powered by AFI
In a seaside Monterey bar, burly fisherman Jerry D'Amato becomes excited when he bumps into Mae Doyle, a girl from his youth who has just returned home. The sophisticated but unhappy Mae fails to recognize Jerry and goes off to find her younger brother Joe. Joe, who helps Jerry on his boat, is less than pleased by Mae's arrival, even though he has not seen her in ten years. When she admits that she made a mistake by becoming involved with an older man who turned out to be married, however, Joe's attitude softens a little. Joe's girl friend Peggy, who works at the local sardine cannery, is awestruck by the worldly Mae and confides that, like Mae before her, she yearns for excitement and does not want to be bossed around by a man. Later, at the fishing docks, the kind but awkward Jerry asks Joe about Mae's availability, and Joe encourages Jerry to invite her out. During their first date at the local movie theater, Jerry introduces Mae to his best friend, projectionist Earl Pfeiffer. Mae is attracted to the cynical Earl, but dismisses him sharply when he subjects her to a misogynistic tirade about his burlesque dancer wife. Sometime later, while on a night boat ride with Mae, Jerry brings up the subject of marriage, but Mae gently maintains that she is not the "wife type." However, after a disturbing, drunken flirtation with Earl, Mae, who has told Earl that she desires men who make her feel confident and alive, agrees to marry Jerry. At the wedding reception, Earl insists on kissing Mae, and when she resists his ardor, he storms off. Later, after the birth of Jerry and Mae's daughter Gloria, Jerry's freeloading uncle Vince complains that Mae is too controlling and accuses Jerry of being henpecked. That night, the now-divorced Earl shows up at the D'Amatos', drunk, and rants about women and marriage until he passes out in their living room. The next morning, before Jerry leaves for work, Mae surprises him by asking for a goodbye kiss. A hung-over Earl then wakes up and questions Mae about the health of her marriage. Sensing that she has resigned herself to a dull life with Jerry, Earl kisses her forcibly. Mae rebuffs him, but later, after a joyful Peggy comes by the D'Amatos' to announce her engagement to Joe, Earl again kisses Mae, who finally gives in to her passions. Sometime later, Jerry rescues his father from a barroom fight but cannot get the old man to discuss the argument. The vindictive Vince, however, informs Jerry that the town has been gossiping about Mae and Earl and that his father was defending the family name. Angry and indignant, Jerry drives Vince out of his house, then tries to force his father to talk. When Papa again refuses, Jerry searches Mae's things and finds some perfume and lingerie at the bottom of a drawer. As soon as Mae and Earl return to the house, having spent the day together, Jerry confronts them with the items. Mae finally confesses that she is having an affair with Earl but maintains that she was driven to it through boredom and loneliness. Deeply wounded, Jerry calls Mae and Earl "animals" and runs off. Earl advises Mae to leave town with him, but she is reluctant to go until she knows that Jerry is safe. Later, Mae finds Jerry at home and tells him that she is in love with Earl and is running away with him. Jerry tries to change Mae's mind, then screams threats when she reveals that she intends to take Gloria. Terrified of Jerry's wrath, Mae leaves the house without Gloria and goes to Joe's place to pack. While Joe condemns his sister's actions, Peggy offers her sympathy. Still enraged, Jerry, meanwhile, shows up at the movie theater and starts to choke Earl. Mae arrives in time to stop Jerry, who throws her across the room before coming to his senses. Soon after, Mae and Earl return to Jerry's to pick up Gloria, but discover the baby gone. When Papa condemns Mae and refuses to reveal where Jerry took Gloria, Mae starts to have second thoughts about leaving. Unconcerned, Earl insists that they can go without Gloria, prompting Mae to realize that she has spent her entire marriage running away from her responsibilities. Disgusted by Mae's expressions of guilt, Earl announces that he is departing, with or without her. In response, Mae declares that she is taking her chances with her husband and heads for Jerry's boat. There, Mae asks Jerry to forgive her and insists that she has changed. While admitting that he may never be able to trust her, Jerry accepts Mae's apologies and agrees to try again. Jerry then tells Mae that Gloria is asleep on the bunk, and she quietly goes to her baby.