In this adaptation of Elliott Lester's play a man being executed remembers what led him to kill his best friend and his wife.
A doctor explains to witnesses that the brain of a man in the electric chair will function for two seconds before death. The executioner pulls the switch. John Allen (Edward G. Robinson) works as a riveter on a skyscraper and talks with his friend Bud (Preston Foster). John wants to meet an educated woman. Bud won $38 on a horse and is brought the money by his bookie (Guy Kibbee). Bud arranged for his girl-friend Annie to bring John a date; but when John sees she is fat, he leaves and goes to a 10-cents-a-dance place. John dances with Shirley (Vivienne Osborne) and does not use the lines she usually hears. She argues with a man, and John socks him. Shirley is fired. She tells John she works to help her parents in Idaho. John makes $62.50 a week. Shirley says she wants to study with John. Bud criticizes John for going for Shirley, but John says she won't rope him in.
Instead of going to a lecture, Shirley gets John drunk at a nightclub. She kisses him and asks if he wants more. John is married to Shirley before a judge she pays extra, because John is drunk. John and Shirley come into his apartment and ask Bud to leave. Bud argues with Shirley. She undresses and joins John in bed, as Bud goes out. At work John asks Bud to stop being sore. He won't walk out on Shirley. Bud reminds him she lied about her parents and implies she is a prostitute. John pushes Bud from the skyscraper to his death.
John is agitated and tells Shirley he can't go back to riveting. They argue. A doctor tells John his trouble is mental. John can't pay the bill. Shirley asks the maid why she hasn't cleaned the place and learns rent is owed. Shirley has money she got from Tony. John, realizing where the money comes from, hates her, and tells her to give it back; but he uses it to pay the rent. Shirley puts on nice clothes and tells John she is helping Annie to work that way. John objects. The bookie brings John $388 he won on horses. John says Bud helped him. He asks for the $162 he owes and refuses the rest. He says a cup was filled with bootleg liquor, then his friend's blood, then money. John walks in on Shirley and Tony, giving him $162 and killing her. The judge sentences John to death, because he used no defense. John says it was pre-meditated and that he was more guilty for taking money. He rants and tells Bud to wait. The executioner finishes pulling the switch.
Recent research indicates that a life review occurs in near-death experiences, and it may be universally experienced when people die. John's perverted morality makes prostitution worse than the killing of his two closest friends.