Written by Dalton Trumbo and directed by Garson Kanin, a doctor serves the poor people in a town, adopts an abandoned baby, and raises his son to be a doctor.
In Westport flags are at half-staff during a funeral procession on the main street. A salesman asks people about who died. A woman appreciates the deceased. Wealthy businessmen look down from the window and believe they have done more than he but realize they could not get such attention at their funerals. An attorney (Charles Halton) behind his desk asks the three business men what is their concern, and they say how much the man owed them. The lawyer opens a box with old promissory notes and calls it his estate. The financial records are the basis for the story that follows.
At the Westport bus depot Dr. John Abbott (Edward Ellis) and his son Dick (Dickie Jones) get off a bus and look over the town. They go into a bank, and Dr. Abbott asks to speak to George Sykes (Granville Bates), who remembers him from college and says they have several doctors there already. He says he could get by on the poor side of town. John asks for a loan of $300, but his only security is his 17 years of experience. Sykes loans him $250 at 7% interest in June 1919.
John serves a dinner he cooked for his son. Johnson comes to his door and asks for the doctor’s help. They go to Johnson’s home who says he has no money but could pay him in potatoes.
John tells Johnson he has a baby girl, but his wife died. John says he lost his wife that way. Johnson wanted a girl and tells him to get out and never come back. He hits him, and John leaves. Johnson throws his bag after him.
In the morning John wakes up and hears a baby crying. On the doorstep he finds a box with the baby and a note from Johnson. He picks up the child and tells Dick that he has a baby sister.
Four years later little Jean Johnson blows out candles on her birthday cake, and John tells her to make a wish. Roy brings John a little pig and says his arm is healing. John answers the phone.
John goes to see Homer Ramsey and tells him his wife has acute appendicitis, and he must operate. He tells him they need a hospital. Ramsey asks how much he will charge him and says he wants a fair price even though he is wealthy. John tells him his wife is low.
John pulls up his car in front of Ramsey’s store and delivers the pig to Ramsey to pay the bill for a doll. John also gives him corn and asks Ramsey to pay his bill of $100. Ramsey complains it is steep for four hours work. John asks how much he pays his janitor and reduces his bill to $2. He keeps the bill for his records.
Dick Abbott (Lee Bowman) has grown and just graduated from college. John tells him his graduation speech was good. Jean Johnson (Anne Shirley) tells John that she wants to go out with Howard Sykes (William Henry), and John tells her to be home by 7:30. Dick thanks his father for the diploma. John says his son is going to the National University in Paris. John says he has saved and can borrow some money. He wants a good doctor in Westport.
That evening Howard Sykes (William Henry) and Jean are sitting in his car in front of Abbott’s house.
John asks the board of supervisors for a new hospital. Ramsey and others are skeptical it is needed. John explains how much funerals cost and how much work is lost when people die. John tells how he had to operate on a man in his own kitchen, and he may die. He asks them to let him take care of the people while they take care of the hogs.
Howard is driving fast while drunk, and Jean asks him to slow down. He stops and asks her to tell him she loves him. She refuses, and he says he will kill himself. He points a pistol at his head. She gets upset, and the gun goes off and wounds her in the arm. He takes her home.
John tells Howard it is not serious. Howard apologizes, and John asks if he can talk to Howard’s father. George Sykes comes over, and John tells him that his son shot Jean in a quarrel. John says it could have been murder, and as a physician he has to report the gunshot. John notes that George is the richest man in Westport. He asks him to give the town a hospital.
George Sykes gives a speech at the dedication of the hospital named after him. John says he has a great heart. Others are surprised he spent the money, but his wife says he has been planning to do it for years. John thanks George.
John goes to the hospital to sign the doctor’s registry and is told that only physicians with post-graduate work in the last twenty years will be included. John says his son will qualify when he returns soon.
Dick arrives home and is glad to see Jean. He kisses her on the cheek and notes that she is not really his sister. Inside John asks Dick about his neurology professor whom he admires. Dick says Jean has become a beauty and puts his arms around her. John says they now have a maid to cook for them. At dinner Dick says he is surprised that Jean is not married. He asks her about Howard, and she says she is not serious about him. Dick tells his father that Bernstein died. Dick suggests that his father go to Paris for study. Dick says Dr. Robinson has invited him to be a partner. He says he could make money to help his father pay his debts. Dick says he is the only neurologist in town. Dick offers to do cases for his father for free. Dick and Jean go out to a movie.
Dick gets his own apartment, and his father urges him to visit often. Dick tells Jean and his father that he is leaving town to join another doctor in New York. Dick shows Jean his new car, and she says he will be a great success. Dick invites her out on Thursday night, but she says she is going to marry Howard. He congratulates her and leaves. Jean is upset. John calls to her and says he has heart trouble. She cries, and he says he is all right. Jean says Johnson has come to see him. John tells her that he is her father, and they shake hands. She kisses John goodnight and retires. John asks what he wants. Johnson says he got married and has two daughters. John laughs and invites him to sit down. Johnson apologizes and thanks him for taking care of his daughter. He offers John $3,000 and hands him an envelope. John says he will accept it because he needs it.
John is treating Sally and gives his diagnosis and a prescription. John visits a boy and tells his mother to keep him away from other youngsters. John consults a medical text on poliomyelitis. He goes to the board of supervisors and tells them to cancel the fair because of the epidemic of infantile paralysis. Ramsey says it would cost them $12,000 and that he should quarantine them instead. John says he will go to the newspapers.
The editor says they will not scare his readers without proof. John asks to place an ad, but the editor refuses. John says his son is the age to get infantile paralysis.
John has leaflets printed and has boys distribute them to every door in town. Women read them and keep their children at home. John with Jean visits more than 52 homes, and some are quarantined. When they get home, he is tired. Inside they find many parents, and he says they will take care of them in the office.
John is treating a child as others wait in line. A poor man offers to pay him some time. Dick came to talk to him, and John includes Jean because she has been his right hand. Dick is concerned about the “paralysis scare” and warns him about destroying their confidence in doctors. John says he may be wrong; but if he is right, he is saving lives and preventing misery. John says he is tired, and Dick says he will stick by him. Dick leaves, and Jean says he was trying to help him. John says he was right about ethics because he has been hoping that it is infantile paralysis. John realizes he is an old man.
The Westport County Medical Association reprimands John, who says he has no defense. He leaves, and they vote to suspend him. Dick defends his father and says medicine has learned through errors. He says his father had courage, and he resigns. A doctor comes in and says they have six cases of infantile paralysis in Wellington. The chairman gets all to agree to cancel what they did.
The cases increase in all the surrounding counties, but Westport has no increase. On his porch John gets a special delivery and has Jean read it. She says the Paris school requires him to have two years study to be admitted. He says he has a better place for the money.
John has written a letter and seals the envelope. Jean says people have come to see him. They go out on the porch, and a crowd of people applauds him. A minister says he never made much money because he helped the poor. He hands him a letter of thanks with four thousand signatures. The WCMA chairman thanks him and offers him the presidency of their association. John says thank you and sits down. The people leave, and Dick tells him to get the sign painter, implying he wants to work with him. Dick answers the phone and says Dr. Abbott will be right over. Dick tells his father he will go to take care of a broken arm. Jean says she goes with Dr. Abbott on such cases, and Dick agrees. He asks about Howard, and she says that was not serious. They kiss John and leave in the old car. John smiles and sits back. He drops the scroll in his hand.
The lawyer opens an envelope and tells the three businessmen the letter is to the “three vultures” who would be there. The $3,000 is to pay his debts to them, leaving $473.63 for Richard and Jean. One of them says he wishes he had gone to the service.
This drama portrays a selfless physician who helps the poor and raises two fine children. He manages to persuade some wealthy people who are reluctant to help him improve medical conditions.