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When Shorty, a man of small stature with little patience for fools and poseurs, is ejected from a nightclub after arguing with an inebriated couple, he goes to a nearby bar where he receives a cool welcome from owner Al, as the week before he had started a ruckus there. Meanwhile Sir Bop, a pretentious talent agent has persuaded Al to let a young singer, Julie, audition in the bar. Al, Shorty and Steve, a newspaper reporter looking for a human interest story, listen as Julie delivers a flat, uninspired version of a song. After Angie, a truck driver, and his girl friend Mabel come to the bar, Angie tries to pick a fight with Shorty, but backs down when Shorty threatens him with a knife. As the night wears on, Lester, a preliminary boxer known as "The Kid," his wife Syl and manager Marty join the group. Shortly after their arrival, two young thugs, Jigger and Joey, come in followed by protection racketeer Jerry, who counts Al as one of his clients. After Jerry tries unsuccessfully to pick up Julie, Sir Bop intervenes but after being pushed away by Jerry, leaves with Julie's backup musicians for another gig. Shorty, disdainful of Jerry's "big man" attitude picks a fight with him that is interrupted when a distraught young man, Pete, arrives with the news that he witnessed the robbery of a nearby grocery store and discovered the bodies of the elderly couple who owned it. When Pete sees Jigger and Joey, he realizes they are the murderers he saw running from the store. Jigger, with gun drawn, disables the bar's phone and when Pete tries to escape, kills him. Upon learning that the police are searching every building on the street, the gunmen, who are expecting a car to pick them up in fifteen minutes, lock the door and order Julie to sing to maintain an appearance of normalcy. Accompanied by a jukebox record, Julie now sings perfectly and when a patrol officer stops at the door, Al shouts to him that there is glass all over the floor. Meanwhile, Shorty has been sizing up the two gunmen and is unintimidated by them. When the police suddenly return and, over a bullhorn, order Jigger and Joey to come out, one at a time, or they will fire tear gas into the bar, Jigger responds that if they use tear gas, he will kill everyone inside. Shorty keeps needling the gunmen and challenges the "big men"--Angie, The Kid and Jerry to do something about the situation. When they fail to do so, Shorty disarms Jigger, then Joey, and orders them outside to surrender to the police. The Kid, whose wife has been trying to persuade him to quit boxing and join her brother in a business venture, admits to having been scared, as he often is in the ring, and decides to stop fighting. When the police enter, they arrest Jerry for extortion after Al agrees to testify against him. Mabel, saddened that Angie is not as tought as he appears, leaves with him. When Sir Bop and the musicians return, Julie, at Shorty's instigation, tells Sir Bop that she no longer wants to be a singer and that the only reason she took up singing was because he persuaded her to. Shorty also deflates the overbearing Sir Bop by describing him as "a phony bag of wind." Al then tells Shorty that he now has endless credit at the bar. Deciding to go to see an old film playing nearby, Shorty invites Julie to join him. After Shorty and Julie leave, Al tells Steve that Shorty has seen the film, King Kong , about twenty times already and reminds the reporter that it is about a big beast and a little guy who "knocked him over."