In Ireland, American writer Raymond Douglas tours the bookshops of Dublin and finds a rare first edition of James Joyce. He walks outside and an elderly local man, Doone, bumps into him. Douglas helps the man to his feet, and Doone recognizes him as the famous American writer. He tells Douglas there's something awful, terrible, and beautiful happening and leads him to a theater showing It Happened One Night
. Doone then takes him to the pub across the street and says that it's a theater.
They go inside and Doone introduces Douglas to the other locals. The owner, Heeber Finn, invites Douglas to examine a theater programme mounted on the wall, signed by the author and the company. Douglas shows off his purchase and buys a drink. When Douglas says it looks like a wild night, everyone grows silent and one man, Timulty, asks him if he's saying it with admiration or scorn. Douglas admits that he doesn't know.
Another local man, O'Gavin, runs into the theater and another local spots him and tells the pub-goers that he's entered the theater. Meanwhile, Timulty tells Douglas that he's in one of the most exciting places in Ireland. Doone insists on explaining that the pub is the center of the greatest sporting event of local consequence. Everyone gathers and Douglas explains that he writes screenplays for movies and has been to two Olympic events. They insist that he is perfectly suited to their special Irish sporting event: anthem sprinting. They explain that the Irish National Anthem plays at the end of each showing. The goal is to race out when the anthem begins, and the first to get out wins. Doone is the champion of anthem sprinting. Finn invites Douglas to bet his book against the programme. Douglas agrees as everyone cheers.
The men go to the theater and the cinema owner escorts them in and shows them the lay of the land. O'Gavin is in the second row watching the movie, which is an Irish film despite the marquee. The other anthem sprinter is a fan of the singer, Deanna Durbin, who is performing in the film. They go back to the pub and describe the teams of anthem sprinters across the United Kingdoms. When the film is five minutes from the end, the men return to the theater and organize to signal and time the event. Doone explains that the audience members know about anthem sprinters and make sure to stay out of the way. They also have handicapping, and send a man in to give O'Gavin two drinks from a flask.
Doone goes in and Timulty checks the two racers to make sure they're properly dressed for the occasion. Everyone places their final bets and listens as Deanna Durbin sings. Douglas bets on O'Gavin as the dark horse and the men gather at the door. Doone bursts out and is declared the winner. The anthem then begins and everyone rises to attention. However, they realize that O'Gavin has yet to emerge. Everyone goes in to find him and discovers that he's sitting in his seat, motionless. He's crying at the beauty of Deanna's voice, which reminds him of his dead grandmother. O'Gavin refused to commit sacrilege by leaping up at the end of her song.
The projectionist comes down, well aware of what's going on, and Douglas suggests they rerun the race. Finn agrees, saying it was an act of God. The others agree and they convince the projectionist to run the last reel. When Douglas points out that there's no audience to make it a fair race, everyone sits down. Douglas notes that there's no one outside to judge who wins and they send one man out, holding the stakes. Finn offers to let Douglas change his bet, and the writer bets on Doone. Finn tells O'Gavin to ignore the singing and win the race. As the singing begins, Doone says that he can't race and gives his coat and hat to Douglas to run for him. The singing ends and Douglas runs for the door. He wins, but turns to discover that O'Gavin didn't follow him.
Douglas goes back inside with his winnings and discovers that all of the men are crying at the beauty of the song. They tell the projectionist to play the last reel again and Douglas chuckles at the sight. Share this article with your friends