Tortilla Flat (1942) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Danny, a poor northern Californian Mexican-American, inherits two houses from his grandfather and is quickly taken advantage of by his vagabond friends.

  • Danny inherits two houses so Pilon and his lazy, impoverished friends move in. One of them, Pirate, is saving money which Pilon hopes to steal till he learns it is being saved to buy a gold candlestick for St. Francis. When one of the houses burns down and Danny is hurt fighting, Pilon makes an effort to make life better for his friend.

  • Among those that live in the community of Tortilla Flat - located in the hills above Monterey, California - are the paisanos, a small subset of the large Hispanic immigrant population of the area. The paisanos are idle and thus poor men who choose this life rather than work to earn a living. They happily live under the stars and live solely for the here and now, meaning good food and wine rather than any material possessions. Pilon, one their own, is largely able to manipulate the others to do what he wants to get that food and wine without him having to lift a finger and without them realizing that they are being manipulated. Things change when Danny Alvarez, one of the younger paisanos, inherits from his recently deceased grandfather an expensive pocket watch and two houses in Tortilla Flat. Pilon senses opportunities to parlay Danny's new possessions into his wants, again without having to do any work or pay any money, one of the wants now including a roof under which to sleep. One of those opportunities involves the Pirate, another poor elderly man who lives in poverty in a shack next to the woods with his many dogs. The Pirate collects and sells wood, his entire take which is 25¢ a day. As he never sees the Pirate spend any money and as 25¢ a day adds up, Pilon is certain that the Pirate has a large cache of money hidden away somewhere which could buy a lot of good food and wine. All Pilon's plans may be threatened with the arrival of Dolores Ramirez, a young ethnic Portuguese woman, into Tortilla Flat. For Danny, who nicknames her Sweets, it's love at first sight, while it is a love/hate feeling from Dolores' side, she who sees a man who is unwilling to work to live and support whoever in his life. Pilon figures that he has to nix the burgeoning love between Danny and Dolores for him to continue to get what he wants.



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