Butterflies Are Free (1972) Poster

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  • Trying to make a break from his overprotective mother, blind Don Baker (Edward Albert) rents an apartment where he meets Jill Tanner (Goldie Hawn), a free-thinking ex-hippie, who helps him put some pizazz in his life ...until mother (Eileen Heckart) shows up for a surprise visit.

  • No. Butterflies Are Free is based on a 1969 play by American playwright Leonard Gershe, who also adapted his play for the movie.

  • The title refers to a line in Bleak House, a novel first published by English novelist Charles Dickens in 20 monthly installments between March 1852 and September 1853. The full line goes: "I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free. Mankind will surely not deny to Harold Skimpole what it concedes to the butterflies." Don then writes a song that includes the phrase "butterflies are free...and so are we."

  • Those who have seen the movie and are familiar with the play say that the movie was relatively faithful to the play. The main difference may be that the movie shifts the focus to Jill Tanner, which might be explained in that Goldie Hawn was a popular actress at the time and her presence seems to "steal the show". Another difference is that the play was originally set in New York City. For the movie, it was moved to a setting near San Francisco. Incidentally, both Eileen Heckart (as Mrs Baker) and Paul Michael Glaser (as Ralph) played those same characters on the stage.

  • Following her discussion with Mrs Baker, Jill fails to show up for her 7:30 dinner with Don. When she returns over three hours late, she is accompanied by Ralph Santori (Paul Michael Glaser) and announces that she is moving in with him. Feeling discouraged and defeated, Don tells his mom that he's going to move home, but Mrs Baker does an about face and refuses, preferring that he stay in his apartment and stop feeling sorry for himself. Before she leaves, she even offers to get him some furniture and help him fix up his apartment. Don knocks on the door to Jill's room and asks how she's doing with her packing. She's ready to leave, but Don invites her to share a corned beef sandwich with him. He tries to convince Jill to stay, but she is determined to leave. Don points out that Jill's inability to commit is a sign that she's emotionally crippled. "I'd rather be blind," he says. Jill grabs her bags and takes them to where Ralph is waiting for her. In a pique, Don destroys the dinner setting he had created for Jill and falls on the floor. In the final scene, Jill walks back into the apartment. She asks why Don is on the floor, and he tells her that he is having a picnic. "Without me?", she asks. She then admits to a "shadow vision" that told her she didn't love Ralph and that she cheated by going into a relationship with Ralph with her "eyes open". "It's about time," Don replies. They then hug each other.


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