Cast & Crew
Frank Coghlan Jr.
Orphans Frankie and Dickie Burke are cared for by their older sister Mary, a teacher at Hilldale Public School in Ohio. During a school performance, when bully Schuyler Tree, the son of the chairman of the school board, insults Mary, Frankie defends her in a fist fight. Mary's fiancé, teacher Owen Rogers, assumes Frankie started the fight and scolds him. Tired of receiving an unfair share of discipline, Frankie, with his dog Corky, hops a train for New York. Along the way, he meets a gang of drifting safecrackers led by Pete Scardoni, who force him to steal food for them. As they camp, a drunken professor befriends Frankie and tells him of the value of school. In a letter to Mary, Frankie assures her that he has a job and is attending night school. In New York, the gang robs a bank and, while escaping, shoots Gordon McKinna, a guard. When the police raid the gang's hotel room, they shoot the professor and find Frankie holding the gun that was used to shoot McKinna. Because McKinna lies in a coma, Frankie is unable to clear himself and is sentenced to five years in a reformatory as "John Smith," because he refuses to reveal his identity. Owen, meanwhile, is up for a regents board appointment, but when he sees Frankie's picture in the paper, he jeopardizes his career to save him and then ends up in jail when Frankie escapes. Later, Frankie discovers Owen's sacrifice and gives himself up to the warden. The warden informs him that McKinna came out of his coma and cleared him, and that the police have arrested Scardoni's gang, who have confessed. When Mary and Owen return from their honeymoon in Niagara Falls, they find Dickie complaining about having to go to school. Frankie assures him that there are worse disciplines in life than those found at the little red schoolhouse.