Who is the Raggedy Man? Who is this curious figure who always seems to be lurking in the shadows though is never properly seen? For a long time, we have no means of knowing.
It is 1940 in the township of Edna, Texas. Nita Longley (Sissy Spacek) gazes tearfully through the window of a honky-tonk where her drunken husband, Bailey (Sam Shepard) is cavorting with a floozie.
The scene shifts to Gregory, Texas, in the year 1944. Nita has left her husband and is now living with her two sons – 9-year-old Harry (Henry Thomas) and 6-year-old Henry (Carey Hollis Jr) – in a switchboard office of the Southwest Consolidated Telephone Company.
Nita is virtually on 24-hour call, the pay is meagre, and she’d like to try for a better-paid job but her boss, Mr Rigby (R.G. Armstrong), tells her that she’s “frozen” in her current job because of the war.
One stormy night, a sailor named Teddy Roebuck (Eric Roberts) drops in to phone his girlfriend and tell her that he’s home on a four-day furlough. Nita hears the sad story that the sailor’s girl, tired of waiting, has married someone else and, feeling sorry for him, asks him to stay for coffee while he shelters from the storm.
In the end, Teddy is invited to spend his leave with Nita and her family. The two boys take to him like a father. He takes them to a carnival and then to the movies, but above all, he saves them from a beating by two thugs, after which they idolise him.
The thugs in question are the Triplett brothers, Calvin (William Sanderson) and Arnold (Tracey Walter). Knowing that Nita is virtually alone and defenceless most of the time, the Tripletts have long planned to make it with her by fair means or foul, At length, an opportunity presents itself . . .
But whatever transpires in the life of Nita and the boys, the shadowy figure of the Raggedy Man is ever-present, waiting and watching – but for what?
Carey Hollis Jr.
Crecencio the Barkeeper
Jessie Lee Fulton