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The Life of Riley

The Life of Riley(1949)

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Chester A. Riley, a riveter at Stevenson Aircraft in Los Angeles, works hard but is always behind in his bills. One day, after paying out all but five of his fifty-dollar-a-week paycheck, Riley has to sneak into his house to avoid his landlady, Miss Martha Bogle, to whom he owes money. Then, his wife Peg receives a phone call from Sidney Monahan, a former flame from Brooklyn, their home town, and Riley impulsively invites him to dinner. While readying for Monahan, Riley's daughter Babs, a serious-minded college student, catches the eye of Miss Bogle's handsome young nephew, Jeff Taylor. To Babs's delight, Jeff, who has just moved in next door with his aunt, is a dedicated pre-med student. When Monahan and his new wife Lucy arrive for dinner, Riley is envious of his former rival's obvious wealth and tries to hide his own financial shortcomings. During cocktails, a bill collector from the electric company shows up, and after Riley sends him on his way, he disconnects the Rileys' electricity. Plunged into darkness, Riley takes the advice of friend and neighbor, undertaker "Digger" O'Dell, and invites his guests to a restaurant. Before going, Riley instructs his precocious son Junior to exchange his piggy bank coins into bills and meet him at the restaurant, assuming that Junior's savings combined with his five dollars will be enough to pay for the meal. After the boorish Monahan orders the most expensive items on the fancy French menu, however, Riley barely has enough to cover the check. He then is embarrassed in front of the Monahans when Junior appears with his full piggy bank, having been unable to open it, and during a struggle with the waiter, the bank falls to the ground and breaks. Humiliated, Riley vows to Peg that he will become more successful, and after six weeks of working overtime, he volunteers to host the company's Labor Day beach picnic. When his efforts to impress his boss, Carl Stevenson, apparently fail, Riley becomes incensed and finally works up the courage to confront him. To Riley's amazement, Stevenson reveals that he had already planned to promote him to foreman, beginning in January. Stevenson's ne'er-do-well son Burt, meanwhile, is cornered at the picnic by a thug named Norman, who demands that he repay a $25,000 gambling debt. Aware that he can use his grandfather's trust money if he marries with the approval of his father, Burt decides to pursue the wholesome Babs. Babs, however, has her heart set on Jeff and rejects Burt's advances. Later, while dropping off the rent to Miss Bogle, Babs receives her first kiss from Jeff. Jeff and Babs's bliss is soon dampened when Miss Bogle reveals that she must sell the Rileys' house because of her own financial problems. Not wanting to uproot his family, Riley determines to come up with the $1,500 down payment and goes from bank to bank searching for a loan. Rejected everywhere, Riley reluctantly asks Monahan for the money, but Monahan also refuses him. Just as all appears lost, Riley learns from Burt that he has been promoted to a high-paying executive position. Riley is overjoyed by his unexpected "step up," unaware that Babs asked Burt to offer him the job, and that he did so without his father's knowledge. When Burt finally tells Babs about his financial predicament and suggests that they marry quickly so that Riley can keep his job and he can save his life, Babs reluctantly agrees. Jeff, who had just proposed to Babs himself, is devastated by her announcement, as is Peg, who knows that her daughter does not love Burt. On the day of Babs's wedding, which is to take place at the Stevenson mansion, Riley becomes annoyed and hurt when Gillis, his best friend and co-worker, snubs him because he is sure that Riley "sold" his daughter to get the promotion. Despite Gillis' accusations and Peg's doubts, Riley goes along with the wedding plan until Junior uses the Stevensons' intercom to eavesdrop on Burt's room. After Riley overhears Burt discussing "business" with Norman, he beats up Norman and drags him before the wedding crowd. Once Riley declares to Stevenson that he does not want the promotion, Babs realizes she is free and runs into Jeff's waiting arms. Gillis then forgives Riley, and Riley is satisfied that his family is happy once more.