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Cinderella Liberty is a 1973 American romantic drama film adapted by Daryl Ponicsan from his 1973 novel of the same name. The film tells the story of a sailor who falls in love with a prostitute and becomes a surrogate father for her 10-year-old mixed race son.

Cinderella Liberty
Cinderella liberty movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMark Rydell
Produced byMark Rydell
Screenplay byDarryl Ponicsan
Based onCinderella Liberty
by Darryl Ponicsan
StarringJames Caan
Marsha Mason
Burt Young
Eli Wallach
Music byJohn Williams
CinematographyVilmos Zsigmond
Edited byPatrick Kennedy
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • December 18, 1973 (1973-12-18) (U.S.)
  • April 7, 1974 (1974-04-07) (Sweden)
  • September 30, 1974 (1974-09-30) (Germany)
  • September 27, 1974 (1974-09-27) (Belgium)
  • November 8, 1974 (1974-11-08) (Finland)
Running time
117 min.
CountryUnited States
Box office$3.7 million (rentals)[2]

Produced and directed by Mark Rydell, the film stars James Caan, Marsha Mason, and Eli Wallach, with a supporting cast that includes Kirk Calloway, Burt Young, Allyn Ann McLerie, Dabney Coleman, Jon Korkes, and Allan Arbus.

The title is derived from the plot point that the sailor, while receiving medical treatment at the Navy base's medical facility, is given what is called a "Cinderella Liberty" pass which allows him to freely leave the naval base as long as he is back by midnight curfew. The film is one of two 1973 film adaptations of Ponicsan's novels, the other being The Last Detail.

Cinderella Liberty was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Marsha Mason), Best Music, Original Dramatic Score, and Best Music, Song (John Williams and Paul Williams for "Nice to Be Around").

The movie was filmed in Seattle, Washington.


John J. Baggs Jr. (James Caan) a sailor, who is a Vietnam veteran, checks into the Seattle Naval base's medical facility for minor treatment requiring tests. The testing results delay keep him from rejoining his ship when it sails. After he gets a clean bill of health, he finds out that he is unable to get paid or receive new orders because the U.S. Navy has lost his records. While they continue to search for his lost records, he is able to come and go from the base until the midnight curfew with a "Cinderella Liberty" pass issued by the medical facility.

On his first night in a bar, he is racing the clock to find a woman, and spots Maggie (Marsha Mason), an attractive woman hustling sailors at a pool table. He challenges her at pool, and develops an interest in the woman, who turns out to be a prostitute living in a tenement with her bi-racial 10-year-old son Doug (Kirk Calloway).

Baggs runs into Doug who is out drinking beer, and begins spending time with him. He also develops a relationship with Maggie, while going on outings with Doug, who is often left to fend for himself. Baggs attempts to create a normal life for her, and he succeeds for a while, but he has no status with the Navy, and has no pay and no benefits. Doug, suspicious and cynical at first, bonds with Baggs, who devotes his free time to the kid and even gets his teeth fixed at the naval base by an unqualified dental assistant. Maggie is pregnant by someone she met before Baggs; she gives birth prematurely, and the baby dies soon after birth. Distraught, Maggie needs to get out and distract herself, and returns to her former lifestyle. Finally, the Navy locates Baggs's records, and he is re-assigned. When he goes to inform Maggie, he finds she has abandoned Doug and left a note for Baggs telling him that he can keep Doug, and that she is going back to New Orleans (where she came from).

In a subplot, Baggs is searching for a sailor named Forshay, who is in charge of training recruits and has his own tough approach to new recruits, including Baggs. After a brief fight, the two become friends based on their shared love of their Navy careers that override everything else in their lives. Forshay is demoted, and is being discharged over his mistreatment of recruits, one of whom who had political connections. Forshay loses his pension, and Baggs finds him doing a menial job as a barker at a strip show.

In order to stay with Doug, Baggs gets the veteran ex-sailor Forshay (Eli Wallach) to change places with him and ship out under his name. Baggs and Doug then head for New Orleans to look for Maggie.



Cinderella Liberty received a nomination for a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture. In lamenting many of the film choices he made in the years immediately following his Oscar and Golden Globe nominated performance in The Godfather, Caan mentioned Cinderella Liberty as one of the exceptions to those regrets, commenting that he liked the film a lot.[3]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p257
  2. ^ Solomon, p. 232.
  3. ^ James Caan's career hitting tough times Siskel, Gene. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 27 Nov 1977: e6.
  4. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  5. ^ "Cinderella Liberty (Intrada Special Collection)". Intrada Records. Retrieved October 19, 2012. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)

External linksEdit