powered by AFI
After the end of World War II, soldiers Ted Riley, Doug Hallerton and Angie Valentine return to their favorite neighborhood bar in New York. The bartender, Tim, gives Ted a letter from his girl friend informing him that she has married someone else. In a dark mood, Ted and his friends visit every bar in town, then grow sentimental when they realize that as civilians, they will have to part ways. Vowing that they will always remain friends, the three men make a pact to meet in Tim's bar in exactly ten years. As the years pass, Doug pursues his painting and Angie studies cooking, then each man marries and settles into regular work. Ted, however, abandons his plans for law school and spends the years amusing himself with gambling and women. When the anniversary date comes around, Ted is working as a fight manager, having won a boxer, Kid Mariacchi, in a crap game. At the appointed time, Doug enters the bar and is pleased to see the painting he gave Tim ten years ago hanging on the wall. Doug calls his wife from a pay phone, hoping to talk her out of divorcing him, and does not understand when she tells him that he has changed. Angie comes in, followed by Ted, and the three men have an awkward reunion. Doug is now a successful advertising executive in Chicago who takes pills for a host of digestive ailments, and Angie is a family man with a roadside diner in Schenecdaty. Doug insists on treating the others to lunch in a fancy club, but they are unable to regain their old camaraderie. They are about to part ways when Doug encounters Mr. Fielding, an executive with the ad agency's New York office, and Jackie Leighton, the program coordinator for the agency's biggest television show, Midnight with Madeline . Fielding invites Doug and his friends to attend a rehearsal of the show, and they reluctantly agree. Instantly attracted to the striking Jackie, Ted contrives to be alone with her in a cab, but Jackie is an independent career woman accustomed to using her formidable intelligence to repel unwanted advances from men. Ted says goodbye to Jackie outside the Fontainbleu nightclub, where the show is filmed, urging her to come by the boxing gym later. Rehearsal gets underway, and temperamental star Madeline Bradville threatens to walk out unless Jackie finds her a better subject for the show's "surprise guest" segment than a Bronx candy store owner who has constructed a model of the Taj Mahal out of chewing gum wrappers. As Madeline compulsively devours sandwiches, Jackie comes up with the idea to feature the three war buddies on Madeline's show, without informing them in advance. Jackie goes to the gym, and misleads Ted into thinking that she is researching the world of boxing, then cheerfully announces herself as his date for the evening. While Jackie darts into a phone booth to make arrangements for the show, Ted talks with punch-drunk boxer Rocky Heldon, who is scheduled to fight Kid Mariacchi that evening. Rocky blurts out that he and racketeer Charles Z. Culloran have arranged for Kid Mariacchi to throw the fight. Ted grows morose thinking about his estranged friends and failure to live up to his youthful potential, and he and Jackie begin to open up to each other. Meanwhile, at a pre-broadcast reception for the ad executives, Doug drinks heavily and becomes abrasive as he confronts his disgust with who he has become. Back at the gym, Ted encounters Culloran, and before the fight begins, he and Jackie go into the dressing room and knock Kid Mariacchi unconscious. Although Jackie fears for Ted's safety, he is happy to feel good about himself again, and they kiss. While waiting for Jackie in the lobby of her apartment, Ted sees several thugs approaching and flees, taking refuge in a local roller rink. Still wearing the roller skates, Ted heads for the Fontainbleu, reveling in his love for Jackie and his rediscovered self-respect. Later, Ted, Angie and Doug show up separately to watch the broadcast, still unaware that they are to be the featured entertainment. As the show progresses, the three old friends are shocked to find themselves brought on stage amid great fanfare. The segment does not go as planned, however, when the men cannot share Madeline's phony glee at the situation. After Doug apologizes to his wife on the air and Angie proudly refuses the gifts from the sponsors, Ted describes himself candidly as a "bum and a small-time operator." Ted then sadly admits that the reunion was a failure, and tells his friends that he hopes to win back their respect. He then walks off the show, followed by Doug and Angie, just as Culloran and his thugs enter the club. From the control booth, Jackie orders the house cameras trained on Culloran, and the racketeer unknowingly admits to fixing the fight on live television. When Culloran realizes what has happened, he slugs Ted, and a huge brawl erupts, recorded by the television cameras. The three old war buddies battle Culloran's men until the police arrive, then march exultantly into Tim's bar, where Doug calls his wife and reconciles with her. The men are happily reminiscing when Jackie walks in and kisses Ted. As Tim closes up, the men drink one last toast to friendship.