Based on Paul Osborn's play from a novel by Lawrence Edward Watkin, an old man traps death so that he can take care of his orphaned grandson.
A preface refers to Chaucer. Mr. Brink (Cedric Hardwicke) gets a ride from a couple, who die in a wreck. Julian Northrup (Lionel Barrymore) plays with his grandson Pud Northrup (Bobs Watson) while Granny Nellie Northrup (Beulah Bondi) cooks. Disliked Demetria Riffle (Eily Malyon) arrives with news that Pud's parents died. Julian gives Rev. Murdock extra money. Nellie tells Demetria that Pud inherited $55,000. Demetria tries to console Pud; but he hates her, and Julian tells her to get out. Julian dozes off and sees Mr. Brink, saying he won't go. Julian and Pud return from fishing, but the old car gives out in front of the church. Nellie tells Julian that they need help raising Pud. Demetria comes in and says that Marcia Giles (Una Merkel) was kissing in the park, making Julian angry. Nellie tells Demetria not to raise Pud. Julian releases a boy and Pud from the apple tree. Julian tells Marcia to kiss in the house. Mr. Brink comes for Nellie, who finishes her knitting and takes his hand. Julian mourns and turns over a new leaf.
Ben Pilbeam (Grant Mitchell) warns Julian that Demetria is trying to take custody of Pud. Julian and Pud dress up for church. Mr. Brink appears to Julian and says that Nellie was charming. Julian asks Mr. Brink to pick an apple and won't let him come down from the tree. Marcia tells Bill Lowry (Phillip Terry) that Julian and Pud are celebrating. The dog barks at Mr. Brink, touches the tree, and dies. Julian has a fence built around the tree. Demetria brings Dr. James Evans (Henry Travers) and Pilbeam and tells them what Julian believes about Mr. Brink in the tree. Dr. Evans asks Julian to talk to Mr. Brink. Julian asks him to snuff out Demetria to no avail. Only he and Pud can hear Mr. Brink. Julian stops Dr. Evans from getting an apple and says no one can die except by the tree. Julian asks Mr. Brink questions. Dr. Evans and Demetria come to take Julian away to the insane asylum. Julian pulls out a gun and asks Dr. Evans to poison a fly; but he can't kill it. Julian shoots Grimes (Nat Pendleton), and he recovers too. At the hospital Dr. Evans learns no one has died for a day.
At the tree Dr. Evans tells Pilbeam nothing dies but a mouse he put in the tree. Dr. Evans tells Julian to let Mr. Brink down so people can die. Dr. Evans has Julian committed and Pud given to Demetria. Julian tells Pud he is going with Mr. Brink. Pud cries and wants to go too. Julian learns that Demetria is going to send Pud to a girls school. He pretends Mr. Brink is taking Demetria and the sheriff to scare them away. Marcia lies that she heard it too. Julian, Marcia, and Bill look for Pud, who prepares to run away. Mr. Brink gets Pud to climb the fence, and Pud falls. Marcia tells Bill that Pud will never walk. Julian with Pud in his arms asks Mr. Brink to come down and take them. Mr. Brink touches Julian and Pud, and they walk with him toward Nellie.
This inspiring parable shows the importance and value
of death in releasing souls from irreparable bodies. The influence
of the good-hearted cursing and temper of Julian is contrasted
to the prim self-righteous but selfish zeal of the sour Demetria.