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During World War II, neglected teens on the home front turn to delinquency.
After a three-year absence, Mary Coates returns to her parents' home on Euclid Street to find the neighborhood changed by the ongoing war. Her parents, the Hausers, are working the night shift at a defense plant while her fifteen-year old brother Frankie has been truant from school. Mary is upset by Frankie's attachment to Sarah Taylor, the eldest daughter of the Hausers' lowbrow new neighbors. When Sarah's parents selfishly insist that she cancel her birthday date with Frankie and babysit her younger siblings so that they can attend a party, Sarah sneaks out of the house to meet Frankie. Frankie, who does not have enough money to take Sarah on a real date, confides that he wants to quit school and get a job.
The next morning, Mary receives a telephone call notifying her that her husband, Danny Coates, a war hero who has been awarded the Purple Heart, is being released from the hospital and will return home the following day. That night, as Sarah finishes serving dinner to her siblings, her parents return home with some boisterous friends and commandeer the table to play a game of cards. When one of the men begins to leer at Sarah, her mother tells her to leave the house, so she goes to the movie theater in search of Frankie. Larry Duncan, the owner of a garage that fences stolen automobiles, and his girl friend Toddy offer Sarah a ride to the theater. When the usher says that Frankie is not there, Larry invites Sarah to join them at Rocky's Café, a nightclub. Meanwhile, Frankie, to avoid paying admission, has sneaked into the theater through a side door.
After he hears that Sarah has been seen with Larry, Frankie is berated by Herb Vigero, his tough-talking friend, who suggests they go to work for Larry. When Frankie, Herb and another friend appear at Larry's garage in search of a job, Larry's garage manager sends them to steal tires from parked cars. Larry, learning of their assignment, races to stop them because he was an old schoolmate of Mary's and feels protective toward Frankie. Meanwhile, at a parking lot, the boys begin to steal a tire when a telephone linesman spots them and calls the guard. Larry arrives just as the boys speed away, and when the guard shoots, he hits Larry. As Toddy drives the wounded Larry to his garage, the boys are arrested for speeding. After calling an ambulance, Toddy leaves Larry at the garage and takes Sarah with her. The next day, Danny arrives home on crutches and learns that Mary is at juvenile court with Frankie. Danny, still wearing his uniform, rushes to the courthouse, and the judge, impressed by the soldier's medals, paroles Frankie and his friends into Danny's custody. When they return home, Mrs. Hauser and Mary, who blame Frankie's delinquent behavior on the "new people on the street," ask Frankie to stop seeing Sarah.
Soon after, an unattended child is hit by a car, prompting Mary and Danny to discuss solutions to the problem of child neglect created when both parents are working at defense plants. To help alleviate the problem, Mary decides to open a daycare center in the Hausers' backyard, and Danny plans to teach his wards how to work with tools and other useful skills. After Frankie informs Sarah that he can no longer see her, Toddy stops by and asks Sarah to visit Larry in the hospital for her. Toddy is on probation and therefore unable to visit Larry, who is under arrest, and so Sarah agrees to go in her stead. After the visit, Toddy takes Sarah to an amusement park to cheer her up, and when they miss the last bus back to town, they spend the night at Rocky's Café.
When Sarah returns home the next morning, her abusive parents throw her out of the house. Toddy, identifying with the girl's alienation, takes her home and gets her a job at Rocky's. Weeks later, after Frankie confides to Danny that he blames himself for Sarah leaving home, Danny promises to talk to Sarah for him. At Rocky's, Sarah, now working as a bar hostess, tells Danny that she is no longer a child and hopes that Frankie will forget her for his own good. Unable to accept Sarah's rejection, Frankie and his friends drive to the club to talk to her. When Frankie apologizes to Sarah and says that he loves her, she berates him and asks Rocky to throw him out. Angry at the treatment of his friend, Herb insists on entering the club and starts a fight. In the mêlée, Toddy is injured and later dies in her hospital bed as Larry and Sarah helplessly watch. Frankie is brought to trial, and although the judge admits that society's ills are caused by the breakup of the family, he sentences Frankie to eighteen months in Forestry Camp.
After Danny and Sarah bid Frankie farewell, Danny comforts Sarah with the story of Ruth Clifton, a teenager who founded a youth recreation center in Moline, Illinois, to help eliminate the problem of juvenile delinquency. Inspired by Ruth's example, Sarah goes to join the cause.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||New York opening: week of 1 Sep 1944|
|Release Date:||1944||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.|
|Sound:||Production Co:||RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.|
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