powered by AFI
In the port of Marseilles, France, Honore Panisse, a well-to-do sailmaker in his fifties, is enamored of the lovely Madelon, the daughter of a widowed fishmonger. For many years Panisse has played cards with Bruneau, Captain Escartefigue and tavern-owner Cesar, the father of Marius, the boy with whom Madelon is in love. Though Cesar and Marius are great friends, they argue constantly, especially over Panisse's infatuation with Madelon, whom Cesar considers one of the family. One day, Marius sends Madelon a note saying that he is going to sea for three years, but cannot say goodby in person because it would break his heart. Madelon rushes to the docks and faints as his ship sails away. Because Panisse has just arrived, he tries to carry her home, but Cesar insists on taking her himself, not realizing that Marius has gone. Panisse tries to tell him why she fainted, but cannot, and listens fretfully as Cesar tells him that the two young people will soon be married. When he tells Madelon's mother Honorine this, Madelon, now revived, tells them that Marius has gone. Despite her love, she did not stop him because she knew how much he loved the sea. One month later, As Cesar pretends not to care that Marius has not written, the postman arrives with a letter from the boy. When Madelon arrives he reads the letter aloud, saddening Madelon, who is barely mentioned. Soon Panisse goes to Honorine to ask once again for the hand of Madelon. At the same time, Madelon finds out that she is pregnant and prays that she will have the strength to tell her mother. Madelon later goes to Panisse and tells him why she cannot marry him, but he is overjoyed with the news of her pregnancy because he has always wanted a son and his late wife was never able to bear a child. Because Panisse is so kind, Madelon agrees to marry him for the sake of the little one, and when Cesar arrives, quells his anger by telling him the truth. Cesar finally relents in his anger at Panissse for "stealing" his grandchild when Panisse says that he will make Cesar the godfather. They agree to call the boy Cesar Marius Panisse. After the baby is born, he is the apple of Panisse's eye, and Madelon gains the gratitude of Panisse's aged relatives, as well as the continued devotion of Panisse. One year later, just after Panisse has reluctantly boarded the train to go to Paris on business, Marius unexpectedly shows up at his father's house, returned to France to obtain some equipment for his ship. During the night, Marius goes to see Madelon, knowing that she has married Panisse, and Madelon lies to him, saying that Panisse is asleep. Marius confesses how much he has missed her, but she tells him it's too late. When the baby cries, she goes to him and Marius realizes that the child is his. When she tearfully confesses that Panisse is actually in Paris, Marius asks her to come away with him, but she tells him to go away. Just then Cesar comes back. He has returned home because he ran into the town doctor on the train and learned that a neighbor's child has contracted scarlet fever. He tells Marius to go away because that the baby now belongs to Panisse. She wants to go away with him and the baby, but just as they are talking, Panisse comes home because he was worried about the baby. Soon Cesar arrives also and tells Marius to go, but he refuses to leave without Madelon and the baby. Though Panisse sadly says that Madelon can have her freedom, he adds that he cannot give the baby up. When Panisse goes to check on the baby, Madelon and Cesar make Marius realize that the baby belongs as much to Panisse as Marius or Madelon. When Panisse returns, Marius shakes his hand and goes away, after which Panisse and Madelon happily look at their baby's first tooth.