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The Big Night

The Big Night(1951)

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For Georgie La Main's seventeenth birthday his father Andy, a local bar owner, gives him a cake, however, Georgie is distracted by the fact that Andy's girl friend Frances is not there to celebrate with them. Soon after, a crippled news columnist Al Judge walks into the bar and orders Andy to strip, beating him viciously with his cane. Georgie wants to intercede, but Flanagan, the bartender, holds him back. After Judge leaves, Georgie demands to know why his father would let Judge humiliate him, but Andy tells him to forget about it. Later, while his father is resting, Georgie puts on his father's suit, tie and hat and leaves the building with a gun he found in the cash register. Stopping at the stationary store, Georgie is asked by owner Mr. Erlich to sit with his baby. In the baby's room Georgie poses in front of the mirror with the gun, challenging anyone who thinks he is still a "wet-nosed kid." The baby cries and, as he comforts it, Mrs. Erlich enters and compliments Georgie on how well he handles the baby. As Georgie leaves, Mr. Erlich comments on how smart Andy was for not fighting back. Georgie is frustrated with the Erlichs' responses and wanders off to a professional boxing match. While in line he sells his second ticket to a stranger, and another man posing as a policeman accuses Georgie of scalping. Georgie hands over the "evidence," the money from the ticket, to the conman. In the auditorium Georgie sits beside the man who purchased the ticket, Dr. Lloyd Cooper, a journalism teacher, who tells him the incident was a ruse. Borrowing Cooper's binoculars, Georgie scans the crowd for Judge but loses sight of him. Georgie tells Cooper he wants to find Judge, and Cooper leads him to Judge's hangout. Georgie loses Judge in a run-in with one of his thugs, Peckinpaugh, and Cooper, now drunk, persuades him to go to the Florida Club, a late night jazz club, instead of continuing the chase. At the club he meets Cooper's girl friend, Julie Rostina, and Georgie takes her to the dance floor, but after a few awkward steps, Julie leads him back to the table. Julie and Cooper dance, and the soft voice of a black jazz singer evokes visions of the birthday cake in Georgie's thoughts. When they are seated again, Julie tells Cooper that her sister Marion has returned to their house and Cooper reminds her that he dislikes Marion. The three leave the club, passing the singer, and Georgie tries to compliment her but instead makes a racial slur, which he immediately regrets. Later, Georgie wakes up on a couch in Cooper's apartment and meets Marion, who has secretly hidden his gun. When Georgie asks Marion why she dislikes Cooper, she replies that her father knew Cooper was bad with one look. Georgie then tells her about how brave he thought his father was but how he distrusts him now. Searching for his gun, Georgie assumes Marion has been placating him with attention and kisses in order to hide it. He finds it and goes to the newspaper office where an employee gladly gives him Judge's address when he learns Georgie has a vendetta against Judge. Georgie then barges into Judge's apartment and, holding him at gunpoint, asks where Frances is. Judge calmly replies that Frances was his sister, who killed herself a week previously because Andy would not marry her. Georgie does not believe him but decides he cannot shoot him because Judge believes his own story. As Georgie drops the gun and turns to leave, Judge grabs it and turns it on him. The two struggle and the gun goes off, wounding Judge. Georgie then runs to Cooper's house and confides in Marion that he cannot tell his father how much he loves him. Cooper wakes up and, after hearing Georgie's confession about Judge, kicks him out. Georgie returns home and the police arrive to take his father, but Georgie screams that he killed Judge and reveals the gun. Because Judge has only suffered a powder burn, the police try to talk Georgie into handing over the gun. Not knowing who to trust, Georgie backs into the bar, while his father explains that he could not marry Frances because he was still married to Georgie's mother and tells Georgie how much he cares for him. Andy explains that Georgie's mother, who Georgie thought was dead, ran off with another man. Georgie hands over the gun to the authorities and asks his father why he did not tell him. Andy replies that it would have made Georgie hate her. As the police take them both away, Flanagan closes the door and removes the birthday cake, still sitting on the bar from the night before.