Based on John Galsworthy’s last novel, a woman leaves her abusive husband and shares a friendship with a man who is in love with her, and he is sued for adultery by her husband.
As an ocean-liner comes into port, Claire Corven (Diana Wynyard) talks with Tony Croom (Frank Lawton) who says he loves her though she does not love him. She says she is a respectable married woman. He invites her to stay in London with him and gives her his card. He says he will look for a job. She is going to stay at home in Oxfordshire. She says goodbye and shakes hands.
Claire gets off the ship and is greeted by her sister Dinny Cherrell (Jane Wyatt) who has a car waiting. Claire says she is not going back to her husband, and she tells Dinny about Tony. Claire wants to work, and Dinny says they need help on the election.
Claire and Dinny go into a restaurant and are met by David Dornford (Reginald Denny) and go to a table. He says the economic crisis will continue.
Claire and Dinny take a train. Claire says her husband was brutal to her, and Dinny says she must get free. Claire does not want the public attention a divorce would cause.
Claire are Dinny are driven to the home of their parents. She is welcomed by her mother, Lady Charwell (Kathleen Howard), and Dinny tells their father, General Charwell (C. Aubrey Smith), that Claire was treated cruelly by her husband. He embraces Claire and says he enjoyed the photographs she sent.
Claire talks to Dinny about her hairstyle and morals. Claire smokes, and Dinny asks if she can be still.
Lady Mont (Mrs. Patrick Campbell) arrives in a car and is welcomed by Dinny and the others. David, Claire, and General Charwell leave in different cars and wave goodbye. Lady Mont walks outside with Dinny who tells her about Claire’s husband. Lady Mont says she would like to be a goat.
Claire urges Benjy to vote, but he would only vote for Gladstone who has been dead for years. He takes her to his wife and says he will go in the motor car.
On a road Tony stops his car in front of Claire and says he has to see her. He puts his arms around her, and she says it will only make them unhappy. She drives off.
Dornford is making a speech and says how little the money is worth now, and Lady Mont tells the general that is what Gladstone said.
At home the Charwells with Claire and Lady Mont listen to the election results on the radio. Dinny comes in and says they are winning.
Dornford has won a seat in Parliament, and his supporters cheer.
Lady Mont hopes he will reduce the income tax and goes to bed. David Dornford comes in and is congratulated by the sisters and their father. He thanks them for their work. Dinny asks him to hire Claire as a secretary.
She calls Tony and says she got the job and says where she will be staying. Tony says he hopes he has a job too.
Tony calls on Lawrence Mont and agrees to see Lady Mont instead. Claire welcomes him and introduces him to Lady Mont who leaves the room. Claire does not let him touch her and says their relationship has to be Platonic. He reluctantly agrees. He says he will do whatever she wants. She invites him to visit her new place tomorrow. She walks him out, and he asks about her husband. He leaves as Gerald Corvin (Colin Clive) is arriving. Lawrence Mont (Henry Stephenson) talks with Claire, and they are told that Gerald is there. Lawrence asks her if she is in, and she says she does not want to see him. He goes out, and Gerald joins her in the library. She asks what he wants, and he wants her. He tries to kiss her, and she pulls away and warns him to leave her alone or go. He says some women like rough handling. He tells her to come back on her terms. He says he saw the young man leaving. He is in government service and cannot let her divorce him. She says she has a job. He says he won’t let another man have her. He says he won’t go back without her and is staying nearby. He grabs her and kisses her until she manages to free herself. He says “Au revoir” and goes out.
Claire asks Lawrence about divorce, and he reads the law to her. She is thinking of the family honor and does not want to hurt his career. He offers to arrange a divorce by meeting with Gerald.
Dinny goes to see Claire at her apartment above an antique store. Tony is painting the ceiling. He washes up and goes out. Claire says she is worried after Gerald’s visit. Dinny asks about Tony, and Claire says she likes to see him. Claire admits he is in love with her, but she is has no feelings for him at present. Dinny tells her that Gerald is there, and Claire asks her to get rid of him.
Outside Dinny tells Gerald that Claire won’t see him. She offers him a ride in her car. He hopes that Claire will come back to him. He says marriage is only mutual interest and desire, not love. He shakes hands with her and gets out of the car.
David asks Claire if he can go home now and asks how she likes her job. They go downstairs and part.
Gerald calls on Claire, and she lets him in.
Lady Mont tells Lawrence, Dinny, and David that she rang up Claire but got no answer. Lawrence says the divorce laws have become ridiculous. He says officials cannot change human nature. Dinny leaves to go to Claire’s rooms.
Dinny knocks and sees the room is dark. She goes to the hotel where Gerald is staying, but the clerk says he is out.
Dinny goes back to the Monts and tells her worry.
Dinny is let in by Claire who says she could not let her in before. She says Gerald was there and that she was a fool to let him in.
After a church service Claire and Dinny see Gerald.
Claire’s father meets with Gerald and Claire and tells her they cannot get a divorce. She refuses to go back to him, and Gerald says he will make other arrangements and leaves. She tells her father that Gerald used his Rodney move on her. She says he forced his way in.
Claire tells Lady Mont that Gerald has gone back home. Claire says she will never go back to him. Claire gets a phone call from Tony who says he got a job. He says he is coming to London for the weekend and arranges to meet her for dinner.
At night a detective follows them from her apartment to a movie theater. He sees them holding hands. They go to a café, and the detective sits near them and listens to their conversation. Tony and Claire plan to meet again. The detective Bert calls in his report about them. He notes that Tony left her rooms at 11:40 p.m.
Bert talks to George who follows their car on his motorcycle. Tony and Clair stop at an inn, but she persuades him to drive on.
Tony and Clair eat out in Oxford, and he drives her home at night. He stops on a country road because their headlights are out. She suggests they walk, and he offers to walk to a hotel; but she suggests they stay the night in the car under the trees. They smoke and talk. She asks him to forgive her for her promise. George stops and sees them. She puts her head on Tony’s shoulder, and he puts his arm around her. At dawn he is asleep on her shoulder.
George gives his report to Bert who calls them babes in the woods.
Bert hands Tony a legal document and leaves.
Bert gives Claire a divorce document, and she thanks him.
Tony calls on Claire, and they talk about what to do. They did not realize they were being watched. He wants her to be free of him. She says they are innocent. Gerald is suing Tony for £2,000.
Claire tells her father that Tony only kissed her three times—twice on the cheek and once on the hand. She admits she likes him. He wants to see Tony alone, and she sends him in. The general asks Tony of his account of the mess they are in. Tony says he is in love with her and has been to her rooms five times. He explains what happened with the car that night. He says there has been nothing between them.
The Charwells enter the courtroom. The husband Corven’s petition is called. His lawyer Brough (Lionel Atwill) describes how the two were together on the ship and calls Gerald to the stand. Her lawyer Forsyte (Alan Mowbray) questions him. Gerald admits he treated her badly once. Brough objects, and the judge agrees. Forsyte asks what made Gerald suspicious. He says he saw her coming out of Tony’s stateroom.
At lunch with David and Dinny, Claire complains about the testimony about them in the car.
Dinny tells Lady Mont about the trial, and Claire comes in. Lady Mont urges her to have a bath and rest.
In court Forsyte says their defense will be a denial, and he calls Claire. She testifies she has not been unfaithful to her husband. He asks why she left her husband. She says she could not keep her self-respect staying with him, but she refuses to discuss her marriage. She says there is no truth in the charges. Brough cross-examines her about her activities with Tony. She admits spending time with him. She says they never met before the boat. She admits he stayed in her stateroom once for twenty minutes looking at photographs. She was fully dressed. She asks to be protected from the prosecutor’s sarcasms, and the judge agrees. He asks if her conduct was proper for a married woman. She says that after leaving her husband, she did not consider herself a married woman. He asks about the night in the car. She says it was an accident that the lights went out. She says she never spent another night with him. He says her story is fantastic, but she says it is true. Although appearances were against it, she said they did nothing. The judge asks why they did not ask for a lift from another car. She did not think of it. She wanted to try sleeping in the car. The judge calls a break for lunch.
Dinny tells Claire she likes the judge better than the jury. Claire feels bad for having mixed up Tony in this.
In court Brough recalls Gerald who testifies about his visit to her rooms. He says he and his wife were re-united. He denies inventing it. Claire is recalled and refuses to answer about her married life. The judge says she must answer, and she says the marital relation was not re-established. Tony is called, and Forsyte asks when he met Claire. He says it was on the boat. He says the charges are not true. He admits that she did not love him as he loved her. That is why he did not contact her husband. Brough asks if she wanted him to pursue her, and he says no. He admits he slept that night in the car, and he denies he took any advantage. Dinny and Claire leave the courtroom. Lawrence tells the general that Forsyte made a mess of the case, bringing up that Corven wanted to divorce her.
In court the judge explains the divorce law and instructs the jury.
The jury discusses the case around a table. A woman doubts he could have behaved himself with her that night.
The jury finds them guilty of adultery.
Dinny tells Tony that he does not have to pay any damages beyond the costs. She advises him not to do anything hasty. She says Claire wants to see him at seven.
Claire says goodbye to Dinny and goes home. Tony calls on Claire who invites him in for dinner. She gives him a cocktail. He says he is bitterly sorry, and she says it is all over. She says he can stay as long as he likes. She says she owes him a lot. She asks him why he is so far away and says she pays her debts. He reacts to that by walking out.
The next morning Claire answers the door, and Tony asks to come in for a minute. She apologizes and says she had her tenderness in love killed in her by her bad experience. She has come to herself and says she does not want to eat breakfast alone. With the divorce done, she feels for him if he still likes her. He says he does like her and asks for breakfast.
This drama explores English divorce law and the difficulty a woman may have becoming free of an abusive husband. Her conduct was proper, and yet it caused a problem for her new friend.