powered by AFI
In Southern California, eighteen-year-old Judy Graham has secretly married fellow high school student Jack Bayne, who is waiting for "the right psychological moment" to tell his wealthy parents about their elopement to Tijuana. When Jack, an amateur racecar driver, is killed during a competition, Judy is forced to grieve in secret. Her friends, unaware that she was in a relationship with Jack, think her sadness at his death is overdone and urge her to accompany them to a rock and roll dance event at a Hollywood diner. There she is noticed by a young disk jockey, Danny Fuller, but she faints and must leave early. Concerned for her health, her worldly friend, twenty-one-year-old Ava Norton, takes Judy to a doctor, where she learns she is pregnant. Fearing the reaction of her mother Lottie and her overbearing stepfather Harvey, Judy tries telling Jack's parents, but they refuse to believe that their son married her. Mr. Bayne, deceiving himself, brags that Jack had always planned to go to West Point and accuses her of having loose morals. To gain proof of the marriage, Judy and Ava go to Tijuana to get a copy of the license, but the clerk claims to have no record for the surname "Bayne." Frantic, Judy considers abortion, but when she and Ava meet with a sleazy doctor who tells her to think of the operation as removing a "blemish," Judy backs out. As she gains weight, the domineering Harvey guesses Judy's condition. Already resentful of bearing the cost of rearing a teenager, he calls her a "tramp." Fearing damage to his reputation as an insurance salesman, he sends Judy away to have the baby. The weak-willed Lottie, who suffers from vague, chronic health problems and Harvey's bullying, gives her daughter support and, claiming illness, does not attend Judy's childbirth. Judy, refusing to look at her newborn son, orders the infant to be taken away, contrary to the advice of the hospital manager, Mrs. Warren, who later confides that she never knew who her own parents were. Of her family and friends, only Ava helps Judy and invites her to share an apartment. She gets Judy a job as a waitress at the Hollywood diner, where Judy again meets Danny and begins to date him. Meanwhile, without Judy's knowledge, Lottie repents neglecting her daughter and decides, against Harvey's will, to take the baby. On a date with Danny, Judy meets Pete Bailey, a singer and trumpeter with whom Danny is pitching an idea for a record album. Although the flirtatious Pete behaves boorishly, Judy takes an interest in him, because she feels down-trodden and admires him as someone whom "no one pushes around." Danny is in love with Judy and goes to her apartment to warn her that Pete, a womanizer, is "bad news." While Danny is visiting, Lottie arrives with the baby, whom she introduces as "Butch," her adopted son. After Danny departs, Lottie tells Judy that she plans to leave Harvey and wants to make a home for Judy and Butch. Warming to the idea, Judy urges her to act immediately, but Lottie loses her resolve, saying that she must wait for the "right time." Having heard that line before, Judy doubts Lottie's sincerity. Later, at a party honoring of the "premiere" of his album, Pete gets Judy drunk. Danny arrives late, after a meeting in which he has been offered a job as television show host. For her own good, Danny tries to get her away from the lecherous Pete, but she stubbornly refuses to give him up, because she wants to be connected to someone important. Without being told Judy's story, Danny has guessed that Butch is her child, but assumes that the father deserted her. When he suggests that she is using Pete to get even with the child's father, Judy, offended that no one believes that she and Jack were in love, orders him away. She and Pete begin dating, but Judy refuses to grant him sexual favors, as she is holding out for marriage. When the Baynes find Jack and Judy's marriage license among his belongings, which erroneously states their surname as "Payne," they realize that Judy was telling the truth and their attitude toward her changes. The Baynes meet with Lottie and Harvey, and offer to take over the care of the child. Hoping that he can sell the Baynes insurance and a trust fund, Harvey behaves like a loving father. That a "piece of paper" has the power to change her elders' attitudes angers Judy and she bristles at their hypocrisy. Confronting them, she announces that she wants to rear the baby, but they accuse her of abandoning him. Only Lottie supports Judy and apologizes, hoping that she is not too late to help her. Soon after, Pete is offered a performing job in Las Vegas. Wanting Judy to accompany him, he pretends that he will marry her there. Ava, who is attracted to Danny, tells him about the marriage license. Although she believes Judy has made up the whole story to save face, Danny believes it and drives to Las Vegas to try to win her back. In Las Vegas, entertainment manager Harold "Eager" Beaver urges Pete to drop Judy, claiming that he cannot "sell" Pete to female audiences if the public knows that he is not available. At Eager's suggestion, Pete buys Judy an expensive car, but lets her believe that it is a wedding present. After drinking and romancing, Judy wakes up the next morning, believing it to be her wedding day, but Pete explains that he cannot marry her. Later, Eager thanks Judy for being a "good sport," explaining how Pete would lose his "appeal" if he marries. Realizing that she has been played the fool, Judy goes to her hotel room and drinks. Upon finding her there, disillusioned and without hope, Danny chases Pete around the hotel, beating him up for mistreating Judy. Upset, Judy races off to the desert in her new car, oblivious to everything around her. Haunted by memories, she drives on the wrong side of the road and crashes into an oncoming vehicle. Her car then overturns and catches fire. When Danny, who has followed, rescues her, she admits that she wanted to die. As Danny carries her away from the burning car, he says, "Everyone has a lot to make up to you."