In this version of Balzac's novel Eugenie Grandet, a young man is sent to live with his miserly uncle, and he falls in love with his cousin, who loans him money.
Victor Grandet (Eric Mayne) sees that his son Charles Grandet (Rudolph Valentino) has dancing girls at his birthday party and sends him to visit his brother Pere Grandet.
Pere Grandet (Ralph Lewis) demands that a poor man pay him. The Grassins come to the birthday party of his daughter Eugenie Grandet (Alice Terry), and Pere thinks they are after his money. Charles arrives and gives Pere a letter from Victor that says he will be dead because he lost his fortune and owes millions. Charles sees that Pere is a miser who spends as little as he can. Charles reads that his father committed suicide. Pere says that Victor asked him to be a father to Charles.
Pere will not let Eugenie marry Charles. She consoles Charles, and Pere counts his gold. Eugenie finds Charles asleep in a chair. He has written a letter to Annette not to wait for him because he is spending his money to go to the West Indies. Eugenie offers to loan him money, and he gives her a gold case from his mother. Pere has arranged to buy up Victor's debts at a quarter their value, and he has Charles sign over the estate. Charles kisses Eugenie goodbye and leaves for Martinique.
Charles writes Eugenie that her loan has helped his land prosper. Charles gets a letter from Pere asking him not to write to her anymore. Eugenie and Mere Grandet (Edna Demaurey) have not heard from Charles. The poor man blames Pere for his wife's death and says his gold will crush him. Pere asks Eugenie for her gold so he can invest it. She admits it is gone, and Pere suspects it went to Charles and locks her in her room.
Pere's wife has died, and people say he seems crazy. A notary tells Pere that people are gossiping because Eugenie is locked up. Only the notary knows that she is not his child and that she could claim part of her mother's estate if she knew. The notary has arranged for Pere to have it all, and Pere gets Eugenie to sign. Eugenie finds letters from Charles and the one about Victor's debts. Pere tries to grab them. She says he cheated Charles out of his inheritance. She goes out to read the letters, and Pere is locked in. The spirits of the poor man, Victor, and Mere accuse him as a cradle of gold rocks. Pere sees clutching hands, and the walls close in. A personification of gold claims him. Eugenie and a servant find Pere crushed to death.
Eugenie is wealthy, and her letter to Charles is returned. The Grassins still seek her fortune. When Eugenie learns that Charles is in Paris and may marry, she announces her engagement to Bonfons Cruchot so that he can manage her estate. Charles finds Eugenie in the garden, and he says her father wrote him that she was married. She shows she is not, and they kiss. The others see them.
In this moral parable greed for wealth is exposed as
a cause of unhappiness for the victims and the greedy one too,
but as always the conquering power is love.