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Johnny Rocco

Johnny Rocco(1958)

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Underworld criminal Tony Rocco and his associate Mooney drive back to California from Tijuana with a cargo of illegal goods for mob boss Gordon Lane. Innocent of his father's dealings, young Johnny Rocco is chatting exuberantly about attending his first bullfight when a traffic policeman begins pursuing the car. Tony prepares to pull over but Mooney orders him to continue driving, depressing the accelerator with his own foot, only to then slam on the brakes when the policeman catches up. The motorcycle policeman crashes headlong into the car and is killed. Johnny is horrified and although barely able to speak, accuses his father of murder. Meanwhile, Mooney hides the illicit cargo and destroys evidence of the "accident." Later, at home, Tony is disturbed that Johnny remains so distraught by the policeman's death that he continues to stammer when speaking. Tony assures his son that Mooney was to blame and makes Johnny promise that should he ever be questioned, he is to claim that he was on a camping trip with his father. After the police find the remains of the burnt car, homicide Lt. Fred Garron visits Lane to inquire if he has knowledge of the policeman's death. Garron reveals that there was a toy in the car's remains with fingerprints that appear to be that of a woman, but Lane insists that he knows nothing. After Garron departs, Lane summons Mooney and Tony to demand an explanation. Tony realizes the fingerprints are Johnny's, but assures Lane that his son will never reveal information on the killing. In private, Mooney expresses concern over Johnny's involvement and Lane approves putting the boy under surveillance. The following day at school, Johnny's distracted behavior worries his teacher, Lois Mayfield. When a classmate teases Johnny about his newly acquired stammer, a brawl breaks out and Lois takes Johnny to Principal Farrington's office. Johnny overhears Farrington argue that he is a constant nuisance, but Lois defends Johnny, pleading not to expel him. Frightened, Johnny runs away, only to discover Mooney watching the school from his car. Johnny outruns Mooney, racing into a nearby Catholic Church where he meets Father Regen. The priest offers to help Johnny, who admits that he may be expelled from school for fighting. Father Regen promises to speak with Lois, then assures Johnny that he may visit whenever he likes. After school, Lois visits Tony, but when he becomes defensive, Lois insists that she only wishes to help. Tony apologizes for his suspicions and asks Lois to continue assisting his son. Mooney arrives later and advises Tony of Johnny's visit to Father Regen. When Johnny returns home, Tony insists that he not see Father Regen again, then presents his son with a crucifix worn by Johnny's mother before her death. In school the next day, when Lois notices Johnny's fine singing voice, she offers to arrange an audition for him with a choir. Later, Garron meets with Lois to inform her of Tony's gangster affiliations and request her help in learning Johnny's whereabouts the previous weekend. Distressed, Lois nevertheless agrees to introduce Garron to Johnny as her friend. Garron drives Lois and Johnny to the singing audition, but Johnny haltingly admits only to a recent camping trip with his father. At the church, Johnny protests over performing, but Lois convinces him to try. After Johnny sings with the choir, Father Regen asks him to join them in a formal rehearsal the following evening. Informed of the tryout by Mooney, Tony angrily interrupts the performance. Upset, Johnny bolts and Garron then confronts Tony about the murder, insisting that if Johnny is a witness, the mob will be after him. At his apartment, Tony receives a call from Lane suggesting that Tony take Johnny out of the country for a short while. Tony apologizes to Johnny for breaking up the rehearsal, then reveals that he may turn himself in to the police. Johnny is concerned, but pleased when Tony agrees to come to the choir rehearsal the following night. The next evening, Mooney and partner Dino search for Johnny and learn of the choir rehearsal. At the church, Tony proudly watches Johnny sing, then gives Lois an envelope for Father Regen and asks her to take Johnny to her apartment afterward. While Lois takes Johnny home, Father Regen discovers a large amount of cash in the envelope with a note from Tony asking him to look after Johnny. Tony confronts Mooney and Dino outside of the church, leading them back to his apartment. Garron meets Lois at her apartment, insisting that he needs a copy of Johnny's fingerprints to prove that he was a witness of the policeman's murder. When Garron shows Johnny the toy recovered from the car, the boy realizes Garron is a policeman and blurts out that his father is innocent and Mooney is to blame, then runs home. Garron summons the police and he and Lois follow Johnny. Meanwhile, Tony informs Mooney and Dino that he intends to turn himself in, but will not implicate them. When Johnny bursts in and declares that he has informed on Mooney, Tony pulls a gun on the others and then telephones the police. Garron and Lois' arrival prompts Dino to attempt to escape and in the subsequent shootout, Dino is killed and Mooney and Tony are wounded. While Garron telephones an ambulance, the wounded Tony embraces Johnny, and when he realizes his son's stammer has disappeared, he vows to recover.