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In Beverly Hills, California, sixteen-year-old high-school student Harold J. Ditmar, son of Hollywood producer Thomas Ditmar, heads for home in his beat-up jalopy. There, Hal asks his mother Helen to help covince Thomas to lend him his sleek convertible. After Helen sends him directly to his father, Thomas mildly reproaches the boy for wanting more than he already has. That night, Hal goes to the movies with his friend, Jerry Doyle, and sits behind a man whose date firmly discourages his attentions. Upon noticing Hal's feet propped up near the back of his chair, the man commands Hal to sit up straight, provoking rude remarks from the teenager. After a few exchanges, the man summons the theater manager, Mr. Grubbs, who orders Hal and Jerry to leave. In the lobby, Grubbs calls the boys into his office, but Hal refuses to go, stating that he will leave, as he was originally told to do. Hal walks out the front door but there is grabbed by the doorman, who shoves him into the lobby, and after Grubbs also grabs him, Hal punches the manager. He is arrested by Sgt. Shipley, who will not listen to Hal's claim that he hit Grubbs only in self-defense. Realizing that the officer considers him a common delinquent, a frustrated Hal lashes out with sarcasm, causing more problems for himself. When he hears that his father has been called to the police station, however, Hal grows frightened and pleads with Shipley to release him. Thomas arrives, and although he glares at Hal, in a private conversation with Shipley he defends his son's actions as a boyish lapse. A cynical Shipley disagrees, insinuating that Hal is a hooligan who, regardless of his privileged background, is in danger of becoming a criminal if he is not disciplined correctly. At home, Hal tries to explain his version of the story to his father, but Thomas will not listen and chastises him harshly. Hal reverts to sullenness, softening slightly after Helen assures him that his father will be less angry in the morning. The next day, Helen drives Hal to pick up his car outside the movie theater, and when she offers to follow him home in case the car engine fails, he assumes she distrusts him and races through a stoplight to evade her. At home, a contrite Hal admits that he desperately wants Thomas, who seems to notice him only when he has done something wrong, to believe him, prompting Helen to reveal tearfully that Thomas once called Hal the only person in the world he loved. That night, Thomas cheerfully fixes himself a cocktail, ignoring Helen's request to have a serious discussion about Hal. Although Thomas has secretly arranged with the owner of the theater chain for the charges against Hal to be dropped, he refuses to tell Hal in order to disconcert the boy, and later will not answer Hal's questions about what lies in store for him at the police station the next day. Infuriated, Hal yells at Thomas, who tells him to shut up. Later, Helen interrupts Thomas' late-night work to ask him if he wants a divorce, and after he assures her that he loves her, she tells him she needs more than just words. Because Thomas is too busy to take Hal to the police station the next day, Helen brings him, and when Shipley asks Hal to apologize to Grubbs, Hal refuses. Grubbs, however, has been instructed by his boss to drop the charges, so Shipley is forced to let Hal leave. Later, Hal visits Jerry, who has been ordered by his father to stay away from Hal, and the two roughhouse happily until Mr. Doyle throws out Hal, humiliating him. At dinner, Thomas reveals that he heard about Hal's rude behavior in the police station, and pronounces several new punishments. After his father lectures him, Hal explodes that he is glad he finally knows what his father thinks of him, adding that he should not expect his father to believe him, as they are virtually strangers. Later, Hal sneaks out, passing his parents sitting silently in separate rooms. Not knowing he is gone, Thomas approaches Helen, who reveals that Hal does not know that his father loves him, prompting a shaken Thomas to admit that he does not know how to talk to his son. Meanwhile, Hal goes to Grubbs's office and apologizes for their earlier scuffle. He then asks the manager to call Thomas and explain that Hal hit him only in self-defense, but Grubbs orders Hal from his office. Hal remains polite, but after Grubbs grabs him, he punches the man again. Back in the police station, a subdued Hal explains the story to Shipley, who is persuaded by Hal's calm insistence. Shipley calls in Grubbs and Thomas, and this time badgers Grubbs until the manager admits that he provoked Hal into punching him. After throwing out Grubbs, Shipley asks Thomas why he did not believe Hal, and Thomas responds that he did not realize it was so important to the boy. Thomas then informs Hal that Grubbs confessed, but when his father does not apologize, Hal stomps outside. There, Thomas gently teases the boy about his strong right hook, and recognizing the love in his father's voice, Hal laughs with him.