Cast & Crew
The Mills Brothers
In Harlem, Howard "Howie" Robinson and boxer Joe Louis, also known as The Champ, admire the sight of their young friend Cricket riding a bike and singing a song that advertises Joe Louis Punch, the product he sells from his bicycle. Cricket offers the men a quick goodbye as he rushes away to attend the homecoming of his brother Jerry, who has just gotten out of the Army and returned from Florida. Cricket and his brother Spider arrive at the house at the same time, and notice a beautiful, new car parked in front. Inside, their sister Janey serves coffee and cake. Cricket and Spider beg to have coffee put in their milk, and, after much coaxing, Janey gives in. Jerry brings a lot of money and a pile of clothes for the family, and Janey's suspicions are confirmed when she sees his gun holster. Yelling at him that like their dead parents, she had hoped the Army would change him, Janey throws Jerry out. Spider, who sides with Jerry, also leaves, but Cricket remains with his sister and the two embrace tearfully. The next day, Cricket again rides his bike and sells punch, and when he sees Howie and The Champ, the two men encourage him to confide his family problems. Howie and The Champ realize that Jerry is none other than "The Caper," the newest racketeer in town. Cricket brings the two men to the warehouse where Spider and his gang of friends spend their time. The boys listen to a baseball game on a stolen radio, and Spider expresses second thoughts about joining his brother "The Caper," in his illicit schemes. Frankie, the toughest boy in the gang, believes that they should join Jerry, and when he calls Spider "yellow," the two come to blows. At that moment, the other boys scream in amazement to see The Champ arrive at the warehouse door. The Champ tells the boys to finish their fight cleanly and fairly, but when Janey arrives and is upset that The Champ has encouraged them to fight, he has to convince her of his good intentions. Howie, The Champ, and Janey try to convince Spider to go home with his family. They then get a projector and a film cannister out of the car and show the boys a movie, starring Joe Louis, on clean sportsmanship. Janey tries once more to encourage Spider, who refuses her entreaties, and she finally leaves. Howie follows her and apologes about Spider, while praising her for her child-rearing skills. Janey says, however, that she has failed in teaching them good morals, and Howie replies that with poverty as a factor, her job is a difficult one. Howie and Janey see Jerry enter the warehouse and secretly watch what happens next. Jerry tries to give the boys a cut of some stolen money, but Spider refuses, because another friend, Harry, was caught and has gone to jail. Jerry's girl friend Baby promises to have Harry released by virtue of her good connections at the police station. With this promise, the boys decide to go in on the robbery scheme, with Spider reluctantly joining them. At a fur warehouse, Spider and Frankie stand watch and when the signal is given, the other boys climb through a transom into the basement and begin to pack up the fur coats. Janey and Howie arrive and see Jerry and Baby outside. They enter the warehouse and secretly turn all the lights on. As all the boys scatter, Spider climbs up the ladder to the transom, but Frankie knocks it over, causing Spider to fall and injure himself. Even though Jerry hears a voice pleading for help, he leaves the scene of the crime anyway. Later, at the hospital, Spider's sprained ankle is bandaged as the police wait. Spider insists that he was hit by a car, and, when The Champ shows up, they release the boy. Spider arrives home, and a tearful Janey thanks The Champ but admits that his help is only a "flea speck" compared to the problem of kids turning delinquent, which she says is like a spreading cancer. The Champ decides to build a Boy's Club for the Boys of Harlem and a Boy's athletic club. As the boys prepare for a performance that will benefit the new club, Frankie goes into a small storage room in which he is helping Jerry hide. Soon detective Jack Billingsley stops by with a large donation of sports equipment and tells Spider that they are looking for Jerry because he killed a policeman as he was trying to escape. Meanwhile, the benefit concert begins. Billingsley sees Frankie guarding the storeroom, then sees Jerry slipping out. He takes aim, and when Janey tries to stop him, he pushes her aside and shoots Jerry dead. Frankie expects Billingsley to arrest him, but instead, the detective tells him to join the other boys. The Champ makes Janey take the stage and explain to the audience what has happened backstage and about the urgent need to end juvenile delinquency.
The Mills Brothers
Emmett "babe" Wallace
The above credits and plot synopsis were taken from contemporary reviews and a shooting script deposited with the NYSA. Although some modern sources list 1947 as the release year of the film, contemporary sources suggest that the film was not released until 1948. Official correspondence contained in the NYSA files indicates that the film was re-released in 1949 by Toddy Pictures Co. For additional films about boxing champion Joe Louis, consult the entry for Spirit of Youth in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.4261.