The Night of the Hunter
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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Night of the Hunter can be found here.

Corrupt preacher Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) marries widow Willa Harper (Shelley Winters) in order to find the $10,000 that her late husband Ben (Peter Graves) hid just before he was arrested, convicted, and hung for murder. The only ones who know where Ben hid the money are his two children, nine-year old John (Billy Chapin) and four-year old Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce), but they swore to their father they would never tell that the money is hidden inside Pearl's doll, Miss Jenny. Harry eventually kills Willa and then goes after the children, who take refuge with tough but kindly Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish).

The Night of the Hunter is also a 1953 novel by American novelist Davis Grubb. The novel was adapted for the screen by American writer James Agee. A TV remake, Night of the Hunter, was released in 1991.

Yes. The plot was based on the true story of serial killer Harry Powers, who made contact with two widows through a 'Lonely Hearts' column, then killed them (and their children) for their money. Powers was hanged on March 18, 1932.

The real Harry Powers did his dirty work in Clarksburg, West Virginia, but the movie takes place in Ohio, somewhere along the Ohio River.

In the film Harry was sentenced to 30 days for car theft, served his time, and got released. The murders were not known at that time.

Powell tracks John and Pearl to Rachel Cooper's house where he tries to pass himself off as their father. Although Pearl runs into Powell's arms, John denies that he is their father, and Rachel can tell that something is wrong. As Rachel goes for her shotgun. John grabs Miss Jenny and hides under the front porch. Powell goes after him with his knife, but Rachel chases him away. Later that night, he returns. As Rachel guards the house with her shotgun, Powell sits out front singing 'Leaning on the Everlasting Arm' At one point, Powell sneaks in the house, and Rachel fires a shot that sends him running out to the barn. She calls the police, and they come out to arrest him. As the police are handcuffing Powell, however, John yells 'Don't!' and tosses Miss Jenny and the money at him. At Powell's trial, John is asked to tell whether it was Powell who killed his mother, but he remains silent. The police lead Powell out the back of the courthouse to escape the mob screaming to lynch him. In the final scene, Rachel prepares Christmas dinner for the orphans while they exchange presents. Having nothing to give her, John wraps an apple with a lacy doily, and Rachel accepts it lovingly, giving him a watch in return. As John goes upstairs, Rachel faces the camera and says, 'They abide...and they endure.'

The reason is not fleshed out in the movie. Viewers have suggested that 1) John is suffering a flashback from when the police handcuffed his father and took him away, 2) John finally broke under the stress of everything he'd been through, or 3) finding out that his mother is dead, John was expressing his grief, perhaps hoping that, if he gave Powell the money, it would bring his mother back.

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