powered by AFI
After her boyfriend, Jim Owens, announces that he has gotten a raise and is now ready to marry, Ann Walton, a bookkeeper at a Capital City factory, eagerly accepts his proposal. Although Ann's father, a high school teacher, feels that she is too young to marry, he nonetheless gives the happy couple his blessing. The next evening, Ann is the last one to leave the office and quickly becomes aware that a man is following her. The man, who works at the company's lunch stand, chases Ann into a truck parking lot and corners her. Terrified, Ann slips on some steps, hitting her head, and is unable to defend herself against her pursuer's subsequent assault. Later, when a shocked and bruised Ann returns home, her outraged parents notify the police, who immediately question Ann about the rape. Ann cannot remember anything about the attack, however, except that the man had a scar on his neck and wore a leather jacket. Though fearful, Ann soon returns to work and is treated with a mixture of compassion and curiosity that she finds unnerving. Ann is then asked to observe a police line-up, but cannot identify anyone. When a confused but supportive Jim tells Ann that he still loves her and wants to marry her right away, she announces that she will never marry as she now "feels dirty." Unable to go on with her life in Capital City, Ann leaves home without a word and boards a bus for Los Angeles. While at a rest stop in northern California, Ann hears a radio report about her disappearance, and fearing she will be recognized, takes off on foot. After walking for miles, Ann sprains her ankle and collapses on the side of the road, exhausted. Seeing her there, a passing stranger, Dr. Bruce Ferguson, stops to help and takes her to the nearby Harrison orange ranch. Ann is at first frightened of Bruce, but soon realizes that he and Tom Harrison and his wife are caring people. Later, Ann, who now calls herself Ann Blake, learns that Tom's Santa Paula orange packing plant is shorthanded and volunteers to work there as a packer. When Bruce stops by the plant to check up on her, Ann avoids answering his questions, especially after she learns that he is a minister. Though curious about Ann, Bruce respects her silences and arranges for her to work as Tom's bookkeeper. One day, Bruce talks Ann into going with him to his "peaceful" spot, which overlooks the Santa Paula valley. Ann is awed by the beauty of the place and listens thoughtfully as Bruce tells her about his difficult wartime experiences and his subsequent loss of faith. Although Bruce reassures her that, just as he rediscovered his faith, so will she, Ann is still unable to talk about the rape. Later, Sheriff Charlie Hanlon stops by the plant and, in front of Ann, asks Tom if he has recently hired any new workers. Sure that the sheriff is after her, Ann runs off, but later shows up at Bruce's house. Bruce, who is falling in love with Ann, reassures her that the sheriff was not looking for her and advises her to stop running. Bruce then invites Ann to the upcoming harvest dance, and though nervous, she attends. When plant worker Frank Marini flirts forcefully with her and tries to kiss her, however, Ann panics and hits him over the head with a heavy wrench. Terrified and confused, Ann flees the dance and is later found by Bruce. Ann is arrested, and Bruce finally learns about the rape from the sheriff. After talking with the still-delusional Ann in her jail cell, Bruce is convinced of her essential innocence. Later, in Judge McKenzie's chambers, Bruce produces an affidavit from Frank absolving Ann of blame, and pleads with prosecuting attorney Porter to dismiss the charges against her. Although Porter reluctantly agrees, McKenzie insists that Ann be examined by a psychiatrist. Once satisfied that Ann is not a threat to society, the judge officially drops the charges, but orders that Ann receive psychiatric treatment for one year. Later, Bruce tells Ann that he has spoken with her parents and advises her to return to them and to the still-faithful Jim. Ann is at first frightened at the prospect of returning but, inspired by Bruce's faith and selflessness, agrees to go. As a grateful Ann boards an east-bound bus, Bruce wishes her well, then looks heavenward for solace.