A racketeer finds his life changing when his daughter learns his business. He finds a woman he likes, but he has trouble stopping his business.
A Boston newspaper reports that the poor are suffering because the price of milk has risen. Other articles spread the alarm about the increased prices of food and construction.
A man tells a small businessman not to buy from Bailey & Son because they are on the blacklist. The businessman says he will buy what he wants. A truck is forced off a bridge and crashes. He tells Bailey he cannot buy from him. The businessman is told he will not have trouble getting supplies, and he raises his prices.
Jack Bannister (Walter Huston) looks at a report and tells his assistant Abner Snead (Dudley Digges) that they are not getting their share. They go into a board meeting. Jack notices that one man is missing because he got a swelled head because he thought he could beat the system. Jack gives out orders to three men, telling two of them they have to contribute to the relief fund. Jack leaves the meeting and tells Snead he is pushing a snowball that keeps getting bigger. Jack finds a message that his daughter is coming. He tells Abner he has not seen her in a long time. Jack sends her a radiogram.
Gloria Bannister (Loretta Young) gets the message while she is on a cruise ship. She spends time with Dick Cheney (David Manners) who tells her he needs to get a job so that they can get married.
Jack lets in Dexter Burroughs (John Halliday) and tells him he is to spy on a certain committee of financial wizards who think that Jack should be destroyed. Burroughs objects, and Jack shows him copies of his letters about his railroad merger. Burroughs calls it blackmail, but Jack says he is just requesting a little service. Burroughs reluctantly says he will keep him informed by calling a number and give his report.
At the meeting Burroughs listens to the men talking about Jack Bannister who is being paid by every business. An army of gangsters are devastating the country, and Bannister is the general of that army. The man asks them each to sign a pledge of secrecy, and Burroughs signs too.
Burroughs dials a pay phone. A machine answers, and he starts to make his report who was at the meeting.
In his office Jack plays the recording of the message. He and Snead hear Burroughs say a few words, and then they hear a shot. Jack says he was a great man, and he tells Snead to destroy the files on Burroughs. Jack asks Snead who went to the meeting because he had Burroughs followed. Snead hands Jack a report. Snead picks up the phone and says Gregory wants an appointment. Jack gives him one.
Andrew Gregory (Gilbert Emery) comes in and sits down and tells Jack that he is there for the Consolidated Milk Company. Jack says they make lots of money, but he knows without him and his system they would make more. Jack gives him statistics and says Gregory’s plan is to stop making payments. In the next room Snead is listening. Gregory asks Jack to stop collecting tribute from them. Jack says Consolidated can cut its prices, but they still must pay him. Gregory asks what his price is. Jack says he does not care about money, but he likes power. Gregory says his job may be to keep him from getting more power. Gregory says they will not meet his next demand for payment. A buzzer sounds, and Jack hears from Snead there is an important call for Gregory, who answers the phone and learns that Burroughs is dead.
Mary Stanton comes to see Jack, and Snead warns Jack about a woman tempting him like Eve. Jack says he does not like apples. Mary Stanton (Doris Kenyon) tells Jack that 10% of her money for construction is going to racketeers. Jack says the rate is 12% and says it is a service charge. Jack says he pays the regular fee too. He says he will make sure she gets a good building. Mary says she knows he is the head of the protection racket. Jack answers the phone and learns the ship is docking. He tells Mary he has to go see his returning daughter. Mary leaves. Snead comes in as Jack is leaving and says he is worried.
On the ship Dick tells Gloria he will drop in to see her. Jack welcomes Gloria as she arrives. In a car she tells her father that she is getting married. He asks who, and she says he is the son of a dead banker. He is going to tell his mother. Jack says they are like royalty and marry each other.
In his office Jack looks at a bracelet of large jewels. Snead gives Jack a paper about several cases to try.
Outside three men talk about the voice of a man they never see. Ed Bailey (Willard Robertson) is called by Snead. In an empty room he can see only Jack’s eyes as he gives him orders. Bailey says he busted his business. He says his son tried to protect his property with a gun, and he was shot dead. Bailey says he went crazy and tried to fight, but men grabbed him. Snead tells Jack to make an example of him. Jack says no; he is already broken. Jack tells Bailey he is on probation. Snead calls a man to keep an eye on Bailey even though Jack does not think he is dangerous.
Jack gives Gloria the bracelet, and she asks him to be extra nice to Dick. She asks Jack what his business is. She says she was a little ashamed not knowing his business. Jack says she may be ashamed if she knew. She says he may be a banker, and he says his business is hard to explain. He thinks she should know. He says he lost his business after her mother died. He failed at being honest. So he decided to be a success at being dishonest. He says he bluffs to make people pay him; it is called racketeering. Gloria is sad that her education was bought with that kind of money. She says it is horrible, and it changes her life. She goes out and comes back, saying she cannot see Dick now. Jack says she must see him now. Jack leaves, and Dick comes in and kisses her. He asks what happened, and she says she cannot marry him or tell him why. Jack comes back in as Dick asks her for some reason. Jack shakes hands with him. Dick says she broke their engagement, and he asks if Jack does not want her to marry him. Jack says that is not it. Jack asks Dick if his mother wants to know if he is marrying into the right kind of family. Jack says she objects to his business. Dick wonders if he is a criminal, and Jack says he is to her. Dick tells her he can work and support her himself. Then they can get married. They embrace and walk out together. Jack tells his servant that he will be eating alone.
Mary tells her servant she is expecting Mr. Bannister. Jack comes in and meets her little son, Malcolm. She asks Jack to sit down. Jack says he is not a nice man and is in trouble. He says he refused to grant her a favor yesterday. Today he asks her for a favor. She asks if it is his daughter. He says she is right because of her intuition, woman’s gift. She says men are big and strong. Jack says his daughter is leaving him because she is ashamed of him. Mary asks what she can do. Jack wants her to work for Mary tutoring her son in French. He suggests they put an ad in the paper. Jack shows her a picture so that Mary will know her. Jack says he has few social friends, and he praises Mary’s charm and sweetness. He says she is engaged to marry Dick Cheney. Mary says she will take good care of her. Jack thanks her.
Mary watches Malcolm singing a French song for Gloria. Mary asks Gloria if she will teach her French too. Mary learns that Richard Cheney is there. Mary goes to another room and greets Dick. They sit down. He asks if Gloria Bannister is working there. Dick says he wants to marry her, and they are engaged. Dick says he got a job selling bonds and wants to tell her. Mary calls in Gloria. She warns her that he is a salesman and leaves them alone. Dick says he is selling bonds.
Gregory is at a concert with Mary, who tells him that Jack likes her and is concerned about his daughter.
Jack comes in and tells Snead the sun is shining outside. Snead tells Jack that Mary is working for Gregory. She has been to ten affairs where Gregory was present. Jack tells Snead to call off his men. He asks why the president is being shadowed. Jack warns Snead not to have him followed and goes out. Snead makes a call and puts two more men on Jack. He tells Jack that Gregory has refused to make a payment due tomorrow. Jack calls a board meeting.
In the board room Jack says he formulated the code. He says Consolidated has refused to pay. They are prepared for war, and he asks them what to do. Jack says he is resigning. Snead says he is crazy. Jack says he is resigning because of his daughter. Some board members say they have daughters too. He made the code, and a man says he cannot back down now. Jack says they will attack Consolidated, and they agree.
On a street a milk truck explodes. A train derails. Messages are put in empty bottles; there is no milk.
Jack calls on Mary, who asks if he is busy with his war. She asks if he made a mistake. She says she is his opponent too. She says he trusted her. She warns him of a danger to Gloria. Mary says she will be safe until six, and then she will be taken away unless he calls off his war. Jack says he can protect Gloria, but he cannot stop this fight. Mary says she thought he liked her, and Jack says he does like her. He says he was tricking her. He found out about Gregory and her. He thought Gloria would be safest with Mary because she is the finest woman he ever met. He says her son whom he can reach would protect Gloria. He says her new butler is one of his men. He asks if she will hesitate to protect her son first. She says it is like the dark ages. She asks if he can control it, and he says no. She says she and her son have been swept into the underworld. She asks Jack to make sure they are not hurt. He says he can do nothing. She says he has become a coward. He implies he is the devil and leaves. On the way out he says hello to Gloria. Mary asks Gloria where Malcolm is. Gloria asks Mary why her father came there. Mary says he is her friend, and they arranged for her to come there. Mary knows about his business. Mary says she made a bad mistake, and she will explain everything to her.
Gregory and his men are ready to carry out their first attack. Mary and Gloria worry about six o’clock. Mary feels sorry for Jack, but Gloria says he is cruel. They go upstairs, and Gloria carries Malcolm down. Mary tells her servant they are going to Bannister’s house.
Mary and Malcolm go in another room, and Jack asks Gloria whose idea this was. Gloria admits it is her idea. Jack is grateful she is all right. She asks if he loves her. She says he causes misery every day. He robbed her of happiness. She tells him to go back to his business of makng people suffer, and she leaves the room.
In the board room Jack comes in, and they say they have them on the run. Jack tells Snead to call everything off. Jack says he took milk away from babies and laughs at himself. Jack orders them to do what he says. A board member says he cannot stop it. Snead and the others refuse. Jack says they will get trouble because he will turn in the books of the organization to the police. Jack asks if they will call it off or have a party with the federal authorities. Snead agrees to call off the war. Jack goes out. Others complain that Snead gave in. Snead says Bannister turned yellow, and they have to be careful. Snead calls Ed Bailey.
Bailey tells Snead his story and says he heard his voice but never saw him. Bailey would like to see him again. Snead asks Bailey to deliver a letter for him. Snead calls Bannister at home. Bailey says he does not know Jack Bannister. Snead tells him to deliver the letter to him personally. Bailey leaves. Snead answers the phone and tells Jack he is sending over an agreement with Consolidated.
Jack tells Gloria, Dick, and Mary that he is going to be a banker. Jack is called out and meets Bailey, who gives him the letter. Jack reads it. Bailey asks if he has to wait. Bailey looks at Jack’s eyes carefully. Bailey says he might help him get a job. Bailey recognizes Jack’s eyes and voice. He asks if he knows his old firm, Bailey & Son. Gloria calls Jack and says she will bring in coffee if he does not come right away. Jack hangs up. Gloria comes in with a cup of coffee. Jack stands up and spills it on her arm. She goes out to get another cup. Bailey asks Jack to talk. Bailey says he got wise that he is the big guy. Bailey says he should have killed him, but he killed his son. Bailey wants him to suffer while he is alive. He threatens his daughter. Bailey points a gun at Jack. Gloria comes in, and Bailey shoots Jack.
On the phone in jail Snead learns that Jack is dead. A newspaper reports how the extortion gang was busted. The businessman lowers his prices to what they were before.
This drama shows how racketeering hurts everyone involved and must be destroyed in the end. The man who runs the racket would like to end it; but he has got too many people involved and cannot do so without being destroyed himself as he had destroyed others. The daughter and the woman friend represent honesty and caring, and they are able to avoid the criminal behavior and survive.