Two clever operators compete in the business (racket) of finding lost heirs for rich estates, one trying to win back a pretty assistant by becoming respectable.
Rich people are dying without heirs. Jimmy Corrigan (James Cagney) hires men to look for possible heirs. His competitor Wallingham (Alan Dinehart) learns about a rich woman from the emergency room. His assistant Joan (Bette Davis) knows Jimmy's methods and catches their phone operator spying for him. Louie (Allen Jenkins) suggests they lay off some of their men, but Jimmy objects that is bad and against the NRA. Joan tells Jimmy she caught his man and says Wallingham has ethics. He argues, and she slaps him. Jimmy visits Wallingham's office and is served tea three times. To be even he gives Wallingham a tip on the Barton case and asks his advice.
Corrigan's office is transformed like Wallingham's. Joan has Posy Barton, who will inherit unless her father Monte is found. Jimmy learns that Monte Barton is wanted for murder as Joe Rector (Arthur Hohl). He finds him and tells him he has inherited $200,000 and gets him to split it if they can beat the rap. Jimmy calls Louie to get a marriage license, and he pays Louie's girlfriend Mabel (Alice White) to marry Joe. Then Jimmy asks Gladys (Mayo Methot) not to testify against Joe and to marry him, promising her $100,000. They wed, and Jimmy calls the police to arrest Joe. Joan visits Jimmy's "swank" office; he wants her to be his partner; but she wants him to be respectable. The judge dismisses Joe's murder case, and the Barton estate goes to him as Monte. He gives Jimmy a check for $100,000. Jimmy tells Gladys that Joe is a bigamist and gives her a "nice little check," warning her she could be an accessory if she tried to testify. Monte rejects Mabel because she used a phony name. Joan congratulates Louie, who explains to her both marriages were phony. Joan castigates Jimmy, who kicks Louie for blabbing.
Joan cries, and Wallingham comforts her; he invites her for a weekend, but she accepts it as a marriage proposal. Jimmy gives Wallingham a $100,000 check for Barton's daughter to gain Joan's approval. Wallingham certifies the check and gets one ticket on a ship to England. Jimmy sends Joan a telegram as Wallingham to join him on the ship and then proves to her he is a selfish fraud. She asks Jimmy to mail the check to Barton's daughter, and he gives it to Louie to do so. Then they plan to sail as Mr. and Mrs.
This complicated intrigue is played for comedy and shows that Jimmy has a good heart even though Joan calls him "the greatest chiseler since Michelangelo."