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A newspaper editor takes on the cause of oppressed migrant workers.
In Santa Marta, California, Mexican-American fruit picker Paul Rodriguez dreams of owning a small farm, but his friend, Lopo Chavez, has become embittered by poverty and the prejudice he has faced since returning from World War II. One day while driving through town, Lopo accidentally runs a stop sign and has a minor accident with another car. The driver, Harry Pawling, and his passenger, Joe Ferguson, make a racial slur against Lopo, who responds with his fists. A policeman breaks up the fight and sends Harry and Joe home, and after fining Lopo for running the stop sign, helps him push his disabled car to the side of the road. Lopo then visits Sunny Garcia, whose father publishes the Spanish weekly newspaper La Luz , and makes sure she is going to the Good Fellowship dance that night. Paul, meanwhile, goes home to his shanty and tells his parents about the incident. When his father Juan warns him against spending time with "Americans," Paul protests that he is an American. At the same time, Joe is reprimanded by his wealthy father Ed, who regrets that his son has grown into a bigot. That night, The Union newspaper's new owner/editor, Larry Wilder, a former big city journalist known for his provocative exposés, meets Sunny while waiting in line at the dance. Larry acknowledges that he is there because he anticipates a brawl, but Sunny insists that the Mexican gangs have made peace. Joe, Harry and their friend, Frank O'Brien, show up at the dance, and when Joe starts to harass a young woman, Paul comes to her defense. Joe throws the first punch and a brawl erupts and spills out of the hall. Paul runs away after accidentally striking policeman Al Peters, and escapes in a stolen ice cream truck. Larry's reporter, Jonas Creel, calls in the story to a larger newspaper in Stockton, and exaggerates the fight as a riot. Paul, terrified, then steals a car as the police chase him, but finally gives up and allows himself to be arrested. Peters angrily starts to beat Paul, but his partner, Boswell, insists that he restrain himself. Of the participants that night, Joe is the only white man arrested, and Sunny resents Joe's guilt-ridden father paying the bail for the poor Mexican boys because they cannot afford a lawyer to prove their innocence. When Boswell tries to stop Peters from roughing up Paul in the back of the police car, he loses control of the car and crashes. Boswell is killed in the accident, and Paul runs away from Peters because he blames him for the death. Later, Stockton reporter Jan Dawson arrives at Larry's office and shows Larry her paper, which has already printed a sensationalized headline reading "Fruit Pickers Riot." Meanwhile, Paul is hiding out in a barn and when he startles teenage farm girl Mildred Jensen, she hits her head on a board and is knocked unconscious. Encouraged by Jan, Mildred later tells police that Paul assaulted her, and news of the attack is reported on television, and Paul is made out to be a dangerous "gangster." Larry wants to publish interviews with Harry, Joe and Frank, but is threatened by all of their fathers, except Ed. Paul is finally tracked to an area near a quarry by another farmer, and a dragnet is formed. Larry manages to find Paul first and protects the frightened, sobbing boy while he is arrested. Sunny implores Larry to print the truth about Paul to counter the vicious lies that have already been published, but Larry fears disrupting the town's peaceful lifestyle. Larry's conscience nags him, however, and he writes a sympathetic article about Paul and publicly asks for money for his defense. The article incites the townspeople, and because Larry stated that Mildred could not know the truth because she was unconscious, her father and his friend try to assault him in his office, then attack Lopo and two friends in their car. Although Lopo's friends escape, he is brutally beaten and left behind. Jensen directs an angry mob to lynch Paul at the jail, but Larry arrives first and convinces the sheriff to take Paul elsewhere. Jensen then leads the mob to Larry's office, where Lopo has taken refuge with Sunny. The mob ignores Lopo's pleas for peace, and after he is battered by stones, they storm the offices and destroy everything. When the police finally arrive with Larry, an ambulance takes Lopo away, and Larry finds Sunny, with whom he has fallen in love, crumpled in a heap on the floor. Sunny revives and is unharmed, but Larry is so revolted by the destruction that he plans to leave town immediately. After Ed puts up Paul's bond, the boy tells Larry that he knew he could trust him because he sees his own brother, who died in the battle at Normandy, in Larry's eyes. Larry is deeply moved by Paul's faith, and instead of bidding Sunny farewell, he proposes they put out a weekly newspaper called The Union on her modest press.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||San Antonio, TX opening: late Jun 1950|
|Release Date:||1950||Production Date:||
Paramount 3/4"; AFI
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Paramount Pictures Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Pine-Thomas Productions|
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