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A naïve but headstrong twelve year old boy falls in love with a young starlet in a cliff hanger movie serial and runs away to find the girl of his dreams only to find himself in the adventure of a lifetime in nineteen fifties Hollywood where he discovers that the woman he loves is now forty-five and older than his mother.
When Toby’s well to do father fails to appear at school for a special occasion, he’s approached by one of his friend’s mother who offers to give him a ride home. Frightened by the woman’s overt sexuality, Toby makes an excuse and runs away. That night, his father apologizes for not being able to be at the school function. But, he had a patient. Toby tells him, you have a son too.
During a Saturday matinee, Toby watches a starlet in a cliff hanger serial. Toby’s smitten and knows the scene by heart. The starlet is named Julia and she says, as if talking to him, “We were meant for each other. You, for me and me for you. Ask yourself, what would heaven be like if it were not for the stars or the oceans without the wind.”
Later, when he inadvertently sees his father kissing a nurse, Toby runs away to Hollywood to be with the one person “he knows” loves him, Julia. At the bus station, when Toby learns that they won’t sell him a buss ticket because he’s a minor, he decides to hitchhike to LA. Toby’s father hires CHUCK DIGGER, a PI who is the brother of a former patient, to find Toby and bring him back.
Toby arrives in LA with Digger hot on his trail. At the Bus Station, meets a boy named Foster Banks and a girl his own age who are street urchins who have set up housekeeping with other urchins in an old vaudeville theater in Hollywood. The boy steals Toby’s wallet. Toby goes in search of Julia. The PI calls Toby’s dad and tells him he has a good lead on Toby but needs more money. PI cons Toby’s dad into not contacting the police.
Toby tries to sneak onto the Republic Pictures lot and is caught by a guard who threatens to have him arrested. Toby over-hears a couple of actors talking about the Wizard. The man who knows everything that’s ever happened on the lot. The Wizard is the studio prop master and has long white hair and a beard. Toby sneaks into the lot and is confronted by a black lab named Bonnie. The two become instant friends. Bonnie is a studio stray that everyone on the lot knows. Bonnie leads Toby to the Wizard. The Wizard tells him that the serials were made a long time ago. Toby doesn’t believe him because the preview said it was “all new.” The Wizard sends him to see the man who directed the serials who is currently shooting a western in the Valley. Toby and Bonnie go to the Valley where Toby meets the Director on the set of a Western and is asked to be in the movie. The Director tells him where Julia lives.
Toby goes to North Hollywood to see Julia. But North Hollywood is too far away and Toby falls asleep in an orange grove with Bonnie by his side. He awakes in the morning to find that he’s been covered over and that the Wizard is preparing coffee in a tear drop trailer.
In North Hollywood, Toby peeks through the bushes surrounding Julia’s back yard and sees a young girl in a wheel chair. She could be Julia. Leaving his suitcase in the bushes, Toby goes to the door. It’s answered by the girl in the wheelchair. When Toby asks to see Julia, the girl yells, “Aunt Julia, it’s for you. Toby’s stunned when the woman who comes to the door is older than his mom. Toby argues with her and tells her that he knows the girl out back is Julia. He knows what she looks like. Julia explains that the girl’s name is Kelly and she’s her niece. Toby asks why she’s in a wheel chair and Julia explains that it was a auto accident, Kelly’s mom and dad died in the crash and Kelly broke her back.
Toby leaves and runs around the side of the house to get his suitcase. But, the PI is waiting, grabs Toby and ties him up. The PI who sends Toby’s father a note telling him that he wants to see his son again . . . . . and warns him not to call the police or FBI. Toby’s father calls the PI and tells him that his son’s been kidnapped and reads him the note. The PI feigns ignorance and tells Toby’s father that he doesn’t want anything to do with kidnappers. Too dangerous. The PI finally relents, for more money, to take the job.
Using tricks he’s learned from the movies, Toby steals the PI’s wallet and escapes. With nowhere else to go, he returns to Julia’s house and tells her what happened. Skeptical, Julia calls Toby’s father. His father tells her to keep him there and that he’ll send someone to get him.
Julia wants to know why he ran away. He tells her because you said, “We were meant for each other.” She remembers the line. Toby confesses that he fell in love with her. That he knew she was talking to him. Worried about her niece she rejects his clumsy overtures and tells him to stop making promises he can’t keep and getting people’s hopes up. He should go home and grow up.
More determined than ever to get his rightful due, the PI shows up at Julia’s. Toby tells her that the PI was the man who kidnapped him. She doesn’t believe him. When Toby tells her he can prove it, she grabs him and calls his father who assures her that he hired the PI and that he’s known him for years. The PI takes Toby and drops a back of matches from a motel near the door. In the car, the PI tells Toby, his dad owes him big time and it’s time he paid up.
Julia finds the PI’s wallet in Toby’s jacket. Now she knows he was telling the truth. It’s too late the PI’s gone. She sees the matches and picks them up. Julia calls Toby’s father. Toby’s nanny tells her that Toby’s father is on his way to Los Angeles.
In LA, the PI takes Toby’s dad prisoner and with the help of Foster Banks, the main street urchin,
At the motel, Julia sees the PI’s car and sneaks a peek through the curtains. Toby’s tied up in a chair and she can see that he’s working his hands free. She sees a maids cart and goes to an open door. A few minutes later she emerges dressed as a maid, goes to the room the PI and Toby are in and enters, pulling the cart in after her. A fight ensues and together, Toby and Julia overcome the PI.
In the hospital Julia and Toby are together in the waiting room. Toby’s dad comes out of the operating room, smiles and speaks to Julia. Toby approaches apprehensively. Julia puts her arm around him and tells him that Kelly’s going to be okay. Toby’s beaming. His dad takes him aside. Apologizes for not being a good parent.
Toby and Kelly are at a matinee watching Julia’s serial. Toby carves his and Kelly’s initials in the arms rest.