A safecracker betrays criminals and tries to run away with a woman who is getting married.
In San Francisco Flicker Hayes (James Cagney) just got out of prison and agrees with J. C. Ward (Harold Huber) to crack a safe for $15,000; but he calls the police to come to the warehouse. Red Deering shoots a cop and is sentenced to death. Rose Lawrence (Joan Blondell) comes into Flicker’s room to get the wedding dress she hid; she is broke. Flicker helps Rose and goes with her to a fishing village to find her fiancé Nick. Pop Sims (Frank Craven) calls J. C. and tells him where Flicker went. Rose and Flicker get a ride with Dutch (John Qualen). Nick’s mother (Sarah Padden) greets them and gives them wine. Rose wants Flicker to leave, and fisherman Nick Gardella (Victor Jory) comes in. Flicker asks to go fishing with Nick. Rose asks Nick if her past matters, and he says they will start fresh. Sims arrives and asks to fish with Nick too. Nick goes fishing at night, but Flicker and Sims stay behind. In the barracks Sims takes Flicker’s gun. Rose tells Flicker to get out and cries.
After breakfast Rose tells Flicker that she changed her mind and is leaving. Flicker asks her to go with him, and they agree. Rose wants to tell Nick. J. C. calls Sims that he is coming. Flicker tells Nick that he won’t fall for a woman. Flicker notices that his gun is gone. Sims meets J. C., is paid, and takes a bus north. Dutch drives Flicker to the bus. Nick is happy, and Rose does not tell him. J. C. and Monk (Russell Hopton) tell Rose that they are waiting for Flicker, but they talk in front of their driver Whitey (James Eagles), who gets a ride to the café and tells Flicker that two men are going to get the woman. Whitey takes the bus. Flicker goes back with Dutch and sees J. C. and Monk. Flicker tells Rose that he can’t take her with him, and he goes with J. C. and Monk. Rose tells Nick her feelings about Flicker, but Nick asks her to put on the wedding dress. J. C. and Monk drive Flicker to a cliff and point their guns at him. In the final scene Nick and Rose come out of the church married.
This drama shocks the audience, because a popular star with a pleasing personality suffers the consequences of his treachery. Despite its moral ending, the Catholic Church condemned this film because of innuendo about Rose’s past, indicating how strictly censorship was coming down on the movies.