Based on Gerald Green’s novel and directed by Daniel Mann, an elderly doctor in Brooklyn helps poor patients, and a newspaper story by his nephew gives a television producer the idea for a documentary program.
In Brooklyn two black men bring a black woman and leave her on the doorstep of a doctor and leave. Dr. Sam Abelman (Paul Muni) goes down to answer the bell. Other people gather, and he tells them to go home. His wife Sarah Abelman ( Nancy R. Pollock) tells him not to argue with the neighbors. Myron Malkin (Jody Baker) comes out and asks his uncle what happened.
Myron writes a newspaper story and calls it into the night editor as a human interest story.
In the morning at breakfast Woody Thrasher (David Wayne) tells his wife Anna Thrasher (Betsy Palmer) that his program got a good notice in the newspaper. He notices the story about the doctor in Brooklyn who is a good Samaritan. Woody says the sponsor Gattling does not like his new show, and so he does not like it either. He takes Dexedrine to get himself going, and she complains about the mortgage on their house and bills. He says it is better than the apartment where the kids could get mugged on the way to school. He says he will pay the bills; he just needs another gimmick and gets an idea to use the story of the doctor. He takes the newspaper and goes out to find him.
Woody parks his car in Brooklyn, and Josh Quincy (Billy Dee Williams) tells him he parked on the wrong side of the street. Myron answers the door and asks Woody if he is a drug pusher. Woody offers him money, and Money declines it and lets him in. They go through to the backyard, and Myron tells Sam, who is working in his garden, that his story made the Mirror. Myron reads the beginning of the story, and Sam says every nut will ring his bell. Woody denies he is a salesman and says he is a producer from Federating Broadcasting. He says what he did for the girl was real drama. He wants to do a television show about him. The neighbor throws a bag of garbage out the window, and Sam throws it back in. Sam dismisses Woody, but Myron says he may be able to persuade his uncle. Woody sees the patients waiting and asks about them. Myron tells Woody how they can get Sam to do it by persuading his Aunt Sarah. Myron says she likes television and Ed Murrow. Myron notices that Josh came in and says his mother has been trying to get him to see the doctor because he gets fits.
In the office Mrs. Quincy (Claudia McNeil) tells the doctor about Josh’s fits, and he says he will look him over. Sam takes his cap off, and Josh pulls out a knife. Sam sits down and persuades Josh to sit down too. Sam chats with him and finds out he is eighteen. Josh says working is for squares. Sam challenges him to arm wrestling, and Myron shows Woody how they can watch through a window. Sam wins the arm wrestling contest. Sam asks if his arm feels tired and numb. He asks Josh to repeat a sentence, but he refuses and touches his head. Josh says he is trying to mix him up.
Woody offers Myron a job in television if he can persuade his aunt to get his uncle to do the show, and he goes out.
Woody drives to the television company building. Inside an office Lyman Gattling (Robert F. Simon) tells Ben Loomer (Dan Tobin) the proposed show is terrible, and he won’t pay for it. He complains that Thrasher is late, and Woody comes in and says he knew the presentation was stiff. He complains his superiors tried to stuff this down his throat. Woody says he can find a dramatic program in the newspapers and finds the article about the good Samaritan in the slum. He reads it aloud about Dr. Samuel Abelman. Gattling asks for a presentation on this story and gives him three days.
Woody goes into his office, and his secretary Alice Taggart (Joanna Moore) gives him his messages. He tells her what he needs to set up the show while he changes his suit. He asks her to tell his wife he won’t be home for dinner.
At the Abelman’s Sarah tells Woody and Myron that she will not go against Sam on this show. Woody says he has to talk to Sam again, but Myron says he went to see his best friend Max Vogel. Myron says Sam will listen to him, and he calls Max. He explains that a TV producer wants to put Sam on national television. Woody explains that he is a producer and wants Sam on a documentary TV program about a self-sacrificing doctor. When Woody says the Gattling company is the sponsor, Dr. Max Vogel (Luther Adler) is impressed. Woody wants to come over, but Max says he is going fishing and tells him where and when the boat is going out.
In his office Dr. Max Vogel meets with Sam and Josh and his mother. She says she has not paid Sam who says he will worry about that. She thanks him and goes out with Josh. Max asks Sam who appointed him responsible for this patient and says he would have thrown him out. Sam asks him not to lecture him. Max says his patients don’t want to be loved; they want to be impressed. He shows him a new machine he has with a blinking light that has no purpose but to impress customers. Sam reaches for a book to look up something. Max stops him because he knows what the boy has. Sam says if they catch it in time, it could make a difference. He says he is going to the medical library. Max says he is going fishing and persuades Sam to go with him to the library and then to the boat. They leave.
Woody in fishing clothes gets on the boat which leaves the dock. Max tells Woody to start fishing and asks about the TV show and what is in it for Sam. Woody says it is a tribute and will make him known to millions. Max says they want him for nothing. He asks them to buy him a house Sam has wanted for years. Woody says they can’t buy houses for people on their budget. Max says they will not make a sucker out of Sam. Max moves away to fish. Woody catches a fish, and Sam helps him and recognizes him. Sam gives him something to eat and realizes he came to see him again. Woody explains that the newspaper article is to be a basis for the TV program. Sam says he cannot deliver himself and recommends Max. Woody says he talked to his wife and Myron, and he believes his appearance would be a great tribute to doctors who dedicate their lives to helping people. Sam fears he will have him selling pills. Woody says he can express his views and complaints about doctors and the practice of medicine. Sam admits he has a lot to say after 45 years. Max makes fun of his cuckoo ideas, and Sam says some see patients as customers. Sam repeats that he is not interested.
In a meeting Loomer tells Gattling that Woody offered Sam a house. Woody says they could save money by shooting the show in Sam’s office. Gattling says his company could present the house as a reward for his service, and Loomer says they could present it at the end of the program and credits Gattling with a great idea. Gattling tells Loomer to handle the details and goes out. Loomer tells Woody that he had to go along with Gattling.
Woody returns to his office, and Alice says his wife is on the phone. He tells her he can’t come home tonight and will stay at the Biltmore. He hangs up and tells Alice what he needs. He takes the other phone and asks Myron if Sam’s desire for the house is on the level. Myron says Sam just made a down payment on it, and Woody gets the name of the real estate agent.
Woody meets with the agent who says he sold the house yesterday to Dr. Abelman; but they have more papers to draw up before it is final. Woody takes him into his confidence.
Woody comes in to the Abelman’s and introduces the director of the show to Sarah. Woody shows Sam the microphone, and he starts singing. Woody asks about the books of literature in their medical library. Sarah says they came from Russia and read Emerson, Thoreau, Longfellow, and Whittier. Sam says Thoreau is great because he was his own man. They go into the reception room, and Woody tells the neighbors and friends that they are there to help tell the story of Sam’s life. There will be no actors, but they will each will be themselves. Nobody Home (Godfrey Cambridge) comes in and says Josh is having a fit. Sam goes out, and Woody goes with them.
They find Josh sitting on the floor in a grocery store, and Sam examines him. He gets Josh up to walk slowly, and he runs off. Sam asks where he went, and Woody says they have to get back for the rehearsal. Sam says he thinks Josh has a brain tumor, and he should be taken to the hospital. Woody asks why he breaks his back for one so ungrateful, and Sam says it is because he is his patient.
At home Anna tells Woody he has to eat something and gives him a sandwich and coffee. He tells her about Josh and his fits and how Sam treated him. He says Sam had Josh sent to the hospital. Woody says he is worried about the TV program. The climax is to be giving Sam the house. He is afraid he will object, and that will ruin two houses, his and theirs. He calls Federated and tells the director to tell everyone not to tip off Sam about the house.
Outside Woody tells Myron to keep people from stepping on each other. They begin a rehearsal with cameras. A host introduces Dr. Samuel Abelman at his office with his neighbors and friends in the waiting room. He goes in to interview Sam who reads a passage from Walden by Thoreau. The interviewer says they want to tell people about the great sacrifices he has made in his work. Sam tells about his mentor at Bellevue Hospital who taught him to know about the whole man. To do that you have to be a general practitioner. He predicted that there will be too many specialists. Sam says he does not like the phonies which he calls “galoots.” Sam criticizes phony commercials for drugs.
Loomer tries to assuage Gattling, but he tells him to be quiet.
Sam says they use commercials to frighten people so they will buy these pills. The interviewer explains they are sponsored by the Gattling company, and they are listening to this broadcast rehearsal. Sam says he will talk to them directly. He talks about the kick-back schemes and how patients are treated like criminals in mental hospitals.
Loomer calls Woody in the control booth and threatens to fire him and Alice. Woody comes in and takes the phone. Loomer warns him he has to keep quiet about commercial drugs. He says that they are going to get people to donate to pay for the furniture in Sam’s new house. He orders Woody to tell Sam the facts of life, and Woody reluctantly agrees.
Woody finds Sam in his office and tells him that the Gattling company is buying him the house on which he made a down payment. He says it was supposed to be a surprise. Sam asks who he thinks he is; he will not accept the gift. He tells Sarah about the manipulation. He comments on what a friend Woody turned out to be. He says they are making him look like a failure who could not get a house without their help. Sam says he stands on his own feet and expects others to do the same. He says there will be no bribes, no charity, and no show. Myron asks what is the problem, and Woody says Sam refuses to do the show. Sam says Woody is another “bull-thrower.” Sam says he is not a failure and lives as he chooses. Sarah asks if he bought that old wreck of a house. Sam says he does not take hand-outs. Woody walks away, and Myron asks why he had to tell him. Woody complains to Sam that he turned down a house. He says everybody takes money on television. Sam says he is not a high-class person., and he takes orders from nobody. Sarah says he did right. Myron says a doctor’s wife is supposed to urge her husband to earn money and get a house. Myron says he could have had it made in television. Sarah says he is not mature to think that and that he does not know his uncle. She says moving away will not keep Sam from getting angry at people. Sam says she is wasting her breath because he will never understand. He says Myron belongs to the new age of the galoots, the something-for-nothing crowd.
Loomer tells Gattling that Woody will be there for the meeting. Woody comes in and says the program is cancelled because Abelman refused to accept the house. Loomer asks why he told him and accuses him of sabotaging the show, and he fires him. Gattling asks if Sam would not appear under any conditions. He likes Sam’s speaking his mind and tells Loomer that he is not selling snake oil. He likes opinions of professional men. Gattling asks Woody to persuade him to go on the show if he is not getting any reward. Woody says that is Sam’s way of doing business, and he goes out to tell him.
Sam gets a call that Josh sneaked out of the hospital, stole a car and wrecked it. He is in the police station, and Sam says they have to get him back to the hospital. Woody says the show is going on in about an hour.
Sam drives his car with Woody to the police station. They go inside, and Woody is told that only the doctor can go up stairs. Sam is let into a cell where Josh is lying down. Sam examines his bandaged leg and diagnoses that it is broken. Josh feels pain and tells Sam to get off his back. Sam says they can set the leg at the hospital. The officer says it will have to be in the prison ward, and Sam agrees. Sam asks Josh to be human, but Josh says he will not listen to him. Sam says they blame all their troubles on everybody else but themselves. Josh tells him to “split.” Sam wonders why he feels sorry for Josh. Sam asks him to try to be a man and goes out. Josh gets up as Sam goes down the stairs. Josh calls out to Dr. Abelman from the stairs that he wants to apologize. Woody tells Sam they haven’t much time. Sam asks about Josh and says he will be right back. While climbing the stairs, Sam collapses in pain, and Woody helps him sit on the steps. Sam asks Woody to help him up. Josh in his cell asks what happened. Woody helps Sam walk, hears Josh, and says the world did not give him a chance.
Woody parks on the street and helps Sam into his home. Sam lies on the bed, and Sarah asks if he wants anything. Max comes in and says he will take care of him. He sends Sarah to get some bicarbonate. Woody tells Max that Sam said it was a heart attack on the stairs. Max takes his pulse, and Sam whispers that he got a coronary. Myron brings in Max’s bag, and Max gives Sam a shot of morphine. Sam admits he is in pain in the chest and the arms. Max tells him not to talk and says he will be all right.
Max goes out and tells Sarah that he is okay. She asks him not to hide anything, and he admits that Sam had a coronary. Max gives a prescription to the druggist and sends him to open his store and fill it. Max tells Sarah to help Sam get into his pajamas. Woody asks Max what he can do to help, and Max tells him to cancel the show and have people leave quietly. Woody goes downstairs and says Dr. Abelman is sick and that the program is cancelled. Woody says he will call Loomer to have them run an old movie to fill out the hour.
Sam asks Max what he sees in the electrocardiogram. Max tells Sam to lay still or he will fill him full of morphine. Sam tells Max he wants to shake his hand to show his appreciation. Sam shows his strong grip, and Max tells him to let go. Sam asks how sick he is, and Max asks who could ever tell Sam anything.
In the living-room Myron says Sam will make it. Woody asks Max for permission to speak to Sam, and Max tells him not to make it too long.
Woody goes in, and Sam says Max is a good doctor. Sam says he is sorry about the TV program. Woody tells him not to worry about that. Sam says Woody does his work well. Sam admits he has been needling them about their tricks with words; but there is nothing wrong with good words in Shakespeare, Emerson, Thoreau, and the Bible. He quotes Thoreau, and Woody completes the quote about marching to a different drummer. He asks Sam if he has ever been to Walden pond. Sam says he never made it but always wanted to go. Woody offers to take him and Sarah on a trip to see it. The nurse tells Woody he has to go, and Sam says he is cheering him up. Woody says, “So long” and goes out.
Woody is waiting outside and tells Dexter he is staying and thanks the crew. Anna arrives and says she learned what happened. He asks what they said at the office. She says Loomer is holding him responsible. Woody says he is the producer and that he should have kept him here; but the kid needed him too. Woody says they will lose the house and have to move back into town. She asks if that bothers him. He says it should but that it doesn’t. Woody says the galoots can’t run him out of his business. He hopes Sam will pull through because he would be nuts about Anna.
Sam is breathing heavily, and the nurse calls in Max who comes in followed by Sarah and Myron. Max puts the oxygen mask on Sam and tells him to breathe. The mask is off, and Max rubs his chest to make him breathe, asking him not to go. Sam breathes deeply once but then no more. Sarah tells Max to stop, and Myron agrees he can’t help him. Sarah tells Max and Myron that she is all right as she is crying. She asks for a minute alone with Sam, and they go out. She cries and puts her hand on his forehead.
Max begins filling out the death certificate and says the causes of death were coronary occlusion and fighting other people’s battles.
Outside Woody says goodbye to Myron and leaves with Anna. Myron goes inside, and they get in the car and drive off.
This drama portrays a doctor who lives among the poor and helps them. When attempts are made to tell his story, he has strong criticisms of the medical and drug professions. This story reflects the power of television to convey stories like this to many people in a documentary format pioneered by such men as Edward R. Murrow.