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A wealthy businessman sets out to find his long-lost illegitimate son.
At his steel company in Detroit, tycoon Steve Bradford informs his board that he will be away indefinitely on personal business. On the plane to the small town of Bufton, where he grew up, Steve notes the despair of a college football player who has just lost the big game, and urges him to remember his wins rather than what he has lost. At the Bufton orphanage, called The Haven, Steve reveals to proprietress Ann Dempster that he is searching for the son he abandoned as an infant twenty years earlier. When Ann questions why he wants to know his son after all this time, Steve confesses that he has everything in life¿success, money, prestige¿but still feels empty, and wants to make up for his past mistakes. Ann explains that adoption law precludes her from giving away the young man's information, after which Steve informs her that he always gets what he wants. They are interrupted when a couple comes to pick up their adoptive baby, the sight of which causes pregnant teenager Suzie Keller to burst into tears. Suzie is staying with Ann until the birth of her child, but cannot bear the thought of giving up the baby. Feeling a kinship with the confused youth, Steve consoles her, and later invites Ann to dinner, hoping to befriend her. Although Ann consents to Steve joining her and Suzie for dinner at their apartment, she is called away before he arrives. Suzie cooks for Steve and informs him that after her boyfriend was drafted, she had to leave town in order to avoid disgracing her parents, who are wealthy socialites. When Ann returns later, Steve serves her dinner, and Ann counsels Steve that, because his son already has a life and parents he loves, Steve's intrusion into their lives could be cruel. Although Steve tries to tempt her into giving him information by offering to donate a much-needed new dormitory for the orphanage, Ann refuses. The next day, Steve visits local lawyer Leland G. Spottsford to consult about his rights regarding his son, but upon finding the lawyer a fatuous braggart, orders expert attorney James Rayburn to come to Bufton to help him. While awaiting Jim's arrival, Steve attends the local court, having learned from Ann that Suzie's juvenile court hearing will take place that afternoon. In court, he hears the truth about Suzie's situation: her father disappeared when she was born, her mother is dead and the baby's father is falsely denying his paternity. The court allows Suzie to remain with Ann until the birth of the baby, as long as she promises to place it up for adoption. Later, Steve tracks down his son's mother, Emily, by contacting her high school alumni association, and upon learning that she lives in New Hampshire, flies there to speak to her. At her family store, however, he discovers that Emily died years earlier. Although Steve tries to charm information out of Martha, Emily's sister, Martha knows who he is and coldly notifies him that he should "leave well enough alone." Back in Bufton, he finds Jim, who informs him that with enough time and money, he can find a loophole in the adoption laws. Later, Steve runs into Suzie while she is Christmas shopping, and walks her home. There, Suzie conspires with Steve to urge Ann to go out with him, and he accompanies her to a department store, where he buys expensive earrings for Suzie, then pretends they are trinkets. Back at the apartment, Steve and Ann begin to forge a friendship while discussing Ann's devotion to her job. Ann is advising Steve to think of his son rather than himself when Jim calls to inform Ann that she has been subpoenaed for fraud, and she angrily throws Steve out. The trial soon starts, in which Ann is accused of deceiving Steve by placing his son up for adoption without his consent. Although Steve knows the charge is false and that the ensuing publicity about his past actions will ruin his reputation, he believes the trial is his only chance to gain access to his son. As Ann steadfastly refuses to hand over documents, however, placing her in danger of being in contempt of court, Steve grows more miserable. On the witness stand, Ann explains that if Steve is allowed to wreck his son's peace, adoptive parents and children everywhere will fear the same could happen to them. She asks for a continuance, and when she returns, reads from the stand a statement Steve made to child welfare services twenty years earlier, in which he denied paternity of Emily's child. Steve recognizes the same words used by Suzie's boyfriend, and is shamed into silence. After the judge dismisses the case, Ann informs Steve that Suzie has been hit by a car and is refusing a necessary operation for fear that it will harm her baby. Steve rushes to the hospital, where he confesses to the girl that he cannot afford to lose her because he is too lonely, and convinces her to have the operation. He waits all night until the doctor assures him that both Suzie and her newly born son are healthy. Exhausted, Steve walks to a nearby bowling alley to relieve the tension. He is followed by a young man who begins playing alongside him, then reveals that he is Steve's son, Mark Nelson, and has followed the press coverage of the trial. They try talking at the hotel bar, but the noise level drives them out onto the street, where Steve tries to explain his desire to make up for wronging Mark and his longing to meet him. After describing his beloved adoptive father and admitting that he has followed Steve's career through the newspapers throughout his life, Mark states that although he planned to tell Steve he despised him, now that he has met him, his anger is fading. Mark tells his father, "I missed you, too," and refuses Steve's offer of help, stating that all he ever needed was this meeting. Steve, knowing Ann must have contacted Mark, goes to The Haven to thank her. After he insists on donating a huge sum of money to the orphanage, Ann gently suggests that he could help Suzie, too. Within weeks, Steve readies to return to Detroit, alongside his new adoptive daughter and grandson, Stevie.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||not available|
|Release Date:||1956||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Loew's Inc.|
|Sound:||Mono, Mono (Westrex Recording System)||Production Co:||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.|
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User Ratings & Review
Overall Good Movie & Great Acting
The storyline was great about unwed parents who decide to give up the baby for adoption 20 years ago and now the father wanting to reunite with the son he...
WHEN WE CAN'T HAVE WHAT WE REALLY WANT!
Raymond Banacki 2015-09-23
"These Wilder Years" is a deeply affecting story of a self-made multi-millionaire who realizes that he has made a terrible mistake in his life...
Comment on some previous comments
George Ulrich 2012-12-28
"These Wilder Years" was never a wide-screen movie. There is no pan-and-scan.