Cinderella Liberty (1973) Poster

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Great flick
Peter Swanson14 July 2004
When Cinderella Liberty was released I'd only been out of the Navy about a year, so I was automatically biased in favor of it. I happened across the film on AMC this morning, and was pleased to see that it holds up well. James Caan is perfect as the lifer-by-default, a guy apparently motivated by inertia and the need for a job rather than any driving patriotic force. Marsha Mason is likewise great as the whore-with-a-heart (not necessarily a heart of gold), and the boy who plays her son is superb. Eli Wallach is flawless as the lifer left over from the old "Rocks and Shoals" Navy, a genuinely tough era much more closely-related to life in the 19th century than the 21st. If you want a look at enlisted life in the Navy, especially in the early 70's (yes, they did allow mustaches and a bit of hair in those days), I would recommend this film wholeheartedly.
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a surprising and thoughtprovoking film
kluismans5 June 2004
nothing surprised me more than flicking over the channel and catching this film late last night. it promised to be just the kind of dull fare I needed to watch and cure my insomnia: a sailor up to no good in a sleezy bar with a giggling hooker. but this film did the opposite it woke me up and i will admit made me cry - a lot. It is a small story, a sailor falls for a 'barroom whore' and assumes responsibility for her, her son and her unborn child and that's it really. He is stuck in Seattle waiting for his papers, broke and lost and these two unlikely characters, the whore and her son, hook up with him and somehow they muddle together to make what looks like almost a family. each of them is tentative, protective of the tiny space that makes up their world, yet all three show that despite harsh realities they can express tenderness to each other. what was remarkable was that there was nothing patronising or dismissive in the portrayal of any of the characters, all three of which are the stereotypical stock of cinema, a philandering sailor, a whore, and a illegitimate kid. i was totally convinced by the story and moved by the way that despite the needs expressed for each other, they were pushed apart. i cannot recommend this film highly enough, and hope that anyone reading this will try and watch it.
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One of the most realistic stories about life as a serviceman.
denscul3 December 2005
This movie was made in 1973, and I thought it was a great movie for several reasons. It depicts the gritty, boring life of a career enlisted serviceman. Military heroics are replaced with human heroics at a time when civilians had a dim view of anyone who spent time in the service. The movie turns all the trite plots about saintly prostitutes and sailors on its head. Caan plays a real sailor, and Marsha Mason, a funny but can't help herself hooker. Her young son by an unknown black father is slowly drawn into a friendship with her mother's "honky" john. This unlikely threesome is what makes this movie worth watching. In my opinion, it is a better movie than "From Here to Eternity", which has too much of the recruiting version of the military. Cinderlla Liberty is stripped raw of the poster Navy. This movie shows life in the real Navy about a real human being, who happens to be a sailor.
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frank5621 September 2001
Cinderella Liberty presents a world of lonely people looking for a little love in their lives. James Caan does a complete turnaround from his Godfather persona playing John Baggs, Jr. -- a sensitive, lovesick and positive sailor who backs into (or does it back into him?) the life of Maggie Paul (Marsha Mason), a pool playing barroom hustler with a biracial son, Doug (Kirk Calloway) whose tough exterior reveals a very sad and lonely boy. This comedy-drama creeps up on you like the love the characters feel for each is slowly realized. Excellent work by everyone here -- but this one bears a repeat watch for the work of Kirk Calloway, who is amazing as the boy and Eli Wallach, Baggs' alter-ego of a what lonely Navy life could hold for him. Look for this gem and go back to a time in film acting when real emotions were all the special effects needed to entertain and touch you.
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greatest movie ever made in Seattle
Deran_Ludd29 March 2003
You can't necessarily tell by the cinematography, but this fantastic movie is the best film ever shot in Seattle - the pre-Microsoft, real Seattle. The acting is understated to the point where the camera and the actors almost playing a game of who holds the shot the longest. It is not a story about losers at all - that is Sleepless in Seattle - Cinderella Liberty is a beautiful love story in the real world. Cinderella Liberty is a story about the possibilities that can exist between humans in even the most low-life of worlds. I love it because it is the Seattle I knew and offers its characters many of the choices I had offered to me at a certain point in my own life. And that's what heart-gripping cinema is all about, to me.
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joeleejoel15 July 2001
This is a fine sweet-natured character study about big-hearted losers groping their way. The flavor of pre-grunge and pre-latte downtown Seattle drenches the film, evoked by the many authentic locations unearthed by director Rydell. Caan and Mason, as many have pointed out, are just terrific, and it is fun to see the younger Burt Young, Bruno Kirby (credited as Bruce Kirby Jr.), and especially Dabney Coleman, before their careers blossomed.

A word of warning though: the abysmal Paul Williams score and singing are rivaled only by Richard Baskin's infamous turn in "Welcome to L.A." for sheer auditory torture.
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Social Commentary
rayisfab1 January 2006
This film is a mini-classic. It addresses the lives of the ordinary people who have to struggle to make a living. It shows how enlisted people are really no better off than the rest of us when is comes to coping with bureaucracy and officialdom. Ignore the extreme prejudice in the comment from the Oklahoma poster. The acting is excellent and the characters never descend in to the sentimental clichés that right wing critics accuse social commentary of. It's a shame that the gap between the rich and poor has grown since this film was made. A remake of this film would be timely but probably could not catch the moment like the original does.
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affecting tale
Robert D. Ruplenas9 September 2002
Granted there are some literary devices which are a tad far-fetched that simply have to be accepted to allow this story to work - for one, the cavalier way in which Baggs is treated while his papers are 'lost', and for so long. None the less, this is, in the end an affecting and inspiring tale. Perhaps one of the reasons for its dubious reception here is that in this extremely cynical and selfish age people have difficulty accepting a tale about someone who assumes so much grief in order to help people ("It makes me feel good," says Baggs, simply and disarmingly.) Perhaps the world would be a better place if we could all be more like the guileless Boatswain, played by James Caan in a good-guy departure from his usual tough guy parts.

Of particular note is the fine job Eli Wallach does with the minor part of Baggs' nemesis Forshay. It's a memorable moment when Baggs, asking Forshay, as he is drummed out of the service without benefits or pension, "Where are you going? Home?", hears Forshay reply "THIS was home." The combination of sadness, bitterness, and fear of the future that Wallach puts into these three words is testimony to his power as an actor.

A bit of judicious editing might have been called for, as the movie was a tad long (cutting Paul Williams' execrable songs would have been a good place to start), but none the less it's a feel-good movie that rises above its gritty setting.
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Cinderella Liberty- Fairy Tales Don't Really Come True **1/2
edwagreen6 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Depressing film dealing with the subject of human losers. We have Johnny (James Caan) as a sailor who is left behind due to a medical condition and in the process his records are lost placing him in navy limbo. He encounters a tramp, convincingly played by Marsha Mason. Mason reminds me of Susan Hayward in looks and that she often played troubled women. In this picture, it's no different. In another Oscar nominated losing performance, she plays a woman who has been knocked around a lot. In a way, the part was a forerunner for "The Goodbye Girl," a far better picture and performance by her.

She has a black child who is street wise and sensitive at the same time. The film depicts the relationship between Mason and Caan. Mason is not an Anna Magnani of "The Rose Tattoo" memory though she tries to be a loving companion one moment only to descend into hysterics at another time.

Their one opportunity to find happiness leads to sadness when she gives birth to a child only to lose it a week later. John, desperately trying to show kindness and responsibility is also devastated.

Though Mason abandons both Caan and the black child at the end, the film ends when Johnny is able to change places with Eli Wallach, who portrays a naval person who was thrown out of the navy. With the change in identity, John and the boy can pursue Mason to New Orleans where she has gone.

The fairy tale of "Cinderella" ended happily. This non-fairy tale ends with some encouragement but we realize the plight of those down on their luck in this society.
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Unconditional love at it's best.
st46-121 January 2007
I find this the best movie I have ever seen...the emotion, the acting, the content, the story......all excellent and moving beyond words. James Caan is just the best ever in this, his acting is perfect, as is all the actors in this movie...truly, it is a joy to watch over and over and you have to watch it a few times to get the real benefit of all that if offered beneath the words.

Truly an act of unconditional love as never seen before. The person who wrote this has a soul of gold.

If you ever want to know what true love is all about and what it entails...see this film, because you will be in no doubt afterwards.
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Lonely In Seattle
Lechuguilla5 May 2009
The film's title refers to a real-life temporary "pass" or "leave" issued to navy personnel. In this fictional story, John Baggs, Jr. (James Caan) is one such sailor, stuck in Seattle on leave, a man who doesn't know what to do with his time, or his life. He ends up at a beer joint where he meets Maggie (Marsha Mason), a part-time hooker and pool hustler. "Cinderella Liberty" is the story about how these two lonely people meet, and their on-again, off-again romantic relationship.

Baggs is a low-key sort of fellow. But he doesn't take any guff from anyone. Maggie is on welfare. She lives with her eleven-year old son, Doug, in a dingy apartment in a dingy tenement building. Baggs tries to help the kid, but Doug has lots of emotional baggage, as does his mother.

The main characters are somewhat tragic. Baggs is certainly no war hero. Indeed, he's rather ordinary, but very caring. Yet, despite his best efforts to unite the three of them into a family, things don't always work out. But the film has a surprise ending that helps offset earlier distressing plot points.

Mostly downbeat and depressing, "Cinderella Liberty" is very 1970ish. Cinematography conveys an evocative mood, dark and dreary, and some of the images have a reddish tint. Post Viet Nam, the military is portrayed as somewhat bumbling. There's an obvious absence of military bravado and swagger, which engenders the story with a sense of realism.

Casting and acting are fine. The chemistry between Caan and Mason seems genuine. The film was shot entirely on-location in Seattle. No film studios were used.

This is a story of dashed hopes, of opportunities lost. Although not for everyone, mostly because of the very slow plot pace, "Cinderella Liberty" is a realistic, character driven story, the kind that's rarely made by contemporary Hollywood.
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My favorite Navy movie.....
roanokebarry8 August 2006
When I first saw Cinderella Liberty I was in the Navy and a friend suggested I see it....that was one great friend. I had watched James Caan in the Godfather, ElDorado and Brians Song....all were great and I feel thankful that we have had the pleasure to watch this talented actor...but when I saw Cinderella Liberty he played that part to a T....I have to say the writer of this script either was in the Navy or received some first hand input.....I myself took a fellow shipmates watch many times and it is not hard to do all the things that happened in this movie...But the acting and the story will last forever... the kid ....the bar scene...the hustle..and Marsha Mason what else do you need to say...I have looked for this movie to come out on DVD never has...I ran across a DVD copy on the internet recently and it is very good and finally I can watch this movie when I want to and show it to my family and friends. Thank you James Caan for this great gift the gift of Cinderelly Liberty it will make you laugh and it will make you cry but most of all it will make you feel alive.
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A great movie to watch on a rainy weekend afternoon......
hockeyvoodoo7 June 2006
I remember seeing this movie as a kid at the movies. I really liked this movie because it didn't candycoat anything to make the storyline more digestible. It was sailor meets hooker, sailor falls for hooker, hooker does sailor wrong. It wasn't doctored up like Pretty Woman was years later. It was very sad in parts, had some funny and happy moments. Most of all, I found myself drawn in by all four main characters. You could actually find yourself caring about what happened next to them. That is rare in a movie nowdays. I liked the ending, however, it would not be likely to happen nowdays with all the high-tech identity trackers that are used now. It was probably feasible back then in 1972 or 1973, though. This is probably James Caan's best movie.
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"It's not just a job, it's $96.47 a week."
inspectors712 February 2007
Remember the Saturday Night Live faux advertisement for the US Navy, way back in the late '70s? It was their gentle jab at the Navy's advertising slogan, "It's not just a job, it's an adventure!" The phony ad showed sailors doing what sailors do--chipping and painting a matronly and decidedly unglamorous replenishment ship. It was a funny ad, a stark contrast to the real one that showed bluejackets breezily enjoying the sights of exotic ports of call.

Jump forward to the late '80s and catch a CBS "48 Hours" episode about the lives of sailors on a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. It was a good, solid piece of expository work that showed the violent excitement and danger of a carrier's flight operations contrasted with the much, much more mundane doings below decks, in the galley, the engineering spaces, etc. Said one sailor, covered with grease and saturated by sweat, "You're never gonna see a movie titled "Top Engineer."

I've always held a deep, abiding respect for our Navy (I even considered joining at the start of the Reagan years), but the tedium of swabbing decks somewhere down there in the large intestine of a flattop just didn't grab me.

And I said no.

Which brings us to Cinderella Liberty, a not-really-a-chick-flick with James Caan as a career swabbie, a guy who joined because he needed a steady gig, and Marsha Mason as the non-Hollywood-traditional whore he befriends in Seattle. I say non-traditional because she is NOT Julia Roberts but a chemical-saturated and beaten-up-by-life hooker who is trying to figure out how to take care of her adolescent son, keep a roof over their heads, and not get too involved with Caan. This proves difficult for Caan because he--like me--finds Mason imperfectly lovely, sexy, and appealing.

CL is such a (and I hate to use this cliché, but I will) slice of life (under the waterline, that is) with Caan having no great ambition other than to maintain his rank and his dental integrity while helping Mason and her son, not to mention his friend Eli Wallach.

Caan is a essentially a skilled grease monkey--no deep thinking here-- and he turns the hooker cliché on its head. He's the one with the heart of gold, not Mason. As you watch, she becomes less and less appealing. Her self-destructive impulses overwhelm her prettiness. Bad decisions blot out a perky nose, coy overbite, and non-fashion-model curves.

To add an extra layer of quality to the story, there's Seattle herself, here more matronly and replenishment ship homely than in your travel brochure. The Emerald City is rendered by the locale choices to feel working class, not flight-deck glamorous.

In closing, I recommend Cinderella Liberty because it is an honest film with nice, believable people and a story that shows rust streaks and all.

It's a fine entertainment.
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rivals "From Here To Eternity" in depicting the plight of the peace-time serviceman
bux6 November 1998
Mason is the two-bit hooker that gets her claws under Caan's skin. Caan could probably get un-hooked, except for the fact that Mason's young son has found the soft spot in the sailor's heart. This is the story of loneliness-the kind only a career serviceman experiences. Writer Ponicsan shows that he easily understands these feelings-here, and in the companion piece to this one, "The Last Detail." Caan gives the performance of a lifetime, and the switch-up ending will surprise you.
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This has 70s written all over it.......
gazzo-219 July 2002
.....slow pacing, True-life acting, feel, mood, locale, downbeat tone, etc. I didn't quite buy the ending either-what, are the Navy's records THAT slipshod??-but if you go with it, it's okay. Caan, Mason, the kid, Tuco(Wallach), Kirby(is he Joe Pesci's brother or something?), all are fine. Caan in fact has rarely been better.

If you liked 'Last Detail' from the same era, same writer-then by all means check this out. I liked this-and so will you. Look for Dabney Coleman, Sally Kirkland and Burt 'Paulie on Rocky' Young in smaller roles.

*** outta ****
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Morals vs Non-Morals
teamcruz7 March 2006
The movie was great, my interpretation was boiled down to when opposites "attempt" to attract, the moral and the immoral people. There are some very "unexpected" turnouts in the movie, which makes it a classic hit compared to the obvious turnouts of todays movies. Todays "drama" movies contain obvious turnouts, in example a married man leaves his innocent always faithful wife for a younger single woman, only to realize the younger woman turns out to be everything his wife is not, which makes him do the right thing and go back to his wife. This is why the movie is a must see for persons seeking unique drama stories.
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Where is Marsha Mason on DVD? (spoilers included)
DBlake-28 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I have never forgotten this film for a second after seeing it on VHS years ago. 2 of my favorite actors of the 70s, Mason and Caan....Marsha needs to be better represented on DVD; why isn't this film and "Only When I Laugh" on DVD yet? Who do we complain to? There were so many surprising elements to this film...i was shocked to see the nudity in this film, and also the mixed race of her son, if my memory serves me correctly, and played by an interesting child actor. The movie was just more than i was expecting it to be, a very pleasant surprise. I just read that she beat out Babs for this part, and i really can't see her playing this part the way Marsah did, tho i do love her as well.
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You just can't keep those sailor-loving, pool-playing broads out of the bars!
moonspinner5511 February 2007
"Cinderella Liberty" was obviously written and directed by men (in this case, the screenplay by Darryl Ponicsan, from his novel, and the direction by Mark Rydell). It features the kind of movie-hooker culled straight from the 1950s, one with a big heart, a fun-loving laugh and a dedication to her sailors--she just can't wait to get back to business. James Caan, probably the most sensitive movie tough-guy of this era, latches onto a Seattle whore (Marsha Mason) and her illegitimate, half-black pre-teen son; the three make a happy pair until Mason prematurely gives birth to the baby she's carrying. Rydell is a filmmaker who sees romance in welfare-marked squalor, and his sentiment is braced with a tough shell, yet nothing in the film makes sense. After a one-nighter with Mason, Caan meets up with her smart-aleck son by chance and instantly identifies him as her kid (there isn't a moment of recognition, just a decent man-to-man chat and the story moves on). Once Mason and Caan decide to get married, there's lots of talk regarding their union yet we never see it. The script is a connect-the-dots job, with unconvincing characters to match. Mason, despite an Oscar nod, isn't quite believable playing low-class, and every time she's uses the word "ain't" it rings false (her somewhat-chaste nudity is uncomfortable for her too, you can sense she cannot wait to cover up). Caan, frequently talking with a hick twang in his voice, plays decent and moral as if it were a dark cloud over him; he's an optimist but a hopeless one, and when he gets his ire up and fights back he is still shown getting nowhere. The picture is heavy on the bluesy Seattle night-life, but the sordid atmospherics never quite come through (this is pretty coy for an R-rated feature). Rydell and Ponicsan believe in the cliché so badly they have to conjure up a happy ending out of thin air. As for Mason, she has a quiet, reflective moment where she tells how sick she is of the mess her life has become--though in the very next scene, she's making herself up for a night on the town. You just can't keep a gold-plated lady-of-the-evening down, not even in Seattle. ** from ****
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Love and loneliness.
PWNYCNY27 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is a delightful movie about love, but without being corny. A man falls in love with a whore. Who knows why? It just happens and the next thing he knows he's in it way over his head and he can't get out and does not want to because he is in love. The problem is: she can't handle it because her life is a disaster and she can give just so much; remember: she's a whore who's been with lots of men and she has a life style which this man is forcing her to re-evaluate, and that can be scary. When they first meet, she's working in a bar and she's happy. She becomes miserable after he injects himself into her life, which he can't help because he is in love and he believes he's helping. On top of that, she has a bi-racial son who is practically a street urchin and is pregnant with another man's child, yet the man stays. His selflessness is admirable but when examined objectively, such as by his commanding officer (the man is in the Navy) it becomes apparent that his actions do not seem prudent. He even wants to leave the Navy, which is his life, and marry her. This movie shows to what lengths some people will go to escape loneliness. In the case of the Navy man, he's willing to marry a hard care whore; for the whore she'll settle for the next trick without any questions asked. That she runs away is not surprising. After all, how can a whore be a player if she's married? Marcia Mason gives one of the great performances as the whore. She is emotionally hard and vulnerable at the same time without coming off as contrived. James Caan is excellent as the Navy man who comes into the whore's life. This movie is excellent.
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The butterfly and the sailor.
silverauk5 August 2002
The Neptune bar where John Baggs Jr (James Caan) finds his great love Maggie Paul (Marsha Mason) must be a bad place for the us-Navy while the superior officer of John Baggs prohibits his marriage with Maggie when she is pregnant. There is also a background of social security for the illegitimate child: that when married the couple has some advantages in the Navy. A special scene is the one where the surgeon Dr. Osgood (Fred Sadoff) treats the son of Maggie, Doug (Kirk Calloway) for his teeth without being a dentist! It is rather impossible that there can be a switch of identity as happens between John Baggs and Lynn Forshay ( Eli Wallach). On the other hand it shows that a sailor remains always a sailor and that it is after all a better job than attracting other seamen to the Chinese brothels. John Baggs has a special relation with the Cook (Ted D'Arms) and with the Master of Arms (Burt Young) who help him out of some difficult situations. This movie shows us the problems of sailors being a long time away from home with all the consequences: bad marriage, illegitimate children, loneliness and alcoholism.
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needs a better kid
SnoopyStyle15 September 2017
Navy sailor John Baggs Jr. (James Caan) is on a Cinderella Liberty pass when he picks up sexy Maggie Paul (Marsha Mason) hustling pool in the city. She's a prostitute with a son named Doug. His friend former sailor Forshay (Eli Wallach) is a doorman at a bar. Baggs' records are lost and he gets no pay & no orders. He is taken aback when the social worker lets slip Maggie's pregnancy from another guy earlier.

Mason got an Oscar nomination. When she got exposed by the social worker, she has a terrific moment of desperation and anger. It's an excellent acting overall. Same goes for Caan. It's a rambling plot but that's not a problem. The actual problem is the kid. Kid actors are often a hit or miss proposition. This one is mostly a miss. He doesn't really have any charisma. It makes it more difficult to develop chemistry with Baggs. This is quite fine and would be great with a better kid.
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Minus One Star for Unlicensed Surrealism
Grumpy20 June 2016
Not really a "realistic" story, even though this film puts on a "I'm gritty" hat and tries to pretend it's all about "real" people, but it's not. It's about a fantasy--and a surreal one at that. There is a remarkable amount of good information here about being a in the Navy--it's fun if you really, really like being on a boat. Otherwise it's a drag and it's particularly a drag if you aren't on the boat that you signed up to be on. So we meet a guy who is stuck in administrative limbo (actually happens in the military from time to time) and finds himself feeling lost and unable to fit in anywhere in the civilian world except for a very funky dive of a bar.

There he meets another person with nowhere to be--a woman. They have some fun and then have sex in a way that is not entirely wholesome but isn't entirely sordid. It's as close as they get to being alive, so they follow up on it.

By now, you can label everybody, and attach those big dismissive labels to the characters to allow yourself to enjoy not being them. Slut. Black. Stooge. Sailor. Drunk. Whore. Just pile up the labels until you feel adequately insulated.

But if you take this movie straight, with no chaser, it will make you wonder about the difference between a sailor and a guy dressed up like a sailor (it's the same thing).

Great movie. Some of my favorite actors doing a fine job. See it.
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Sweet story of a sailor on leave and the woman he meets in a bar and falls in love with
timashworth0416 February 2016
I first saw this at the movie theater with my soon to be husband a soldier in the U.S. Air Force), when it was first shown, and saw it again today on t.v. This movie is one of my favorites and just gets better with time. James Caan plays a sweet spirited, kind hearted sailor who takes on responsibility for a prostitute he meets while on Cinderella liberty (a term for a short shore leave) and her son. It is a beautiful story of love and forgiveness and one I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys a realistic story about the human condition. Although not listed in Caan's IMDb bio, it is one of his best performances. This movie will stay on my list of great movies.
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