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General Electric Theatre

Young and Scared (18 May 1958)

Appearing as Johnny Dundeen

Broadcast 18 May 1958 on the CBS television network.

Synopsis by curator@jamesmacarthur.com:

A bus station in the wee hours of night is a microcosm of the world. Tonight’s group includes a tired, rumpled young couple, a heavyset man sleeping fitfully as he waits for his bus, a mother and her fractious child, a robust young sailor, and an elderly night porter busily mopping the floor.

As the porter chats with the sailor, Johnny Dundeen (James MacArthur), a bus pulls in and begins disgorging the arriving passengers. Johnny’s eye is caught by a very young, very pretty girl (Carole Lynley) who timidly exits, looking around warily before settling in a nearby seat. Johnny continues to watch her as she hurriedly takes a seat at the far end of the terminal, then quickly hides her face in her small suitcase, obviously trying to avoid being seen by the police officer making his hourly survey.

A couple of hours later, a little after two in the morning, Johnny’s departing bus pulls in. He ambles over, stopping in front of the mysterious girl, thinking he might put her at ease with a little smalltalk. Before he can speak, however, the girl suddenly cringes in horror and begins to gather her belongings, preparing to flee. At first, thinking he has somehow frightened her, Johnny only watches in stunned and silent bewilderment.

Abruptly, a sharp voice snaps out a command from behind Johnny. He turns and sees a well-dressed, but rough-looking, middle-aged man, his face twisted in livid rage. The man begins to berate the girl, grabbing her by the arm and insisting that she come with him. She resists, clearly terrified of the man. As Johnny watches helplessly, the man cruelly slaps the girl across the face.

Johnny can remain passive no longer and intercedes, telling the man his physical violence is unnecessary. When Johnny tries to pull the girl free, the big man punches the sailor in the face, knocking him to the floor. The man leers in satisfaction at the downed youngster for a moment, then returns his attention to the girl. Johnny recovers quickly, regains his feet, and prepares to give back better than he got. After a quick engagement, Johnny emerges unscathed and it’s the big brute’s turn to sit dazedly on the floor.

Looking around for the girl, Johnny finally locates her hiding in the back of a parked bus. After a few false starts, he gets her to tell him her story. She’s Mary Asher, a 16-year-old running away from her guardian, Frank Lewis, the big man whom Johnny just slugged. Dismayed at this turn of events, Johnny tries to convince Mary that the law is on Lewis’s side and she must go back to him.

Mary stubbornly refuses. She was supposed to be met at the station by a friend who would help her get away, but the friend didn’t show. Johnny persuades her to go back into the station, where he promises to help her find her friend.

When they get back to the terminal, Lewis is nowhere to be found. The porter tries to persuade Johnny to let the two figure out their own problems, telling the sailor he’ll only get himself into a bad fix if he continues to interfere. Johnny ignores the kindly advice, making a snap decision to escort Mary to her friend’s house and make sure she’s safe. Even though he’ll technically be AWOL, he’s confident he can work that out later. For now, Mary and her welfare are more important than his own.

He and Mary leave the bus depot and climb into a cab waiting outside, driven by Murphy (Jack Klugman). Overhearing Johnny and Mary talking about her situation, Murphy becomes concerned about transporting an underaged runaway. Mary begins to tell more of her story, explaining that the Lewises had treated her well when she first went to live with them, but that things had changed recently, as if they now found her a burden. She's been a virtual prisoner in their home for months, barely even allowed to attend school.

As the cab draws near the block where Mary’s friend lives, the group discovers that the whole section has been razed to make way for a new highway. The three ponder what to do next. Murphy thinks they should take Mary to the police, Johnny feels they should go back to the bus station and try to find a solution, and Mary isn’t sure what to do.

Finally, Murphy decides to follow Johnny's suggestion and heads back to the bus station. Mary, exhausted from her ordeal, falls asleep with her head on Johnny’s shoulder. As he watches her tenderly, Johnny has a new idea. He asks Murphy to take them to Scotsburg, a town about 20 miles away, where Mary and the Lewises live. Murphy reluctantly agrees.

Some time later, Mary wakes up in the parked cab. Her eyes widen in fright as she realizes where they are. She begins to struggle, ready to take flight again, but Johnny and Murphy manage to calm her. Johnny explains that he’s not going to just deliver her back to her guardian, but instead plans to talk to the man himself and see if he can work out whatever problem has arisen within the family.

Johnny enters a building with the Lewis’s print shop on the first floor. He starts to ascend to the apartment above when a figure appears at the top of the stairs. It’s Lewis, at first only mildly curious, then furious when he realizes who his visitor is. Before he can resume their fistfight, Johnny convinces him he’s come to talk, not fight, and Lewis grudgingly lets him into the apartment.

Johnny tries to explain Mary’s side of the issue, but Lewis isn’t having any. Johnny makes several failed attempts to get to the bottom of the dispute between Mary and her guardian, but Lewis only grows more belligerent and threatening. With Lewis brandishing a whisky bottle as a weapon, Johnny flees back into the street and the waiting taxicab.

Back at the bus station, Murphy, Johnny, and the night porter huddle together to decide what to do next. Murphy takes charge, declaring that he’ll personally escort Johnny and Mary to see Judge Elliot in the morning, a woman he knows and feels they can trust.

Later that day, Judge Elliot listens as Lewis tells of his concern for Mary after she ran away and how he lost his temper and struck first Mary and then Johnny. This is a very different Lewis, humble and abject, seemingly a good guardian who is only trying to care for the girl placed in his charge.

Judge Elliot is about to send Mary back to the Lewis household when Johnny interrupts. He has begun to piece it all together in his mind, and now has an idea he knows what’s really going on. As he begins to lay out his suppositions and evidence, the judge, and everyone else, realizes what has really been happening.

Lewis has been using his printing business to manufacture counterfeit tax labels for illicit whisky. Confronted with Johnny’s airtight case, Lewis confesses. He’s been keeping Mary close to home -- a virtual prisoner, just as she said -- so that she couldn’t accidentally give him away.

The judge instructs a waiting police officer to take Mr. Lewis to the District Attorney for formal charging, then turns back to the Mary and Johnny, concerned for what will happen to Mary now.

Once again, it’s Johnny to the rescue. His family owns a ranch out west, just the kind of place for a girl like Mary to run free and be happy. He knows his parents would take her in, he’s sure of it. Earnestly, he pleads with the judge to contact his father and sort out the details.

The judge begins to agree, but is interrupted by Murphy, who’s been eyeing the clock for some little while. He tells everyone that Johnny has exactly 10 minutes to make the last bus that will get him to his ship on time and hopefully save him from being truly AWOL. The judge allows Mary to accompany Johnny to the bus station to say goodbye, but only if Murphy is the one who takes her there and promises to bring her back after Johnny has gone.

As Mary waves a tearful goodbye and promises to write, Johnny boards his bus while Murphy smiles at them benignly. It’s been an eventful, but ultimately satisfying, night for all three.

James MacArthur

James MacArthur

James MacArthur, Carol Lynley

James MacArthur

James MacArthur, Carol Lynley

James MacArthur

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