The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • In Oklahoma in the 1920s, Ruben Flood loses his job as a traveling salesman, when the company goes bankrupt. This adds to his worries at home. His wife Cora is frigid because of trying to make ends meet. His teenage daughter Reenie is afraid of going out on dates, but eventually makes friends with a troubled Jewish boy Sammy, and his son is a mama's boy. He finally storms out of the house when Cora falsely accuses him of having an affair with Mavis Pruitt.


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  • Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960) Based on the 1957 Broadway play by William Inge, Dark at the Top of the Stairs follows the life of Rubin Flood (Robert Preston), an out of work traveling salesman in 1920's Oklahoma, his frigid wife, Cora ( Dorothy McGuire), his painfully shy daughter, Reenie ( Shirley Knight), and son, Sonny, who Rubin considers a mama's boy. While Rubin tries to keep his job troubles a secret from his family, Cora calls her sister, Lottie (Eve Arden) to visit who brings her husband, Morris (Frank Overton) for support. Cora can't understand Rubin's stinginess with money and, after Reenie meets a troubled Jewish cadet, Sammy (Lee Kinsolver), removes money from Rubin's pants to buy Reenie a new dress for the dance. Cora has also heard a rumor that Rubin's car has been seen at Mavis Pruitt's (Angela Lansbury), the single hairdresser in town. After Rubin discovers the missing money, they have a disagreement. He tells Lottie what he thinks of her bossiness and storms out of the house. He does visit Mavis Pruitt, who is more than interested, but he tells her it's no good because he loves his wife. Cora also visits an unsuspecting Mavis who, once she hears Cora's name, tells her to go home and love her husband because there are plenty of women around, including herself, who would be willing to. During this time Reenie's friend, Sammy, has been insulted by an anti-Semitic and has driven his car into a tree and dies. Rubin goes home and gives Sonny pointers on boxing. He has a father-to-daughter talk with a heartbroken Reenie. The story ends with Cora and Rubin walking up the stairs to their bedroom.

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