powered by AFI
Nine-year-old Tommy Woodry enjoys spinning tales for his parents, Mary and Ed, and the other children in his New York tenement neighborhood. When Mary and Ed discover that Tommy has bragged to their unsuspecting landlord that they will be moving to Texas soon, however, Tommy is scolded and sent to bed. Unable to sleep because of the oppressive summer heat, Tommy takes his pillow to the fire escape landing on the top floor of his building and falls asleep outside Joe and Jean Kellersons' apartment. During the night, Tommy wakes and, noticing a light in the Kellersons' living room, peeks under their half-drawn window shade. Tommy sees Joe rifling through the pants pocket of an unconscious sailor, who suddenly wakes and starts a fight. After Joe stabs the seaman with a pair of scissors, killing him, Tommy rushes back home to tell his mother what he has witnessed. Mary assures Tommy that he has had a nightmare, and the confused boy returns to his bed. A few minutes later, however, Tommy realizes that he left his pillow on the fire escape and sneaks out to retrieve it, unaware that the Kellersons are depositing the sailor's corpse in the deserted tenement next door. The next morning, after his father, who works the night shift, returns home, Tommy repeats his story. Although Ed admonishes his son to stop making up vicious tales and Mary orders him to stay in his room, Tommy sneaks out of the apartment and goes to the nearest police station. There he tells two police detectives about the murder. One of the detectives, Ross, reluctantly agrees to check out Tommy's story, but insists on first speaking with Mary. An embarrassed Mary assures Ross that Tommy has concocted the tale, but the detective nevertheless decides to inspect the Kellersons' home. Posing as a repair estimator, Ross surveys the rundown apartment, but finds nothing unusual. After Ross leaves, Mary drags Tommy upstairs to apologize to Jane. When Mary orders Tommy to tell Jane exactly what he has been saying about her and Joe, a terrified Tommy refuses to speak. That evening, Mary receives a telegram from her brother-in-law Charlie, informing her that her sickly sister has taken a turn for the worse and needs her. Convinced that the Kellersons sent the telegram in order to get him alone, Tommy begs his mother to take him to his uncle's. To calm Tommy, Ed suggests that they call Charlie from the local drugstore. Although Charlie reassures Tommy that he did, in fact, send the telegram, the boy is still afraid, and after his parents depart, he prepares to run away from home. Tommy writes a goodbye note and is headed out the door when Ed unexpectedly returns. Ed scolds his son for trying to sneak off, then locks him in his bedroom. As soon as Ed leaves, Joe breaks into the Woodrys' apartment. When confronted by Joe, Tommy blurts out everything he knows and is forced into an alley by his now-desperate neighbors. Tommy escapes from the alley, but the Kellersons eventually corner him at a subway station and force him into a taxi. On the way home, Tommy screams at a passing policeman, but the Kellersons easily convince the officer that Tommy is their naughty son. When Tommy continues to protest in the taxi, Joe knocks him out with a single punch, and later places the unconscious boy on the tenement's fire escape railing. Jane protests the cold-blooded murder, however, and inadvertently distracts Joe long enough for the now-revived Tommy to flee. While Ed returns home once more and discovers Tommy missing, Joe pursues the boy across the rooftops and into the condemned tenement. There Tommy stumbles upon the sailor's body in a top-floor closet and screams, giving away his hiding place. As Joe chases Tommy onto an exposed rafter, the building starts to collapse, and Joe falls to his death. The police then persuade the dangling Tommy to jump into a fire net, and the boy is happily reunited with his parents. Later, Ed promises his son that he will never again doubt his stories, while Tommy vows to his parents that he will never invent another story.