Based loosely on J. M. Barrie's play, The Admirable Crichton, an aristocratic family and their servants are shipwrecked on an island and struggle to survive.
Scullery maid Tweeny (Lila Lee) prepares a bath for Mary Lasenby (Gloria Swanson), oldest daughter of Lord Loam (Theodore Roberts). Butler Crichton (Thomas Meighan) compares spoiled Mary to Tweeny. He reads poetry to Tweeny. Lord Brockelhurst (Robert Cain) comes to see Mary. Lady Eileen Duncraigie (Rhy Darby) arrives to chat with Mary and asks if a friend should marry her chauffeur. Mary says no, but Eileen believes in love and leaves with her chauffeur.
Brockelhurst waves goodbye as Mary leaves on a yacht with her father, Ernie Wolley (Raymond Hatton), Tweeny, and Crichton. Mary reads of Eileen's marriage.
While Ernie is distracted, the yacht is wrecked on rocks. Tweeny, Aggie Lasenby (Mildred Reardon), and Ernie go in one boat. Mary is trapped below; but she and Crichton climb onto the rocky shore, and he carries her to a cave. The four others find them. Lord Loam is floating on wood and makes it ashore. In the cave they see a leopard. Tweeny gives her skirt to Crichton to keep warm, but he gives it to Aggie.
Crichton wakes Ernie at dawn and salvages things from the wreck. Crichton uses a watch crystal to start a fire, and he shows Ernie how to get water with a pail. Crichton give Tweeny an order, and Mary complains. Crichton says everyone must work to eat. Ernie shouts there is a tiger, but it is Lord Loam. Mary says he must be chief. Crichton asks Mary for her gold lace to use as a fish net. The others leave Crichton, who makes a better hut. They are cold in the dark while he cooks soup. Mary won't eat humble pie, but the others join Crichton. Mary fears a leopard and goes to Crichton for soup. She gives him the gold lace.
They capture goats and lobster. After two years Crichton is still king. Mary shoots birds with a bow. Crichton has designed a signal fire. Mary and Tweeny fight over who gets to serve Crichton. Loam has stolen figs, and Mary goes out for more. Crichton follows to protect her and kills a leopard with an arrow. They imagine he is king of Babylon. He makes wild Mary his slave by showing her lions. She says he will pay over many lives. She is killed by a lion. Crichton tells Mary that he has paid and still loves her. He announces that they are engaged. During the wedding Tweeny sees a ship. They stop the wedding, and Crichton lights the signal fire. Sailors come ashore.
Crichton goes back to serving as butler. Ernie claims that he killed the leopard, and Crichton tells a lady that there was no equality on the island and that he ate separately. Eileen asks Mary to give her husband a job because her family disowned her. Mary says she will give everything for someone, but Crichton shakes his head. Crichton takes Tweeny's hand and tells Mary they are quitting to marry and go to America. Sad Mary is left with Ernie, who asks her to marry. In the final scene Crichton and Tweeny are happy on a farm.
In this satire of the British aristocracy the quest for
survival shows who has superior skill, and a new aristocracy emerges.
The final scene makes the point that America offers more equal