Based on Elizabeth Kata’s novel, a young woman who is blind is abused by her mother in the home with her alcoholic grandfather, but an intelligent and kind African-American helps her and gets to know her.
Rose-Ann D’Arcey (Shelley Winters) comes home tired and tells Selina D’Arcey (Elizabeth Hartman) to fix her supper. Rose-Ann suspects someone has been drinking her gin. Rose-Ann knocks Selina’s work case on the floor and asks why the beads were not strung together. Ole Pa (Wallace Ford) comes in and tells her shut up. He complains about the beads on the floor. Selina says she is sorry; she went to the park with Mr. Faber. Rose-Ann tells her she wants to know about her big ideas. Selina asks if she can go to the park again if she gets her work done. Rose-Ann says no. Selina says she can take her beads with her and do more work. She says she will get up earlier. Ole Pa urges Rose-Ann to miss some meals because she is fat. Selina is blind and says she is always in the dark. Rose-Ann tells Selina she has a bad face, but Selina does not believe her. Rose-Ann makes her clean up the beads. Rose-Ann tells Ole Pa to come home sober, and she goes out. Selina asks Ole Pa if she should wear a hat with a veil, but he says her face is not bad and not to wear the hat.
Ole Pa leads Selina by the arm as they walk in the town. She takes off her shoes to feel the grass in the park. He tells her to sit by the tree and stay put, and he leaves her there. She puts a blanket down and leans against the tree. She imagines being able to see and run around. She climbs up in a tree.
Selina opens her case to start working and feels a bug on her back. Gordon Ralfe (Sidney Poitier) asks if he can help her. He finds it is a caterpillar. As he stands up, he knocks her case over. She gets upset because it will be difficult to find them there. He says he is sorry and starts helping her put the beads back in the case. He admits it was his fault. She says she strings them, and it is easy. He says even a blind girl could do it. He never saw her there before even though he comes there nearly every day. He says they got them put back and starts to go. She says he must be tall because of the sound of his voice. She asks how tall he is and how much taller he is than she is. She says they are all mixed up, and he corrects her grammar. She says he sounds like the radio. She says she likes the church stuff on the radio. She says Rose-Ann doesn’t like it, and Ole Pa believes religion is bunk. She says he is her grandfather. She says that when she was five, she was injured. Her mother Rose-Ann had a friend in, and her father Harry came home unexpected and sliced up her friend. Little Selina is watching. Rose-Ann took a bottle and meant it for Harry. Gordon says he has to go. She asks if her face is a mess. He says she only has a couple little scars around her eyes. He says goodbye and walks away.
Gordon buys a few things in a drug store and comes back to her with a present. He gives her some sunglasses, and she asks what they are for. She puts them on, and he says she now looks like a very pretty girl. She thinks he is pulling her leg. She asks if he is wearing glasses, and he says no. He says sometimes people wear dark glasses to hide behind. He gives her some pineapple juice. She realizes she is behind in her work and starts stringing. He offers to give her a hand for a few minutes. He says it was his fault that they got mixed up. She says he is a nice person, and they learn each other’s names. She says she has been doing this work for five years and has never been to school. He asks if she can read braille, and she asks what that is. He is surprised. She says she gets by.
At work Gordon gets up from his desk and then tries to walk to it with his eyes closed, but he bumps into another desk. He has the book Light in a Dark World.
At night in the park Selina has finished stringing the beads and waits with her dark glasses on. She stands up and asks if anyone is there. No one answers. She sits down again, and Ole Pa comes back drunk.
At home Rose-Ann picks up the sunglasses and puts them on, claiming them as hers now. Selina says she found them in the park, and they may belong to someone else. She liked her day in the park. Rose-Ann slaps her, and Selina says she washed her nylons. Rose-Ann demands her supper. She does not want her going to the park again today, and she goes out. Selina asks if she left with the sunglasses, but Ole Pa does not think so. Selina says Mr. Faber will take her to the park if he will bring her back. He says he heard what her mother said and goes out. Selina searches with her hands for the sunglasses. She washes dishes and makes the bed. She irons clothes. In her slip she brushes her hair. She smells some perfume and puts some on her hair. She has a skirt on and hears a dog. Mr. Faber (John Qualen) comes in and asks how his favorite worker is doing. She wants to go to the park, and he says he will take her. She asks which blouse is prettiest, and he picks one. She asks if he sees the sunglasses, and he looks. He finds them and gives them to her. She puts them on.
Gordon sees Selina under the tree and says she looks lovely. She offers him some crackers, and he says they are for the birds. He helps her up and says he will help her find the exit so they can go get something to eat. He has her feel the sun and says it is in the south at mid-day. He helps her learn which way is west, and they go. He keeps her from going into a rose garden. He lets her walk by herself when she can.
On the street he shows her a parking meter. He says they have to stop the traffic to cross the street. He shows her the button to push and tells her to listen for the traffic to stop. He has her go one step down and count her steps as she goes across and then one step up. She listens to the traffic moving. He asks her to tell him when they have got to the delicatessen. She smells it, and they go in.
They are back under the tree, and she enjoys a corned-beef sandwich. She declines the juice, but he explains there is a place where she can wash her hands and so on. She then accepts the pineapple juice. He assists her, and they string the beads. They get many necklaces done and laugh with joy. They have done all the beads, and she closes her case. He guides her to the rest rooms. He helps her stay out of the way of two ladies walking by. She says it is great to have a friend. He says he knows a better word and says it is tolerance. She asks what it means. He says it means not knocking your neighbors because they look different. They hear the church bell, and he says he has to go to work. She asks if he is coming tomorrow, and he says it is Sunday. She asks about Monday. She thanks him for a lovely day, and he leaves. The dog arrives, and she says it is her lucky day. Mr. Faber says he was taking a walk and offers to walk home with her. She thanks him for being a tolerant friend.
Ole Pa is leaving the house as Rose-Ann is going in. Sadie (Elisabeth Fraser) comes in and criticizes Selina. Sadie takes a drink, but Rose-Ann declines. They agree they are both getting older.
Selina is sitting under the tree and thinks about Gordon coming on Monday at noon. She starts crying and blows her nose. She hears someone walk by. She whistles and works on her beads. Gordon whistles the same tune and tells her not to stop. He says he is sorry for being late. He says he has to do the mopping and asks if she will help him.
At the supermarket Gordon and Selina pick out some things. She notices the frozen foods and asks if they have pineapple. He gets pineapple sherbet and vanilla ice cream. He has her stand on the cart as he pushes it. He announces the different food categories. He asks for help picking out detergent, and she knows the brands from advertisements. He wheels her around, and she laughs. He hands her a tomato, and she says it is too soft. He tells her to get him a dozen oranges. She starts putting them in a bag, but they start rolling down. He manages to hold them back and advises her to take them from the top. He says they have to pay, and she says he must be very rich. He explains they are adding it up on a machine. He says they have to go to his pad to dump this stuff.
They go into an elevator, and she asks what is happening. She is amazed to find carpet in the hall. They go into his apartment, and he says it is air conditioned. He has her sit down while he flips on the radio and puts away the groceries. She stands up, and Mark Ralfe (Ivan Dixon) comes in. He introduces himself as Gordon’s brother. He goes into the kitchen and talks to Gordon about the girl. He says he met her in the park and says she is blind. He says she is just a friend, but Mark says he is out of his mind. He invites Mark to stay for lunch, but he leaves. Gordon says Mark has been having trouble in the hospital where he works as an intern. She opens a music box, and he sings along in French.
She is eating at a table in the kitchen and says it tastes good. She likes eating and talking. He sits down and starts eating too. She plays the music box again, and she asks about his grandmother who owned it. She says she had a friend called Pearl, and they were buddies; but Rose-Ann put a stop to that. She says that her mother got mad because Pearl was colored. She would not let her have a black friend. She says Pearl never came there anymore. She misses her because she was her only friend until now. She asks him to tell him about his grandmother Pearl. He says her grandmother did marry the man who gave her the box. She asks if the man was her lover, and he says he was. He says she sounds experienced, but she is a baby. She says she has experience with a man who mother brought back. While her mother went out, the man tries to rape her. She says her father got angry, and Rose-Ann had to take another room down the hall. She thinks she never forgave her for that. She had not known what she used her bed for. She feels sorry for her now. She asks if he is still there, and he speaks.
Selina is reading a braille book while she listens to the phonograph playing music. Gordon comes in and asks what she thinks of the book. He says they have to go. He picks up her case and blanket, but she plays the music box again. He asks if she would like to take it with her, and he gives it to her.
Selina is sitting under the tree at night. She wraps the sunglasses in a handkerchief and buries them there so that her mother won’t take them away from her. The wind starts blowing, and she stands up. She starts to leave but hears thunder and goes back to the tree. The wind calms down, and it starts raining. She hears people running. She cries and shouts. Gordon arrives and carries her to a place out of the rain. He tells her she is safe and gives her his coat to put around her. He dries off her head, and she is shivering. She asks why he came. He tells her it is dark. She says that makes him more like her. She says it stopped. He asks if her grandfather is coming for her. He has to go back to work and helps her down two steps. She says she loves him, and he says she hardly knows him. She thanks him for coming and says she was crazy to be scared. Her grandfather calls to her, and she says he is plastered. He staggers, and she tells Gordon not to let him see them. He leaves her before Ole Pa finds her.
Selina wakes up in her bed and thinks of her darling. She opens the window. Ole Pa snores and rolls over in his bed. She gets up and gathers clothes from the floor and chairs. She puts them in the wash tub and feels a lace bra.
Rose-Ann is drinking coffee and offers to punch the clock for Ole Pa because he is going to be late. She says he should not have to rush. She says Sadie treated her to supper last night. She says she takes it easy. She says he is going to be in a bind if he takes Selina to the park. He says he is not going to do that anymore. Rose-Ann says goodbye and goes out. Selina asks if he is going to take her to the park, and he says no more. He goes out.
Selina hangs up the wash on a line. She opens her box and picks up a necklace and puts it back. She turns on the radio and walks around.
Gordon is pacing in the park.
Selina puts on her dark glasses and goes out. She feels her way by touching the shops on the sidewalk. She goes around a corner. She accidentally touches an old man who is drinking beer. She hears kids roller-skating. She comes to an intersection and feels for the traffic control and asks for help. She tells a lady she is blind, and the lady helps her cross the street. She is jostled in a crowd and goes back across the street and trips on the curb. A man helps her up, and she says she is blind. He asks where she lives and helps her to get home.
Selina gets up from the bed and closes the window. She turns off the radio and remembers that Gordon goes to work at five. She remembers the man telling her she had no right to be out alone. She thinks about how she hates Ole Pa and the whore Rose-Ann. She hates everyone and feels she is going mad. Then she thinks of her darling Gordon and collapses on the floor. She hears a knock and asks who it is. A boy says he has a message for D’Arcey. She opens the door and says Mrs. D’Arcey is not there. He asks if she is Selina and says he has a message from his father, Mr. Faber. He says he got a phone call from her friend, Mr. Ralfe, who wants to know if she is sick or something. She says she is not sick. He says he would meet her tomorrow, and she would understand. The boy says his papa is going through the park tomorrow and asks if she wants to go. She says yes. The boy leaves. She is happy and puts dishes on the table.
Gordon tells Selina that her eggs were great, and he would like to hire her to cook. She says he can’t afford her. He says he could have called her; but she says they don’t have a phone, and she does not know how to use one. He says there must be a phone booth nearby, and he will teach her. She drops a plate that breaks and gets upset, apologizing. He tells her to forget it and kisses her on the forehead. She asks if that was a kiss and asks him to kiss her again. He kisses her on the forehead again, and she kisses him on the lips. She puts her arms around him and calls his name. She wishes she had never been done over. He asks what she said, and she says nothing. She sits down. He says he is sorry and says she was much sinned against. She asks if he is angry with her and thinks she is bad. He says no. She says she said it because she loves him so much. He says she brought him back to earth. She did not want him to come back to earth; she wanted him to make love with her. He says he knows. She stands up, and they do the dishes. Later she puts on a record and lights a match for his cigarette. He sits down, and she asks to try a puff. He says she won’t like it, and she coughs. She asks if he likes it, and he says it helps him to think. He says she can’t go on living the way she is in the dark ages. She says she has never been so happy before. She wants to go on being with him. He says she can’t be with him all the time. He does not want her with Rose-Ann either. He goes in to change so that he can walk her home. She starts the phonograph player. Mark comes in and says hello to her. He says he always finds her abandoned. She says he is changing his clothes.
Mark goes into the bedroom and asks Gordon if he brings her there everyday now. He suggests he make it the last time, and Gordon asks when he became his keeper. Mark does not want him wasting his time, and he thinks the girl comes from a trash heap. Gordon says that may be, but she is not trash. Given half a chance, she could be something. Mark washes his hands and asks Gordon if he is planning to provide that chance. Gordon says he can help by getting her in school. Mark asks if he is planning on educating a white girl. He says to let whitey educate his own girls. He says they always give them a hard time, but Gordon does not want to get into a political argument. Gordon says this is a personal matter, but Mark does not like it. He says no one takes this much interest in a girl unless there is something in it. Marks advises him to tell her that she could never mean anything to him. Gordon says that on race and politics they do not agree, and he asks him drop it. Mark says he should tell her that she does not fit in. He says if she could see, she would know that already. Gordon tells him to drop it. He wants to handle it his way. Mark says this is not his way. He needs to face facts. Mark tells him to tell her the score, or he will. Gordon looks at him angrily and tells him not to tell him what to do. Gordon says she does not have to know; he wants to get her settled somewhere first. Mark leaves, and Gordon turns off the phonograph and says they are going.
Gordon helps Selina count steps to the phone booth and has her pick up the receiver. He helps her put the dime in the slot. She dials operator and says she is blind and asks for a number. She says they are doing it and that it is ringing. They laugh. She says no one answered. He tells her she gets her money back when no one answers and lets her keep it for luck.
Sadie is telling Rose-Ann about a swell place when she sees Selina walking with a black man. Gordon gives her the case and blanket, and she says she can manage from there. He says goodbye.
Sadie says she is getting to be a big girl now, and Rose-Ann says she will see her later.
Selina comes in the apartment, and Rose-Ann comes in after her. Selina says she cleaned up the room before she went out. Rose-Ann says she saw her with that black man, and she reminds her what she told her about colored trash. She remembers what he told her about his grandmother, and she tells her mother she is learning things from him. Rose-Ann calls him a buck, and Selina tells her not to say bad things about him. Rose-Ann quarrels and slaps her, but Selina slaps her back. Rose-Ann complains that she hit her and asks if she learned that from her black boyfriend. She attacks Selina, and Ole Pa stops her. She tells him to stay out of it, calls him a stupid drunk, and goes back to hitting Selina. He yells at her, and she hits him. He takes off his jacket and throws it at her. They throw things at each other. In the neighbors gather. Selina is hiding under the bed, and Rose-Ann makes her get out. She screams, and the neighbors comes in. Rose-Ann and Ole Pa tell them to get out, and he says it is a private argument. A woman tries to intervene, and Rose-Ann makes her husband jealous by telling what she does. They start quarreling, and Ole Pa pushes them all out the door. Rose-Ann closes the door and locks it, and they laugh. Selina is getting sick on the floor and says she can’t get up. Rose-Ann lifts her up and puts her on the bed. She tells Ole Pa to clean her up and says she is going to take a bath. Selina tells Ole Pa she is sick, and he says he is sick too. He is going out to get plastered, and Selina asks him not to go out tonight. He admits he is a no good drunk and goes out.
An alarm wakes up Rose-Ann, and she shuts it off and gets up. She makes Selina get up and tells her they are moving out of here today. She and Sadie have plans. Selina does not want to go anywhere with Sadie. She asks what about Ole Pa, but Rose-Ann says there will not be room for him. Selina asks if she can stay there with Ole Pa.
Gordon on the phone learns that they could take her, and he says he will be there tomorrow at three. He leaves his apartment.
Selina is calling Gordon. Rose-Ann walks by with Sadie telling her she is glad to be leaving that place. Selina leaves the phone booth and walks on the street.
Rose-Ann and Sadie go back to her apartment; but Rose-Ann sees Selina is not there and goes out again.
Selina walks on the sidewalk.
Rose-Ann gets Ole Pa to go with her.
Gordon sees Selina arriving at the park and congratulates her. She says Rose-Ann is taking her away and is moving in with Sadie. She says they are starting one of those places, and she cries. He tells her to put that idea out of her mind. He says there are laws against what they are planning. She says the cops like Rose-Ann. She says it is hanging over her head. He hopes she will have her own place because he found a school for her. She asks if she can go at her age, and he says people go to school at all ages. She would like things to stay the way they are, but he says that is not good enough. He asks if she wants to learn properly. They sit on a bench, and she asks about the school. She is afraid strangers will laugh at her. He does not think they will. She asks if they can do anything else, but he thinks this is best. He says she will still be able to see him, and she says it is okay. He asks her to fix him some lunch. They start walking, but she says she has to get something. She goes to the tree and digs in the ground. Rose-Ann and Ole Pa arrive, and Rose-Ann grabs her. She tells Gordon she would like to call a cop, and he says that is not a bad idea. She tells Selina to get home. Selina runs off and falls in the rose garden. Gordon runs after her and pulls her out. Rose-Ann tells him take his filthy hands off her kid. He tells her to leave her alone. People are gathering, and she says he struck her. She says he can’t get away with this. Gordon walks off with Selina, and Rose-Ann says he has her daughter. She asks if anyone is going to do anything, and everyone walks away. Gordon and Selina come back to get her dark glasses from the rose garden. Rose-Ann tries to stop him, but Ole Pa pulls her back and says she is not a kid anymore.
Selina sits on a couch, and Gordon comes in and turns on the light. He says it is all set. They can take her tonight and are sending a school-bus for her. She hears the kettle whistling and goes to make tea. He answers the phone and says she will be ready. He tells her that the bus is on its way. She asks when she will be able to see him. He says he will be around. She asks if he is married already. She says she shouldn’t have asked and asks him to be tolerant. He says he is not married. She asks why he does not marry her; he does not even have to ask. He carries the tray of tea to the other room. She says he has gone away from her, and everything is changing. He says he has not gone away. He says there are many kinds of love, and many of them have nothing to do with marriage. He believes there are reasons why marriage would not work out. She asks if it is because she is blind. He says she will meet many new people and will see things differently. They will both be able to tell whether what they feel about each other has anything to do with marriage. She asks how long this will take, and he suggests one year from today. She says a year is forever; she could not hold out more than a week. He asks her to listen to him for a moment. He wants to tell her something about himself. She says she knows everything she needs to know about him. She says she loves him. As she is touching his face, she says she knows that he is good and kind. She knows he is colored, and he reacts in surprise. She thinks he is beautiful. He says most people would say the opposite, but she says they don’t know him. They hear the door buzzer, and he looks out the window and sees the bus on the street. He says it is time to say goodbye, and she hugs him and asks if she has to go. He says she does for a while. He asks how she learned about him, and she says Rose-Ann saw them yesterday. He asks if she wants him to come with her, but she does not want to have to say goodbye again. He kisses her forehead and opens the door. The bus driver asks for Selina, and she goes with the man. Gordon closes the door and takes off his jacket. He picks up the music box and hurries after her. Outside the bus pulls away as he comes out. He goes back inside.
This romantic drama reflects the contemporary civil rights movement which is making Americans examine and improve race relations. The kindness and sensitivity of the two young friends is contrasted to her selfish and crass mother and her weak and alcoholic grandfather. African-Americans with civil rights legislation are beginning to get more opportunity, and this story shows how a black man can reach out and help a blind girl become liberated from her miserable home.