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Rationing

Rationing(1944)

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Crying Boy

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FULL SYNOPSIS

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When beleaguered Tuttleton grocer Ben Barton requests gas coupons from Iris Tuttle, the strict, surly postmistress and the head of the local rationing board, he receives a lecture on thrift instead. Ben's frustration with government regulations and Iris, who has been feuding with him for twenty years, is momentarily relieved when he learns that his adopted son Lance has enlisted. Lance also announces that he is marrying his childhood sweetheart, Iris' daughter Dorothy, before leaving for training camp. Ben gives his blessing, but warns Lance and Dorothy that Iris, a widow to whom he was once engaged, will not be so generous. To Lance's and Dorothy's surprise, Iris approves of her daughter's choice, but strongly suggests that they wait until after the war to marry. Dorothy rejects Iris' advice, but Lance has second thoughts, even though he knows that Ben and Iris' feud started when Ben inadvertently married a French woman while he was a soldier during World War I. After Dorothy angrily breaks off with him, the heartbroken Lance leaves for the city, explaining to Ben that Iris would have endorsed their elopement if he had had $2,000 in the bank. Hoping to improve matters, Ben tells Lance that his birth parents left him a $2,000 inheritance, then rushes to sell half of his grocery store to gas station owner Cash Riddle in order to back up his claim. Later, as Ben is about to give Miss McCue, the comely new barber, a girdle from his store, a jealous Iris announces that girdles have been "frozen" by the government. Ben sneaks the girdle to Miss McCue that night, but when the snooping Iris demands a girdle "count," Ben is forced to retrieve the girdle from an uncooperative Miss McCue. After he is nearly caught sneaking the girdle out of the barber's apartment, Ben goes to Washington, D.C. to see fellow veteran Senator Edward A. White. Ed is out of town, however, so his staff sends Ben all over town in a futile attempt to "unfreeze" girdles. Days later, Ben is finally able to speak with Ed, who tells him that girdles have never been rationed. When Ben, who was Ed's drill sergeant, asks the senator to "pull some strings" so that he can re-enlist, Ed agrees to give him a war-related job. Ben returns home to await his enlistment papers and is shocked when he learns that Ed has appointed him head of the Tuttleton rationing board. Ben then discovers that his store has been without meat since his departure. When Ben offers to discuss the shortage with the government-sanctioned cattle sellers, Cash, who has been running the store in his absence, insists on doing it himself. Unknown to Ben, Cash is involved in a black market ring, led by Dixie Samson, and has been selling illegal meat using a phony government stamp. To keep Ben from getting suspicious, Samson gives Cash six sides of illegal beef. Tuttleton's sudden influx of beef catches the attention of butchers from neighboring towns, who demand to know why Ben's trucks have been seen carrying loads of meat when they have been meatless for weeks. Although Cash explains that Ben has been making deliveries for the Army, the butchers, as well as the townspeople, remain suspicious. Ben is also suspicious and demands to meet the government representative for whom Cash claims to be working. Cash sends Ben to see Samson, and while posing as a civil servant, Samson offers Ben a bribe. Demanding $5,000, Ben pretends to go along with the scheme, but later telephones Ed to report the situation. Soon after, Ed arrives in Tuttleton, and together, he and Ben deduce the location of Samson's illegal slaughter-house. While Ben goes off to confront Samson at the slaughter-house, Lance, who has returned to Tuttleton on a two-week furlough, prepares to marry Dorothy. At the remote slaughter-house, Ben is tied up and imprisoned by Samson, but talks Cash into freeing him. Ben becomes embroiled in a fight with Samson and his men, while Lance and Dorothy hold off their wedding ceremony, awaiting Ben's return. Ed then reveals to the townspeople that Ben may be in trouble and rallies them to help. Ed, the police and the others race to the slaughter-house and, after a fierce fight, subdue the criminals. Later, Iris informs Ben that she has bought Cash's half of the store and hands him a marriage license to sign. Ben at first refuses, but when he sees the seventy-two forms he needs to fill out in order to rescind the new partnership, he gives in and signs.