because an irate officer (Dabney Coleman) wants to get Baggs on a ship and out of port, away from ideas of getting married. Things are even worse for Maggie. A social worker yanks Maggie's welfare and food stamps, claiming that Baggs is 'assuming the role of provider.' After Baggs tells her the full story the social worker reverses her position and tries to help, but the damage has already been done. Even under normal conditions Maggie has difficulty finding ways to feel good about herself. She can't take having her hopes raised, only to see them dashed yet one more time. A sidebar plot deals with Baggs' growing disillusion with the Navy. He runs into Lynn Forshay (Eli Wallach), a career sailor drummed out for mistreating an important man's son. Forshay has taken a job as a strip club tout and would do anything to get back with the fleet. The conclusion ties up this part of the story rather neatly, while leaving us unsure whether Baggs will be able to keep his newly formed family intact. Star James Caan was fresh from his celebrated role in The Godfather. Mark Rydell had to make a fuss to get Fox to accept young Marsha Mason as Maggie. It's probable that her debut feature Blume in Love hadn't even opened when she got this part. Ms. Mason is just sensational, projecting the bravado of a proud woman near the edge of collapse. Mason starts with a difficult acting feat, acting the good sport while losing a humiliating bet. How many actresses could portray losing such a bet, and laugh it off this good-naturedly? Ms. Mason is vivacious, genuinely funny and surely the most arresting star discovery of the year. Instead of using acting tricks to reveal Maggie's vulnerable side, Mason simply has the woman endure her problems until she can't take any more. Then she falls apart, all at once. Caan's Baggs can't pick up the pieces every time. Several heart-wrenching events in the last act turn the light romance into a straight drama. It's still more hopeful than the same year's The Last Detail, a less forgiving story of the underside of Navy life. Cinderella Liberty allows us to leave feeling good about its characters, even though their future is uncertain. The production has a realistic feel for the life of sailors. The U.S. Navy refused to cooperate with the producers because a major plot point depicts desertion of duty without consequences. To stand in for an American craft, Fox rented a small ship from the Canadian Navy. The rest of the show seems 100% authentic. Fox's Cinema Classics Collection of Cinderella Liberty comes in a sparkling enhanced transfer that optimizes cameraman Vilmos Zsigmond's edgy camerawork. The disc is a substantial improvement over the original theatrical release prints, which were grainy and green. Pan-scanned 16mm TV prints looked like bad color Xeroxes. Visually, the film now seems alive again. Some dialogue is difficult to make out so closed captions are recommended to hear every line clearly. An alternate audio channel offers an isolated music and sound effects track, the better to appreciate the fine work of composer John Williams. Director-producer Rydell offers an enthusiastic commentary; he has every right to be proud of his picture. A character listed as "Gutteral Mischief" is played by an actor credited as Marty Augustine. As that's Rydell's character name in the Robert Altman movie The Long Goodbye, we can be forgiven for assuming that it's really Rydell in a cameo. Fox's Cinema Classics Collection keep case slides into a card sleeve printed with identical information, making its function unclear. For more information about Cinderella Liberty, visit Fox Home Entertainment. To order Cinderella Liberty, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture, Best Original Score, Best Screenplay and Most Promising Newcomer (Kirk Calloway). Mason won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actress-Drama.

Writers Guild of America nomination for Poniscan.

Released in United States on Video July 7, 1989

Released in United States Winter December 1973

Based on the Darryl Ponicsan novel "Cinderella Liberty" (New York, 1973).

Released in United States on Video July 7, 1989

Released in United States Winter December 1973