Howard Hawks directed this story of a race-car driver competing with his younger brother.
Champion driver Joe Greer (James Cagney) is returning to his home town; but his girlfriend Lee (Ann Dvorak) wants him to quit risking his life racing and drinking. Joe's younger brother Eddie (Eric Linden) has become the local champion. Joe discourages Eddie, who decides to compete against his brother. When Eddie's car cracks up, Joe gives him one and decides to make a driver of him. Joe sends a telegram to Lee that he is extending his tour. Lee argues with her bitter friend Ann (Joan Blondell) and then meets Joe at the station. Joe doesn't want Eddie to know about his relationship with Lee. Eddie calls on Lee, and she and Ann give him a drink. Joe comes in and calls Lee and Ann tramps, throwing Lee out. Joe tells Lee he is dropping her because he wants to keep Eddie off the booze and women. Lee slaps Joe, apologizes, and then cries.
Ann visits Eddie at the garage, and they go out. Spud (Frank McHugh) tells Lee that Joe is drunk and angry about Eddie and Ann. Ann confides in Lee that she is in love. Joe warns Ann to leave Eddie alone; then he tells Eddie that Ann is no good. Joe slaps Eddie and says that he is through with him. Eddie is determined to get even and gets a new car. In the race Joe has been drinking, and the feud between the brothers causes accidents; a car burns and kills Spud. Eddie wins the race. Duesenberg offers Eddie a car in the Indianapolis 500, and Ann is happy too, having received a ring from him. Lee borrows the fare to Indianapolis from Ann. Joe, looking like a bum, tries to get hired as a driver at Indianapolis but is turned down. Joe is given a free meal and finds Lee, who takes him to her room. Joe is not drinking but says he has lost his nerve, because he keeps remembering Spud burning. In the race Eddie is in the lead but does not want to stop for a bad tire and injures his arm. Joe drives his car and in spite of another bad tire wins the race just before the tire goes. In the final scene the brothers are in an ambulance telling their drivers to race the other ambulance to the hospital.
Joe learns not to drink before driving by the hard lesson
of having his friend killed. He tries to prevent his brother from
following his path but soon realizes that he can't stop him from
doing what he wants to do himself. His character cannot resist
competing in a dangerous sport, as both brothers find success
in racing and in relationship. The audience can identify with
the winners, but the losers and injured tend to be forgotten.