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Liberty Heights (1999)

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Anti-Semitism, race relations, coming of age, and fathers and sons: in Baltimore from fall, 1954, to fall, 1955. Racial integration comes to the high school, TV is killing burlesque, and ... See full summary »

Director:

Barry Levinson

Writer:

Barry Levinson
2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Adrien Brody ... Van Kurtzman
Ben Foster ... Ben Kurtzman
Orlando Jones ... Little Melvin
Bebe Neuwirth ... Ada Kurtzman
Joe Mantegna ... Nate Kurtzman
Rebekah Johnson ... Sylvia
David Krumholtz ... Yussel
Richard Kline ... Charlie, Nate's Assistant
Vincent Guastaferro ... Pete, Nate's Assistant
Justin Chambers ... Trey Tobelseted
Carolyn Murphy ... Dubbie the Blonde
James Pickens Jr. ... Sylvia's Father
Frania Rubinek Frania Rubinek ... Grandma Rose
Anthony Anderson ... Scribbles
Kiersten Warren ... Annie the Stripper
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Storyline

Anti-Semitism, race relations, coming of age, and fathers and sons: in Baltimore from fall, 1954, to fall, 1955. Racial integration comes to the high school, TV is killing burlesque, and rock and roll is pushing the Four Lads off the Hit Parade. Ben, a high school senior, and his older brother Van are exploring "the other": in Ben's case, it's friendship with Sylvia, a Black student; with Van, it's a party in the WASP part of town and falling for a debutante, Dubbie. Sylvia gives Ben tickets to a James Brown concert; Dubbie invites Van to a motel: new worlds open. Meanwhile, their dad Nate, who runs a numbers game, loses big to a small-time pusher, Little Melvin; a partnership ensues. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

You're only young once, but you remember forever.

Genres:

Drama | Music | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for crude language and sex-related material | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Warner Bros

Country:

USA

Language:

English | German | Yiddish

Release Date:

31 December 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Dometi slobode See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$95,247, 21 November 1999

Gross USA:

$3,736,868

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$3,736,868
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to 'Barry Levinson', this film came out of a derogatory comment about Dustin Hoffman's character in Sphere (1998). The critic's comment got Levinson thinking about his experiences growing up in Baltimore, and Liberty Heights was born. See more »

Goofs

When the street car pulls up to the school it is on the street but when Ben gets on it we see that the street car is in the woods. See more »

Quotes

Ben Kurtzman: By the way, where's the jawbone of the ass?
Ada Kurtzman: What?
Ben Kurtzman: The jawbone of the ass, where is it?
Grandma Rose: Is he crazy? What kind of talk is this?
Van Kurtzman: [walks in] Your ass does not have a jawbone.
Ben Kurtzman: Well, Samson slew the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass!
Ada Kurtzman: Not your ass, an animal!
Ben Kurtzman: [shocked] There's an animal called an "ass"?
Grandma Rose: [frowning] Such a mouth...
Ben Kurtzman: Look, I loved 'Samson and Delilah'. I hope they bring that movie back.
[...]
See more »

Alternate Versions

DVD release has a "music-only" version of the film with no dialogue and only music and score. See more »

Connections

References Samson and Delilah (1949) See more »

Soundtracks

Belz (Mein Shtelele Belz)
Written by Aleksandr Olshanetsky (as Alex Olshanetsky) & Jacob Jacobs
Performed by Mandy Patinkin
Courtesy of Nonesuch Records
By Arrangement with Warner Special Products
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
A quiet, poetic coda to the Baltimore saga
29 August 2001 | by guiricinefiloSee all my reviews

While hardly the gems that are Diner, and especially Avalon, Levinson here offers another sweet meditation on his Baltimore roots. The love story between Ben and Sylvia is especially moving to every white boy who ever fell in love with a black girl before it was acceptable, and most of the credit goes to the enchanting Rebekah Johnson. Older brother Van's travels in WASPland are more cliche-ridden, though one must salute the acting of Adrien Brody and his friend Trey, who actually make their unlikely friendship believable. Trey's deb girlfriend is pure cardboard. The real standouts here are Joe Mantegna and Orlando Jones going toe-to-toe in dangerously caricaturish territory. Both manage to pull it off. One anachronistic comment- Scribbles calls one of Nick's men the Pillsbury Jewboy--far as I know that advertising icon didn't appear till 10 years after the film's 1954-55 setting. Again, no one will call this film a classic, but seen as part of a 4 film whole (Tin Men is more the aberration than Liberty Heights) it stands proudly and pulls at these 40 year old heartstrings from a very similar North Bronx background.


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