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Henry Aldrich's Little Secret

Henry Aldrich's Little Secret(1944)


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Centerville teenager Henry Aldrich owes money to a jewelry shop for a friendship ring he bought for his girl friend, Jennifer Dale, who moved away just after he gave the ring to her. As a way of earning money, Henry and his best friend, Dizzy Stevens, who lives across the street from Henry, have formed the Excelsior Baby Minding Agency, and are employing girls from their high school to work as babysitters. When the girls temporarily strike because Henry wants to increase his commission, Henry reports as a babysitter to Mrs. Helen Martin, and takes care of her ten-month-old child Ricky. Henry later learns that Helen had gone to his home to beseech his father, lawyer Sam Aldrich, who heads the Child Welfare Board, not to take her baby away. Helen explains to Henry that her husband was wrongly convicted of a crime, and that although she was not implicated, the welfare board has declared her an unfit mother because her husband is in jail. The next morning at breakfast, Henry's mother Alice tells Sam that she will leave him if he takes Helen's child from her. Fearing his family will fall apart, Henry goes to see Helen, and when she reveals that there is someone in Oregon who could clear her husband, he offers to take care of Ricky while she goes to see that person. Desperate to save her son, Helen agrees and leaves town. The welfare board castigates Sam after he threatens to resign if they take Helen's baby, and then the matron reports Helen's and the baby's disappearance. Henry, meanwhile, has taken Ricky to Dizzy's house while Dizzy's parents are away, and the two boys care for the infant. When Jennifer returns to town, Henry makes a date with her, hoping to get the ring back, even though it means he will have to stand up his current girl friend, Elise Towers. Dizzy's suspicious aunt Maude makes a surprise visit after hearing that Dizzy has not been attending school, and Henry is forced to take Ricky to the nightclub where he is meeting Jennifer. Jennifer, a pretentious city sophisticate, is outraged that Henry would bring a child on their date and orders the most expensive food on the menu. While they are dancing, reporters take a photograph of Ricky holding a champagne glass and the picture makes the front page of the local newspaper. The welfare board recognizes the photograph of Ricky, and a police dragnet is called out to search for the child. Although Maude leaves, Dizzy's parents return home early, and Henry is forced to hide the child in his attic. That night, Sam and Alice invite the welfare board to their house for bridge, and when board member Mrs. Bradley starts to sing from Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyrie," Ricky starts to cry. Dizzy, meanwhile, is followed by police to the Aldriches' after he purchases baby food in a cross-town grocery store. The police arrive and find Henry sheltering the child, who is then taken by the welfare board. During a court trial, Henry is allowed to represent Ricky as his mother has not returned, and Sam acts as the prosecution in hopes of clearing his name. Henry has cleverly used information in his father's law books for the trial, and when Sam insists that a more impartial judge be appointed, Henry starts a filibuster to stall for time. Henry fatigues near the end of the day, and is grateful when Helen arrives with the deposition of a man who admits that perjured evidence was used in her husband's trial. As the evidence presented proves that Helen's husband is innocent, the judge concedes that Helen is not the wife of a convicted criminal and therefore is a fit mother. The case is dismissed, Helen's husband will be released, and the Aldriches are exonerated. On the steps of the courthouse, however, Henry is presented with a bill from the nightclub.