Sunday, June 03, 2018

Shore Leave

I’ve always believed that the Seventies was a bad time for music, but a great period for movies.

Now, to be honest, I do enjoy a handful of disco era hits, but I think even the most stalwart Studio 54 devotee would have to look back at that decade’s soundtrack and ask, “wow, what the hell were we thinking?”

And don’t even get me started on the clothes.

However, it’s important to note that while the clubs were busy thumping humanity into a stupor, Hollywood was igniting movie screens with such classics as Dog Day Afternoon, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Chinatown, and Serpico, to name a few.

I recently caught up with Cinderella Liberty, another film from that era, and while I wouldn’t necessarily call it great, it’s certainly damn good.

I saw this film with my parents in the old Fortway theater when I was a sophomore in high school. I hadn’t seen it or even thought about it since, but then Turner Classic Movies ran it a few months ago and it was sitting patiently in my DVR until I finally decided to give it a look last week. And I’m so glad I did.

Released in 1973 and starring James Caan and Marsha Mason, Cinderella Liberty tells the story of John Baggs, a lonely sailor, who falls for Maggie, a prostitute he meets in a bar, and becomes a father figure to Doug, Maggie’s mixed-race son.

Baggs is bureaucratically marooned in Seattle after the navy loses his records. Bear in mind, this was over 40 years ago, before computer files, so when I say “records” I mean real world paperwork stuffed into a manila folder.

Today it’s hard to believe now that we once functioned without computers, but, somehow, we did. Back then we thought we were living in the most modern of modern times, but looking back at that period now, it looks like we hammering our information on to stone tablets.

Anyway, without the records, Baggs is virtually nonexistent in the navy’s eyes, and he spends more time with Maggie and Doug. The supporting cast includes Eli Wallach, Dabney Coleman, Bruno Kirby, Allan Arbus, and Sally Kirland.

Hey, Sailor

The movie was directed by Mark Rydell and based on a novel by Darryl Poniscan, the author of, among other things, The Last Detail, which was another fine Seventies film about sailors that starred Jack Nicholson.

I liked this film because it took its time to tell a story about believable characters. There are no monsters, wookies, or superheroes and there are no explosions, slow motion machine gun battles, or ridiculous fight scenes.

It’s just the story of some very ordinary people who are down on their luck and trying to make a life for themselves. I seriously doubt that anyone would make this film today as it lacks all of the aforementioned blockbuster ingredients and offers no possibility of a movie franchise.

Now there are few lines of dialog I could’ve done without. Statements like “Why is it everybody else gets chicken and I always get the feathers?” and “Love is shit with sugar on it” could have been easily deleted from the script without any fear of being missed.

And the theme song is hands down horrible, a faux bluesy jingle called "You're So Nice to Be Around" that was sung by that musical oddity Paul Williams.

No offense to Mr. Williams or his fans, but the guy never did anything for me, and while this tune somehow earned an Oscar nomination—it must’ve been a lean year for music—the song is really nice to get away from.

The tune might have been bearable if it had been performed by an actual African-America blues singer instead of a painfully Caucasian counterfeit trying to sound black.

But the song and the subpar dialog pass quickly and you’re left with one fine film.

On May 25, 1977—the day after my birthday— Star Wars was released to theaters and arguably kicked off the whole science-fiction blockbuster chain reaction that we’re still living with (suffering through?) today.

Like disco hits, I enjoy the occasional fantasy film, but a steady diet of these things is kind of like listening to nothing by dance music. There's not enough sugar in the world to make the shit tasty.

When it comes to feeding my brain, I’d much rather feast on chicken than scarf down a plateful of feathers.


Ron said...

Rob, I freaking LOVE the movie, Cinderella Liberty! What a great story! And it's also a film with two of my favorite actors, James Caan and Marsha Mason. I am such a huge fan of Marsha Mason, who I feel was not celebrated as she should have been because she is such a FABULOUS actress! I wrote her a letter many, many years ago and she was kind enough to send me a handwritten letter back. And I still have it!

"Dog Day Afternoon, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Chinatown, and Serpico."

Yes! And you're right...the 70's was such a great time for films that have becomes classics.

I remember seeing Dog Day Afternoon while still living in Manhattan. What a GREAT film. And one of Pacino's best roles!

I don't think I appreciated the 70's then, as I do now. Looking back, it was such a wonderful decade.

Have a super week, buddy!

Rob K said...

Wow, Ron, Marsh Mason wrote to you?!? I am mightily impressed!!

I enjoyed this film so much, especially now that I'm older. There was so much I missed when I was a teenager. I'm glad I decided to record the movie and watch it again.

Dog Day Afternoon was another great flick! Pacino was incredible in that movie and years later I met him backstage when he was doing "American Buffalo" in the Village and I shook his hand!!!

The Seventies were indeed a trip and probably the last good decade for movies.

Take care, buddy!

Ron said...

" Pacino was incredible in that movie and years later I met him backstage when he was doing "American Buffalo" in the Village and I shook his hand!!!"

OMG...that's incredible!!!! For the past several years I've been watching recent interviews with him and he seems like such a genuinely nice and down to earth guy. Not at all pretentious.

I loved him in the very first "Godfather." How handsome!

Bijoux said...

Um, ever heard of LED Zeppelin and Aerosmith? Lol! I love 70's music!

Jay said...

I agree with you on the many fine movies which came out of the seventies (I do love sci-fi on the level of Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon Five et al), but music? C'mon, Rob, the seventies gave us the rather wonderful Roxy Music and that seminal glam rock album "For Your Pleasure" (interestingly, A had a lot of records when we got married, I had very few, but we both had a copy of For Your Pleasure). Leonard Cohen didn't start his musical career until the late sixties, and the Beatles released Sgt. Peppers, Magical Mystery Tour and Abbey Road in the 70s. David Bowie was still right up there, too. Queen, The Eagles, Abba, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Undertones, Police ... The Clash, for goodness' sake, all formed in the 1970s. OK, I'll stop now... :D

A Cuban In London said...

Never heard of this movie so thanks for the introduction. I notice that two of the movies you mentioned had Jack Nicholson in them. :-)

Re the music from that period, forget disco. Rock was where it was at, mate. beginning of the 70s saw the end of the hippy era with some god classics thrown in by the likes of Zep and Purple. Queen got things started in '73 and by the end of the decade The Clash was one o fthe best bands around. Not to mention Patti Smith's '75 Horses album. Springsteen's Born to Run certainly springs to mind as a highlight. And this is not even getting into the whole prog-rock business. :-)

Greetings from London.

Rob K said...

Wow, you guys certainly set me straight on the Seventies music scene!

It's amazing what one's memory can do. When I think of music from that era my mind automatically goes right to disco and doesn't one inch beyond.

There are some important lessons here and I think the most important one is to delete all the comments from all you wise apples who don't agree with me! :)

Just kidding, of course! You know I love ya. I clearly have a lot to learn about music, but I'm kind of happy that this post got such a strong reaction. I should be completely wrong more often!

Bijoux said...

Us old folks don't appreciate our music being dissed . . . 😂😂😂

Jay said...

Haha! Love ya right back, Rob! :D

Rob K said...

Hey, Bijoux, I'm older than you!!

And, look, in my own defense, disco did clog up the music scene--at least in my circle. You had people like Rod Stewart and Paul McCartney cranking out lame disco tunes.

And finally people started wearing "Disco sucks" buttons and a local radio station, WPLJ, ran an ad saying "Come Back to Rock." That's how we knew disco was finally dead!

But I still need to brush up on my musical history...before you guys kill me!