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The Company She Keeps

The Company She Keeps(1951)

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Remind Me

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The moment she learns that she has been paroled from the State Institute for Women, model prisoner Mildred Lynch, who has served two years for check forging, changes her name to Diane Stuart and heads for Los Angeles. Upon arriving, her parole officer, Joan Willburn, escorts her to her new boardinghouse and tells her that she will be working at a local hospital. Diane, who has struggled to overcome a difficult childhood as well as a drinking problem, acts bitterly toward the soft-spoken Joan, but agrees to go out with her that night. While they are dining, Joan notices her boyfriend, reporter Larry Collins, in the restaurant bar and leaves the table to talk to him. After Joan gently turns down Larry's marriage proposal because of the demanding nature of her job, she invites Larry to meet Diane. Before Larry even catches sight of Diane, however, she bolts. When Diane later explains to Joan her fear that people like Larry will label and reject her, Joan advises her not to think like an ex-convict, then informs her that, as a precaution, she has been assigned the hospital's night shift. Though disappointed, Diane dutifully reports to work and there meets fellow parolee Tilly Thompson. While on duty one night, Diane spies Larry visiting his sick boss and connives to meet him. Larry sees through her coy act and snubs her, but the determined Diane soon persuades him to take her out. Diane then asks the unsuspecting Joan for money to buy a new coat, but Joan is unable to accommodate her. Frustrated, Diane considers stealing a coat from a clothing store but stops herself at the last moment. When she returns to her boardinghouse, she finds that Joan has sent her own evening coat for Diane to borrow. Diane's date with Larry does not go well, and Diane, who has not told Larry anything about her past, becomes agitated when he innocently questions her about a purse and some money that has dropped out of her coat pocket. As they are saying goodnight, however, Diane breaks down in tears and apologizes to Larry for trying to manipulate him. Despite this inauspicious start, Larry begins to see Diane in earnest, and the two fall deeply in love. Joan senses that Larry has become interested in someone else, but does not discover the other woman is Diane until she sees her sharing cocktails with Larry at the airport, where he is waiting for a plane. Hurt and concerned, Joan later lectures Diane about becoming involved with a man whose life-style is beyond her means. Adding that Diane has already violated her parole by drinking, Joan then strongly advises her to stop seeing Larry. Soon after, however, Larry telephones Diane at the hospital and asks her to fly to New York to be with him. Without explaining why, Diane tearfully informs him that she cannot leave and hangs up. Undaunted, Larry shows up at Diane's boardinghouse the next day, and Diane gives in to her feelings. When Diane next reports to Joan's office, she breaks down and tells her rival that Larry has proposed. Sensing that Diane truly is in love, Joan bravely endorses the marriage, but reminds her charge that, as a parolee, her plans must first be approved by the parole board, which would contact Larry as a matter of course. Terrified of telling Larry the truth about her past, Diane decides not to file her petition and leaves Joan's office. Soon after, Larry arrives to make a final break with Joan and finally learns about her relationship with Diane. Though surprised, Larry remains devoted to Diane and convinces her to file her petition. At the board meeting, one of the members shows Joan a letter written by Diane, in which Diane reveals Joan's prior romance with Larry and her possible prejudice in the case. Joan is hurt by Diane's lack of trust but continues to champion her in front of the board. After the board decides to postpone making any decisions, Diane accuses Joan of sabotaging the marriage. Then while trying to protect Tilly, who has been stealing drugs from the hospital, Diane is arrested. Aware that Diane will be forced to return to prison because of the arrest, Joan pleads with the judge to be lenient. While awaiting the judge's decision, Diane sneaks away from the courthouse but is followed to the train station by Larry. There, Larry convinces her not to run away, and when Diane returns to the court, she learns that, because of Joan's belief in her, the judge has dismissed the charges against her. Joan then gives Diane and Larry her final blessing, and the couple looks forward to a happy future together.