Sweet Liberty (1986)

PG | 107 mins | Comedy | 14 May 1986

Director:

Alan Alda

Writer:

Alan Alda

Producer:

Martin Bregman

Cinematographer:

Frank Tidy

Production Designer:

Ben Edwards

Production Company:

Universal Pictures
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HISTORY

A 5 Jul 1985 NYT article stated that eighty-eight-year-old actress Lillian Gish reportedly turned down the role of “Mrs. Cecilia Burgess” four times because she assumed that filmmakers had confused her with her actor-sister, Dorothy Gish, who was known to be the comedian of the family. The fifth time she met with the filmmakers, she accepted the role. As stated in a 13 Apr 1986 LAT article, the picture marked Gish’s appearance in her 104th film. Production notes in AMPAS library files state that actor-writer-director Alan Alda hired three hundred members of Brigade of the American Revolution, a group of amateur historians that re-enact important battles of the eigheenth century, to restage the film’s climactic battle. George Woodbridge, an historical consultant for the Brigade, was responsible for historical accuracy regarding period army uniforms.
       A 14 Mar 1985 DV brief and a production chart in the 5 Apr 1985 DV announced that principal photography began 3 Jun 1985 in Long Island, NY. According to articles in the 5 Jul 1985 and 12 Aug 1985 NYT , filming took place in and around the Hamptons, Southampton and Sag Harbor, NY. Production notes state that an area of Southampton Hospital was used as a fencing room, while the Southampton Theatre was disguised to appear as the Sayville Cinema movie theater in NC.
       An 18 Apr 1986 NYT article and a 23 Apr 1986 Var brief reported that the picture’s east coast premiere was held 16 Apr 1986 at Tower East in NYC.
       The movie’s west coast premiere was held 21 Apr 1986 at the Academy of Motion ... More Less

A 5 Jul 1985 NYT article stated that eighty-eight-year-old actress Lillian Gish reportedly turned down the role of “Mrs. Cecilia Burgess” four times because she assumed that filmmakers had confused her with her actor-sister, Dorothy Gish, who was known to be the comedian of the family. The fifth time she met with the filmmakers, she accepted the role. As stated in a 13 Apr 1986 LAT article, the picture marked Gish’s appearance in her 104th film. Production notes in AMPAS library files state that actor-writer-director Alan Alda hired three hundred members of Brigade of the American Revolution, a group of amateur historians that re-enact important battles of the eigheenth century, to restage the film’s climactic battle. George Woodbridge, an historical consultant for the Brigade, was responsible for historical accuracy regarding period army uniforms.
       A 14 Mar 1985 DV brief and a production chart in the 5 Apr 1985 DV announced that principal photography began 3 Jun 1985 in Long Island, NY. According to articles in the 5 Jul 1985 and 12 Aug 1985 NYT , filming took place in and around the Hamptons, Southampton and Sag Harbor, NY. Production notes state that an area of Southampton Hospital was used as a fencing room, while the Southampton Theatre was disguised to appear as the Sayville Cinema movie theater in NC.
       An 18 Apr 1986 NYT article and a 23 Apr 1986 Var brief reported that the picture’s east coast premiere was held 16 Apr 1986 at Tower East in NYC.
       The movie’s west coast premiere was held 21 Apr 1986 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, CA, according an article in the 24 Apr 1986 LAHExam.
       An 11 Apr 1986 HR article reported that the picture would premiere 15 May 1986 at the Egyptian Theater in Seattle, WA, as the opening night attraction at the Seattle International Film Festival.
       The following acknowledgments appear in end credits: “The producers wish to thank: Town of Sag Harbor, N. Y., Suffolk County, N. Y., William Floyd High School Band, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
14 Mar 1985.
---
Daily Variety
5 Apr 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 1986
p. 3, 7.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Apr 1986.
---
LAHExam
21 Aug 1886.
---
LAHExam
24 Apr 1986.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Apr 1986
Calendar, p. 21-23.
Los Angeles Times
14 May 1986
p. 1, 10.
New York Times
5 Jul 1985.
---
New York Times
12 Aug 1985.
---
New York Times
18 Apr 1986.
---
New York Times
14 May 1986
p. 23.
Variety
23 Apr 1986.
---
Variety
30 Apr 1986
p. 27, 48.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
a Martin Bregman production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod, Post prod
Exec prod
WRITER
Wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st cam asst
2d cam asst
Loader
Still photog
Steadicam op
Steadicam op
Steadicam op
Addl photog
Key grip
Dolly grip
Grip
Best boy
Video
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
Sketch artist
Sketch artist
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Apprentice film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Head const grip
Const grip
Const grip
Const grip
Const grip
Const grip
Const grip
Const grip
Head carpenter
Head carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Head scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Ward supv
Ward supv
Ward supv
MUSIC
Mus ed
Scoring mixer
Mus contractor
SOUND
Supv re-rec mixer
Supv sd ed
Supv ADR ed
Sd mixer
Rec
Boom op
Sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
ADR ed
Re-rec mixer
ADR artist
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Titles and opt eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Asst loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Scr supv
Historical consultant
Military consultant
Asst military consultant
Unit pub
Casting asst
Extras casting
Extras casting asst
Riding instructor
Prod office coord
Asst to Mr. Bregman
Asst to Mr. Alda
Asst to Mr. Stroller
Teamster capt
Teamster co-capt
Crane driver
Consulting auditor
Loc auditor
Asst auditor
Projectionist
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Equip
"Don't tread on me" quilt by
Helicopter flying by
Physical training by
Pub
SOURCES
SONGS
"Something Special (Is Gonna Happen Tonight)," written by Howie Rice and Allan Rich, performed by Patti La Belle, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
14 May 1986
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 16 Apr 1986; New York opening: 14 May 1986; Los Angeles opening: 16 May 1986
Production Date:
began 3 Jun 1985
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
18 July 1986
Copyright Number:
PA293351
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Panaflex® camera and lenses by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
107
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28132
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At the University of Sayville, North Carolina, history professor Michael Burgess and his literature professor girlfriend, Gretchen Carlsen, finish a friendly fencing match, and Gretchen rejects his suggestion that they move in together. After a failed marriage, she is not eager to keep house with someone new. Michael has written a non-fiction bestseller, Sweet Liberty, a film version of which is being filmed on campus. As he lectures, actor Elliott James steps off the bus, and townspeople ask for autographs. A television reporter interviews director Bo Hodges, who explains he wants to film the revolutionary-era story in the region where the battles took place. Screenwriter Stanley Gould professes his love and admiration for Michael’s book, which he carefully followed to create his screenplay. At the hotel, however, the screenwriter complains his room is cramped and demands a fruit basket from the bellhop. Stanley insists that Michael Burgess read his screenplay and is curious to know what parts Michael thinks are funny. Michael does not recognize the material. There are naked women and men falling off their horses. Michael’s serious book is now a comedy, and he is angry. Stanley pleads with Michael not to confront the director, and proposes they team up to improve the script. Michael reluctantly accepts Stanley’s suggestion. As crew members prepare an outdoor set, Stanley Gould introduces Michael to actor Faith Healy, who has been hired to play a lead character, “Mary Slocum.” In her costume, Faith looks and sounds exactly like Mary, and Michael is charmed. When they find director Bo Hodges, Michael complains that he has distorted the historical record. Hodges responds that he actually saved ... +


At the University of Sayville, North Carolina, history professor Michael Burgess and his literature professor girlfriend, Gretchen Carlsen, finish a friendly fencing match, and Gretchen rejects his suggestion that they move in together. After a failed marriage, she is not eager to keep house with someone new. Michael has written a non-fiction bestseller, Sweet Liberty, a film version of which is being filmed on campus. As he lectures, actor Elliott James steps off the bus, and townspeople ask for autographs. A television reporter interviews director Bo Hodges, who explains he wants to film the revolutionary-era story in the region where the battles took place. Screenwriter Stanley Gould professes his love and admiration for Michael’s book, which he carefully followed to create his screenplay. At the hotel, however, the screenwriter complains his room is cramped and demands a fruit basket from the bellhop. Stanley insists that Michael Burgess read his screenplay and is curious to know what parts Michael thinks are funny. Michael does not recognize the material. There are naked women and men falling off their horses. Michael’s serious book is now a comedy, and he is angry. Stanley pleads with Michael not to confront the director, and proposes they team up to improve the script. Michael reluctantly accepts Stanley’s suggestion. As crew members prepare an outdoor set, Stanley Gould introduces Michael to actor Faith Healy, who has been hired to play a lead character, “Mary Slocum.” In her costume, Faith looks and sounds exactly like Mary, and Michael is charmed. When they find director Bo Hodges, Michael complains that he has distorted the historical record. Hodges responds that he actually saved Michael’s work because it was in limbo when the project was in “turnaround.” The story was altered to appeal to the twelve to twenty-two-year-old demographic that goes to the movies, who, according to Hodges, are interested in three things: defying authority; destroying property; and seeing people with their clothes off. Michael wonders aloud what this has to do with American history. He insists that Bo Hodges concentrate on authenticity, eliminate the make-believe love affair from the script, and improve the dialogue. When Michael points out that his contract gives him the right to consult with the filmmakers, Hodges shakes his hand and notes that they just had a consultation. Later, after Michael makes love to Gretchen in her bedroom, they argue about remaining single, Gretchen’s attempts to ingratiate herself with Michael’s mother, Michael’s attempts to keep the two women apart, his reticence over getting married, and her refusal to live together. Although Michael prefers to visit his mother alone, Gretchen accompanies him, and promises the elderly Mrs. Cecilia Burgess that they will find her long lost boyfriend, Johnny Delvechio. Later, Governor Swayze arrives by helicopter to put in an appearance at a reception for the movie crew. As Michael and Gretchen mingle at the reception, she accuses him of wanting to live together without being willing to become part of her life. She suggests they put their relationship on hold and leaves. Meanwhile, Leslie, the university president’s wife, flirts with actor Elliott James. He lures her into the parked helicopter and takes off. Leslie screams as the craft swoops through the air. Elliott lands the helicopter safely, and party guests applaud as he takes a bow. Later, Michael wakes up Stanley Gould and persuades him to rewrite a scene together. However, Michael does all the writing. On the set, Leslie, the university president’s wife, dressed in period costume, thanks Elliott for her bit part. He asks if she would like to help him learn his lines, and they disappear into his trailer. Michael explains to Faith Healy that he has rewritten a scene to accurately reflect history. He gives Faith the new dialogue, although Hodges asks him not to fraternize with the actors. Michael and Stanley watch from afar as Faith and Elliott insist on playing the scene with new dialogue. Hodges gives in, and Michael observes with great satisfaction as the actors speak his words. Later, at the end of the shooting day, he thanks Faith, and, in character, she invites him to dinner. Michael brings a bag full of salad ingredients to dinner, and confesses that he finds her portrayal of “Mary Slocum” totally authentic. Before they segue into shoptalk, Michael demonstrates smashing a head of lettuce on a cutting board, which separates the core from the rest of the lettuce. Faith asks many questions about her character, and he shows her Mary’s diary. They read the document cover to cover, and kiss as they reenact Mary’s parting with her soldier husband as he goes to war. The next day, Faith demands that Michael be on the set when she shoots her scenes. Stanley cautions Michael that he must also woo Elliott because if Elliott finds out that Faith wants Michael, he will insist that Michael be barred from the set because Elliott did not ask first. Stanley suggests that Michael invite Elliott to fence as a way to win his favor. As they spar, Elliott rips Michael’s shirt several times, and insists on buying Michael a new garment. Later, Gretchen informs Michael his mother is in the hospital with difficulty breathing. There, Mrs. Burgess claims doctors plan to remove her nerves to do experiments. She has also stopped eating because the devil lives in her kitchen. Michael is frustrated because his mother will not let him hire someone to cook for her. She tells him to find Johnny Delvechio and things will sort themselves out. Back on set, Elliott insists that Michael make his character more appealing even if it goes against the historical record. Michael refuses but Stanley persuades him to fence with Elliott some more and do rewrites. At lunch, Gretchen tells Michael she has located Johnny Delvechio through the bricklayer’s union, and persuades Michael to bring him back, while Stanley tags along so that he and Michael can rework the script. At the Delvechio home, Mrs. Delvechio warns Michael to stay away from her husband of forty years. Michael is upset but Gretchen persuades him to lie to his mother about Johnny. At the hospital, Michael tells his mother that Johnny still loves her and thinks about her every day. He cannot visit because he had an accident and is in the hospital, himself. Michael promises he will continue to bring her old boyfriend’s messages but he does not have the authority to have Johnny moved to her hospital room. Michael is grateful for Gretchen’s help and compliments her, but she becomes angry when she arrives to teach Faith Healy embroidery techniques, and the actress uses Michael’s trademark trick to core a head of lettuce. She realizes Michael is having an affair with Faith and leaves. Later, when Michael and Stanley meet with Elliott about script changes, the actor is more interested in diversion since his wife, Grace, has arrived to check up on him. He persuades the writers, Leslie, Gretchen and Grace to go to a nearby carnival, and later teaches his friends a British vaudeville song. However, the clowning around does not improve Michael’s mood. On the set, Bo Hodges refuses to take his criticisms seriously and Michael discovers that Faith is sleeping with Elliott because she claims it improves their scenes together. Meanwhile, Michael is fitted with a Colonial soldier costume as a replacement for some background actors who have dropped out. Soon, Michael argues with Hodges that he is turning an important battle into a farce. As the background actors wait for filming to start, the revolutionary war re-enactors in the group look to Michael for guidance on how to do the scene, and he explains how the real battle was fought. Once filming begins, the Colonials charge the British lines and Hodges watches helplessly. Confusion reigns as Michael pushes Elliott and his horse out of the shot, and directs the scene on the battlefield. After the Colonial soldiers overpower the British, they strip and throw their uniforms in the air, while Michael flashes the “OK” signal to Hodges. Later, as the film company leaves, Stanley tells Michael how much he has learned from him. Soon, Michael apologizes to Bo Hodges for any interference, but the director says the battle scene was shot with six cameras and he can fix anything in the editing room. Faith gives Michael a goodbye kiss and tells him how nice it was to meet him as Gretchen watches. Elliott appears and gives Gretchen a lingering goodbye kiss as Michael watches. After the film company leaves, Michael suggests that he and Gretchen get back together. As they negotiate terms back and forth, they decide on an eight-month trial marriage with an additional four-month option, plus an option to cancel the relationship after a year. Gretchen announces she is ready to go to City Hall and apply for a marriage license. As she teases Michael that the offer will expire in thirty seconds, he runs to her. They hug and kiss. Months later, the actors return to Sayville for the movie premiere. Michael and a very pregnant Gretchen appear radiant as they also attend the event. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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