While the original play was set in Manhattan, New York, the screenplay written for the 1972 film was set in an unknown location in San Francisco. The 1972 film was produced by M.J. Frankovich, released by Columbia Pictures, directed by Milton Katselas and adapted for the screen by Gershe. It was released on 6 July 1972 in the USA.
In the San Francisco of the 1970s, Don Baker (Edward Albert), who was born blind, has lived all his life with his mother (Eileen Heckart). When the Fletcher family moves near his home, he meets their daughter Linda Fletcher. Linda takes Don out to parties and fills him with confidence. She talks him into moving out of his mother’s house and having his own apartment. She even finds an apartment for him. She encourages Don to become a musician. But after Don moves into his new apartment, Linda meets a guy from a party and goes to live with him in Mexico.
Don finds himself all alone. He has made a contract that his mother will not come to see him for at least two months. One month has passed. This is when Jill Tanner (Goldie Hawn) moves in an apartment next door to Don. She listens to Don talking to his mother over the phone and turns on the radio. When Don asks her to turn the volume down, she invites herself over for a cup of coffee. They start talking and find each other friendly. Jill does not realize that Don is blind, until she sees him dropping his cigarette ash on the table.
Jill has never met a blind man before, so she asks all sorts of question about how Don manages everyday chores. She tells Don that her favorite quote is from Mark Twain: “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 corrects her that actually this is a quote from Bleak House by Charles Dickens. Don makes up a song and starts to sing Butterflies are free on his guitar. Jill takes Don out for shopping to find better-fitting clothes for an aspiring musician. They have dinner together and later spend the night together in Don’s bed.
In the morning Don’s mother, Mrs. Baker (Eileen Heckart), surprises Don with a visit. Mrs. Baker sees that Don has attached himself to Jill (they are in their underwear). She fears that Jill will break Don’s heart just like Linda did. She takes Jill out for a lunch and tries to talk her out of Don’s life. Jill has strong feelings for Don and tells Mrs. Baker that if there is someone who should get out of Don’s life, it is she. However, Jill herself has problems making a commitment, and when she starts to fall for Don, she begins to look for ways to end the growing relationship. She makes a dinner date with Don, but she appears over three hours late with another man, Ralph (Paul Michael Glaser). She announces that she is moving in with Ralph, who is director of a play in which she’ll be acting (in the nude). This breaks Don’s heart and he gets ready to go home with his mother. Mrs. Baker, who had been telling Don to come back home, makes an about-face and starts telling him not to come home and to face life’s challenges. Mrs. Baker leaves. Soon after, Jill departs. Don is shattered and trips over the sofa. Sitting on the floor, he puts his head down on the table in despair. This is when he hears someone opening the door of the apartment. Jill walks in and asks Don what he’s doing on the floor. Don says, “I was just about to have a picnic.” Jill asks, “Without me?” Don answers, “I didn’t know I had a choice.” The picture ends with the two embracing.