A reporter helps solve a murder case, and his testimony sends his enemy to death row until he writes the final story that frees him.
Spencer Halford tells Henry Mander (Harvey Stephens) to get rid of hot bonds, and on the phone he tells a woman it is over. She jumps off a boat, killing herself. Halford is shot dead in a car. Henry is threatened on the phone. Reporter Shorty (James Stewart) calls in the murder, and the editor Robins (Robert Barrat) assigns Steve Grey; but they have to find him. Steve (Spencer Tracy) tells Mary (Virginia Bruce) he's daffy about her. He suspects a defrauded investor, as angry investors clamor outside the office. Steve listens to Henry's call and questions him and the police. He suggests the shooting gallery, as the bullet was a 22. The secretary says Henry was at the shooting gallery. The police go there and take the rifles. Steve's story is first. At lunch Steve tells his father that Dorothy killed herself, jumping off a boat.
Henry was at the shooting gallery and is arrested and tried. Experts testify, and he was expecting $200,000 on Halford's insurance policy. Steve testifies that Henry threatened to kill him. Steve's story is first again. Police Captain Cole (Lionel Atwill) tells Steve that Henry will go to the chair protesting his innocence. Mary tells Steve to go away and write. Editor Robins calls the warden for an interview with Henry before the execution, and he sends Mary on vacation to find Steve. Steve goes to Sing Sing, where Henry tells him he is innocent. Steve says Henry and Halford killed people by robbing them; he knows Henry did not kill Halford.
Steve rips up his story, drinks, and refuses to write it for Robins or Mary. Robins insists, and Steve promises the story, recording that his own confession will free Henry. He asks Mary to type it and says good-bye. Steve tells Robins to give his bonus to his father. Mary listens to the story, breaks the cylinder, and goes after Steve. Steve walks into the office of Captain Cole and says Henry did not kill Halford. Steve tells how his wife was snared by Halford and Henry and killed herself. Steve says he framed Henry and killed Halford. When he learns Mary broke the cylinder, he calls in the story of his confession. Steve kisses Mary good-bye, and in the final scene Captain Cole suggests there is always hope with a jury.
This effective murder mystery forces the audience to face its prejudice in favor of the reporter hero and realize the complicated motivation that would lead to such an unusual case.