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Reaching for the Sun

Reaching for the Sun(1941)

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Russ Eliot, a clam digger living in the northern backwoods, goes to Detroit hoping to earn enough money to buy an outboard motor for his rowboat and thus improve his business. While standing in the employment line at Crane Motor Co., an automobile manufacturing plant, Russ buys Benny Hogan a cup of coffee and apple pie from the lunch counter. There Russ meets Rita, a tough-talking waitress who works at night as a taxi-dancer. Although Rita thinks Russ's backcountry naïveté is a put-on, as a favor, she nonetheless stows his blanket behind the counter. Russ creates a fracas in the employment line and when a brawl ensues, he and Benny sneak through and are among the ten men hired to work on the assembly line. Russ later earns an enemy in Herman, a big bully who picks a fight with him after getting the wrong idea when he hears that Rita has Russ's blanket at her house. Rita and Russ fall in love and marry, then move to a house in an industrial area, along with Benny, who is their boarder. From the very start, Rita does not share Russ's enthusiasm for returning to the north woods, and his outboard motor becomes a source of contention between them. The discord grows after they have a baby boy and the factory closes down. Finally, with only two dollars left, Rita insists that Russ sell his outboard motor, which he has almost finished paying off. Months pass and with the arrival of spring, Benny and Russ are still unemployed. Russ asks Rita to return to the woods with him where they can make their own living, but Rita insists on remaining in Detroit and urges Russ to give up his dream. They are saved when the factory reopens and Russ is hired to work the hot steel manipulator, a huge machine that works in tandem with the crane operated by Herman. When Russ gets a raise, he and Benny get drunk and buy another outboard motor. This is the last straw for Rita and she leaves Russ. Three days later Russ rises to the bait when Herman flaunts Rita's handkerchief in front of him. Benny stops them from fighting, but later, inside the plant, Herman sends a flaming bundle of steel toward Russ. Russ avoids the steel, which is sent crashing, but then Herman, who is operating the crane, tips Russ's machine over. Russ is pinned and loses his left leg. At the hospital, Russ pretends that he still has his leg when Rita visits him and sends her away. When she learns the truth, however, she rushes to his side. The reunited couple moves to the northern backwoods. Everyone enjoys the new lifestyle except for Benny, who decides to return to the hustle and bustle of the city, and as he departs, the family sails off in their motorized boat onto the lake.