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Will Henderson is the new boy at the high school. He befriends outcast Melinda Grant, whose illegitimacy marks her and her unstable mother. As their friendship turns to love, gossip and lies threaten their relationship in this small town drama.
In the town of Libertyville, sixteen-year-old Melinda Grant is ostracized by her schoolmates for being illegitimate, although her seamstress mother Elizabeth maintains that Melinda's father died when she was a baby. Melinda adores her timid mother regardless of the fact that she is overprotective, sews Melinda childish clothes and willfully fails to acknowledge her friendless state. One day, Melinda's teacher, Miss Robson, visits Elizabeth to urge her to allow Melinda to try out for the class play, Our Town . Elizabeth insists that she has never dissuaded Melinda from participating in the drama club but, after Miss Robson leaves, can barely disguise her discomfort at the idea. After Elizabeth performs her daily ritual of checking the empty mailbox for a letter, Melinda asks for permission to attend the school dance, and Elizabeth consents. At the dance, popular couple Bruce Mitchell and Polly Fisher snub Melinda and a new student, Will Henderson, who turns his attentions to a flustered Melinda. The outspoken Will points out that they are both different from the other teenagers, and although Melinda protests this, she agrees to walk with him outside. There, Will, whose salesman father Ed has moved the family to seventeen towns in as many years, declares his desire to settle down in one place, while Melinda wishes she could see the world. She informs him that her father is dead, but upon learning that Ed grew up in Libertyville, grows distressed at the realization that he will soon hear rumors about her parentage. When Will then tries to lead Melinda to the deserted bandstand in the hills, she resists because Elizabeth has warned her never to go there. As Will drives Melinda home, Bruce and his friends attempt to drive them off the road. After taunting them, Bruce finally drives away, and Melinda thanks Will but will not allow him to walk her into her house. Meanwhile, Ed visits Polly's father Alex, his high school friend, and urges Alex to introduce him to his friends at the country club in order to help Ed acquire new clients. Alex, who has grown rich and pompous since Ed left town, responds tepidly. On the way out, Ed runs into Alex's wife Laura, who is drunk and belligerent. At home, Ed, humiliated by the experience and aware that this job represents his last chance with the sales company, protests his wife Dorothy's insistence that he reach beyond his abilities. In response, Dorothy compares Ed unfavorably to her father, a famous author, and when Will comes home, exhorts him never to settle for less than the best. Will mentions Melinda, prompting his parents to instruct him not to consort with a girl on the "wrong side of the tracks." Instead, Ed urges Will to befriend Bruce, Polly and other schoolmates with wealthy parents, in order to create more business contacts for Ed. At school the next day, the class elects Polly and Bruce to try out for the lead roles in Our Town , but despite the efforts of Will and Miss Robson, Melinda refuses to audition. Will and Melinda then share lunch, but after Will gently asks if Elizabeth is mentally unstable, Melinda attacks him. Their grappling develops into an embrace, from which Melinda eventually wrenches herself away. Later, Will is pleased to see Melinda at the play audition, where she easily bests Polly and impresses Bruce with her passionate acting. Polly and Bruce immediately befriend Melinda, causing Will to retreat alone to a nearby café, where he rejects a waitress' flirtation. That night, Elizabeth searches Melinda's room and, upon discovering the text of the play, copies the photo inside to create a costume. Melinda is pleased at her mother's enthusiasm, but wonders why she once again checks the empty mailbox. Just then, Will visits and apologizes, in front of Elizabeth, for trying to kiss Melinda. Elizabeth is pleasant to Will but then later breaks down, raging at Melinda about the dangers of boys. Meanwhile, Will confronts his father about his disapproval of Elizabeth, and Ed responds by asking why Will has not invited him to parents' night at school. After Will admits that he is ashamed of Ed's assertive salesmanship, Ed once again urges Dorothy to be more realistic about her goals for the family. The afternoon of parents' night, Polly invites Melinda to her house and there reveals that she has befriended Melinda only in order to convince her to quit the play, so Polly can be take the lead role. As Melinda is explaining that the role is too important to her to give up, the girls hear Alex begging Laura to accompany him to parents' night. Laura replies bitterly that he wants her there only for the sake of appearances. After Laura calls Alex "a pig," Polly collapses in tears. Later, Will helps Melinda practice her lines by the bandstand, and urges her to try on her costume, a wedding dress. Finding himself sexually attracted to her, he directs her to change again, and this time Polly, hiding nearby, sees Melinda undressing. As parents' night begins, Elizabeth reluctantly attends, urged by Melinda and Miss Robson. Polly insists that Melinda join her in the locker room, where she blackmails Melinda to give up the role in return for Polly keeping quiet about what she saw by the bandstand. Melinda protests that she is innocent, after which Will, who has been listening, shakes Polly, prompting her to race out and announce to the crowd that Will and Melinda are lovers. Bruce fights Will, who barely manages to prevail over the bigger boy. The parents gather in horror, and Ed, seeing Will about to follow Melinda, asks him what to say to the other parents. After Will exhorts him to "tell them you're my father," a shamed Ed finds the courage to challenge Alex and Mr. Mitchell when they threaten to have Will arrested, announcing that his family is leaving Libertyville before it can corrupt them. In the car, Dorothy quietly suggests that Ed accept a managerial job in Toledo, and Ed gratefully kisses her hand. Meanwhile, Will chases Melinda to the bandstand, and there explains that their love purifies their attraction to each other, then kisses her. Elizabeth, who has also followed Melinda, cries out when she sees them and falls to the ground. Melinda guesses aloud that the letter Elizabeth awaits is from her father, who is really alive, and Elizabeth finally recounts meeting him years earlier at the bandstand where he promised to marry her. After he abandoned her before they could marry, however, Elizabeth was humiliated and grew fearful of the public censure. She now voices her dread that the same thing will happen to Melinda, but Will assures her that he will return for Melinda, whom he truly loves. Months later, the mailman is surprised when Elizabeth fails to ask him for a letter, merely smiling when Melinda receives one from Will.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||not available|
|Release Date:||1958||Production Date:||
EBX; AFI, UNIV 16 mm
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Universal Pictures Co., Inc.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.|
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This movie could be about any family in any town in America today.It's moral and message are as clear today as the year it was released(1958).