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Fighting Father Dunne

(1948 b 93')

En: 6 Ed: 7

Based on a true story, a priest in St. Louis helps homeless newsboys by getting contributions from various citizens.

In 1905 poor boys fight in St. Louis to sell newspapers. Two boys take the priest Peter Dunne (Pat O'Brien) to a sick boy living in a box. Peter takes them to his sister's house. Her husband Emmett Mulvey (Charles Kemper) comes home, and Peter says he has three boys. Peter tells Archbishop Glennon he wants to help homeless boys. The archbishop writes a public letter, and Thomas Lee (Harry Shannon) offers legal aid. Emmett takes them in his wagon to look for a house. Peter tells the boys to clean up a house, and he gets groceries on credit from Mrs. Knudson. Peter makes stew but puts in too much salt.

Peter shows Lee a lease, and Lee guarantees payment. Two boys are caught stealing a pony and cart, but Peter persuades Michael O'Donnell (Arthur Shields) to contribute. Paula Hendricks (Myrna Dell) comes for her brother and says she works in the evenings. She walks with the policeman Danny Briggs (Jim Nolan).

Matt Davis (Darryl Hickman) throws a brick in the window to get in, and Peter lets him stay. Peter gets 22 beds on credit by showing a businessman the dormitory. Miss O'Rourke (Una O'Connor) comes over, looks around, and offers to cook.

Peter and Emmett go to newspaper editor Colpeck, and Peter tells Blake to stop beating up his boys. Peter prays with the boys and talks about cooperation. Matt leads the newsboys to take over a corner. Drunk Steve Davis (Joe Sawyer) comes to get his son Matt, but Peter turns him away. Blake sends men to fight the newsboys. The pony's leg is broken, and he is shot. Injured Jimmy (Donn Gift) is carried to the home.

Peter goes to O'Donnell and says his pony was killed in the circulation war. O'Donnell calls Colpeck and says he will lose his lease if he does not stop his hoodlums. Convalescing Jimmy asks Peter to forgive Matt. Peter goes to Matt and says he can come back. Matt says they are goody goodies and stays with his tough father. Danny brings another boy, but O'Rourke says there is no room.

Paula greets O'Donnell, who meets Emmett. Lee arrives and says the others aren't coming to the dinner. Peter says they have a hundred boys, and he signed a lease for a larger building. O'Donnell says he and Lee will handle it. Peter sees Matt in a suit and shows him the new place with a swimming pool. Matt sees Jimmy.

At night Matt runs from cops and goes to Peter, who says to give himself up to Danny. Matt pulls a gun and kills Danny. Matt is sentenced to hang. Matt tells Peter that he saw his father. Peter appeals to the Governor and says Matt's father beat him, but the Governor says he must uphold the law. Steve Davis quarrels with Peter, who hits him before visiting Matt. They pray together. In the final scene a boy asks Peter how he can get in the home for newsboys, and Peter takes him in the door.

This drama explores the challenges facing poor boys in a big city and how a capable person was able to mobilize people to help them. For more than thirty years Peter Dunne did operate a home for as many as two hundred newsboys by getting the support of Archbishop Glennon and prominent businessmen.

Copyright © 2006 by Sanderson Beck

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