Hand in Hand (1961) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • In the town of Springfield, England, adolescents Michael O'Malley and Rachel Mathias strike up a friendship despite their less than friendly first meeting at school. That friendship becomes so strong that they spend whatever time they can together, Mike even forgoing playing his regular games with his old friends just so that Rachel won't feel left out. Their friendship is primarily based on reaching for somewhat collective dreams, those that seem to be at the top of the list being going to London to have tea with the Queen, and going big game hunting in Africa. They feel they are stronger as a pair than they are as individuals. Their respective parents support the friendship, which they may not have if it was ten years later and the friendship was a romantic one, their parents who would like their respective offspring to marry within their own religion, Mike's family who is Catholic, Rachel's being Jewish. The first test to their friendship is the possibility of Rachel's family moving away to Marlow, thirty miles away. The second and arguably bigger test is when a classmate points out a fundamental difference between their two religions. By this time, Mike and Rachel have become what they consider blood brothers who cannot be separated. But they have to test whether their blood tie is stronger than their individual ties to their respective religion, the outcome of the test which may have unintended tragic consequences.

  • A little Roman Catholic boy and a little Jewish girl become best friends despite the prejudice that surrounds them.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Michael O'Malley (Philip Needs), rushes to his priest to tearfully inform him that he has accidentally killed his closest friend, Rachel Mathias (Loretta Parry). The story is told in flashback as Michael recounts their friendship, when he first befriended Rachel after she was bullied at school. They quickly become the best of friends. The young children decide to become "blood brothers" by pricking their fingers and rubbing the blood together. They set off for an adventure, hoping to go to London to visit the queen, but instead are picked up by a kindly elderly lady (Sybil Thorndike) who takes them to her home for tea, pretending that she is a princess and that her mansion is one of the queen's homes, but that the queen is currently away. Her amiable deception goes over perfectly, and the children have a great time visiting with her. Michael and Rachel are aware that they go to church on different days and their religions are somewhat different, but they do not ponder the specifics. However, when a somewhat overbearing and destructively-outspoken classmate informs Michael that Rachel is Jewish and that "the Jews killed Christ", an outraged Michael rushes to Rachel at their clubhouse and angrily confronts her, "Why did you kill Christ?" Rachel is shocked and insistently denies it: "I didn't kill him. I don't even know him." Michael and Rachel conclude that God is angry at them for becoming friends, but they are not sure if He will forgive them. They decide to attend church with each other to see if God is mad at them, believing they will die if He does not want them to go to each other's church. Michael sneaks into the synagogue with Rachel the next Saturday and is somewhat puzzled and intimidated by the ceremony, but he stays and seems to like it as time goes on, especially after a kindly rabbi shows him a passage in the Torah that speaks of God's love shielding him from all fear. The next day, Rachel goes with Michael to his church, and while Rachel is initially somewhat unnerved by the services and statues, she too feels more comfortable after a while. Having concluded it is acceptable to God that they remain friends, Michael and Rachel decide to take an inflatable raft on the Thames River for their next adventure, a trip to Africa. All goes well at first as Michael paddles and the raft drifts leisurely and makes smooth ripples on the calm water, but then when the raft enters a dangerous area of the river with a swifter flow and strong rapids, Michael loses control of the raft, and Rachel is knocked overboard. Due to the stronger current and the riverbank's dense underbrush in which Rachel has become entangled, Michael has great difficulty reaching Rachel, but at last pulls her out of the river; however, she is limp and unresponsive. Fearing the worst, Michael frantically rushes to get help, and adults in the area call for an ambulance. The film then returns to the present moment with Michael in his grief-stricken state, and telling the priest that he's killed Rachel. The priest comforts him and tells him that Rachel may be all right, and then accompanies him to Rachel's home to see how she is. They are met at the front door by Rachel's rabbi who is leaving, and he informs them that Rachel has pulled through and is recovering well, but that perhaps it would be better to wait till tomorrow to visit her. Michael, immensely relieved, rushes home happy that his little friend is alive, and the priest and the rabbi --- acknowledging that their respective religions hold more in common than they may have realized before --- speak warmly to each other before walking away in different directions.

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