Tea and Sympathy (1956) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Tom Lee is a sensitive boy of 17 whose lack of interest in the "manly" pursuits of sports, mountain climbing and girls labels him "sister-boy" at the college he is attending. Head master Bill Reynold's wife Laura sees Tom's suffering at the hands of his school mates (and her husband), and tries to help him find himself.

  • At his ten year reunion, Tom Lee reminisces about his life at Chilton, a boys' prep school. Chilton is the type of institution where generations from the same family attend, and want to attend. Tom, however, has different thoughts. He was perceived as different than the other boys, who called him sister-boy. He doesn't join in the group sporting activities except tennis, a sport he plays with finesse rather than power; he knows how to sew and cook; he knows all about gardening; he wants to be a folk musician; he's only accepted into the dramatic club if he plays the women's roles; and he even doesn't walk or style his hair like the others. The only one of his classmates who tries to understand him is his roommate, Al Thompson, who feels he can only do so much as one person against the masses. Tom knows that he embarrasses his alumnus father, Herb Lee, who is worried the Lee name will now be forever tainted at Chilton. At Chilton, Tom's favorite times are spent with Laura Reynolds, the relatively recent bride of his dormitory house master, the overtly masculine Bill Reynolds who also attended Chilton as a student at the same time as Herb Lee. Seeing the torment he is facing from all sides, Laura wants to help Tom in any way she can. As time goes on and things don't get any better for Tom, Laura comes to the realization of why she is trying so desperately to help him and what she needs to do both to accomplish that task and be true to herself.

  • The seventeen year-old Tom Robinson Lee lives in a boarding house owned by the headmaster and coach Bill Reynolds and his wife Laura Reynolds. Tom is a sensitive teenager that was raised by his maid since his mother died when he was a child and his estranged father Herb Lee was absent. He likes flowers, tennis, classical music, theater and other intellectual activities while his mates prefer sports and talk about women. One day, his roommate sees Tom with Laura and two women sewing on a button on a shirt on the beach and call him "sister-boy", turning his life upside-down.


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