powered by AFI
Impressed by the spunk of a mangy, orange tom cat, who steals country club golf balls and chases large dogs, eccentric millionaire Thaddeus J. Banner, the owner of the lackluster Brooklyn Loons baseball club, decides to adopt the animal. Using a state-of-the-art trap, T. J.'s press agent, Eric Yeager, captures the feisty cat and presents him to his boss, who names him Rhubarb. Upon his release, Rhubarb wrecks T. J.'s study, but eventually makes friends with his owner. After enjoying many years of companionship with Rhubarb, T. J. dies and leaves most of his $30 million estate to his pet. To the disgust of T. J.'s spoiled daughter Myra, who is to receive only a modest stipend, Eric is named Rhubarb's guardian and moves into the Banner estate. Rhubarb's inheritance makes him an overnight celebrity, and Eric and his butler, retired baseball pitcher Doom, are besieged by phone calls, telegrams and visitors. Eric must also contend with the Loons, who are refusing to play because their competitors are razzing them about their feline owner. To get the Loons back on the field, Eric introduces Rhubarb to the team, then secretly arranges for the two players who voluntarily pet the cat to receive an unexpected tax refund. As hoped, the superstitious athletes become convinced that Rhubarb is a good-luck charm and agree to play again. Eric's relief proves short-lived, however, when he learns that his fiancée, Polly Sickles, the daughter of team manager Len, is violently allergic to cats and he must disinfect himself every time he sees her. After Rhubarb's appearance at the Loons's ball park inspires the team to score against St. Louis, the St. Louis manager sicks his dog mascot on the cat. Instead of running away, Rhubarb chases the terrified canine across the field. The Loons win, and Eric, who has arranged to marry Polly right after the game, rushes home to remove all traces of Rhubarb from his body. On his way to the church, Eric realizes that he has forgotten the wedding ring and returns home, only to find Myra trying to kill Rhubarb. Eric saves the cat and orders Myra to move out, but has to postpone the wedding when the team insists that he stay with Rhubarb around the clock. Rhubarb joins the team during their next road trip, but while the Loons's record steadily improves, Eric grows increasingly lonely. Desperate, he and Polly make plans to marry in secret, but are again thwarted when Myra files a lawsuit against Eric, charging that the real Rhubarb is dead. To prove her claim, Myra's lawyers demand that Eric's supporters pick out Rhubarb from a group of four orange tabbies. Although no one can identify Rhubarb by sight, Polly, who has just learned from her doctor that she is allergic only to Rhubarb, verifies his identity when she sniffs each cat but sneezes only around Rhubarb. After determining that no irritants were used on Rhubarb, the judge dismisses Myra's suit. With Rhubarb's troubles apparently over, the Loons move into first place and enter a pennant race with New York. Betting on the cross-town matchup is intense, and when Manhattan bookie Pencil Louie realizes that he will have to pay out $270,000 if Brooklyn wins the series, he kidnaps Rhubarb. He then offers to kill the cat if Myra can raise $50,000. Without Rhubarb, the Loons start to lose, and all attempts to track the cat down fail. During the final game, Eric rents a plane and seeds some clouds with dry ice to cause a rainstorm. The game is postponed, but when the Brooklyn police chief gets a tip that a Manhattan bookie has Rhubarb, the Manhattan chief refuses to help. Aware now that what she is actually allergic to is the vicuna scarf on which Rhubarb sleeps, Polly and Eric scour Manhattan betting parlors until Polly's allergy leads them to Pencil Louie and Myra. After Eric pummels him, the bookie reveals Rhubarb's whereabouts, and Eric and Polly rush to the apartment hideout. There, Rhubarb, who is watching the final game on television, becomes excited when the female cat who always sits behind him at the stadium appears onscreen, and escapes from his captor. Eric and Polly see Rhubarb running toward Brooklyn and follow him in a cab, pursued by Pencil Louie and his thugs. The police finally arrest the thugs, and after climbing the stadium wall, Rhubarb dashes across the field as the crowd roars its approval. With Rhubarb back, the Loons win the game and the pennant. Later, Eric and Polly and their new baby, and Rhubarb and his mates and kittens enjoy a stroll through the park together.