A gangster is imprisoned for income tax evasion; when he gets out ten years later, he finds he lost his gang, his money, and his family.
Married Joe Korzak (Edward G. Robinson) and Talya Krozac (Rose Stradner) arrive in New York. Curly (Lionel Stander) tells Joe of competition in Brooklyn, and Joe has three brothers killed. At breakfast Talya faints, and Joe is happy she is pregnant. Police and Acey Kile (Alan Baxter) call on Joe about the murders; but federal agent Broderick arrests him for income tax evasion. Joe tells his lawyer Sid Gorman (Frank Conroy) to get him out of jail. Joe is transferred, and Acey Kile threatens him. On a train Joe learns he has a son and slugs convict Caspar (John Carradine). They are taken to Alcatraz, where the warden (Grant Mitchell) tells them the rules and Joe that his wife had a healthy son; but Joe faces ten years.
Talya bathes her baby. Gorman and Curly give her tickets to San Francisco and ask her for money; but she says Gorman has it. Talya visits Joe, who gives all his attention to the baby. Talya says she read about him. The warden tells Joe that his appealed was denied, and Gorman resigned. Paul North (James Stewart) gets a photo of Talya and her baby with a gun. She complains to the editor, who tells her how Joe killed. Paul says he wrote the stories. Talya cries, and Paul leaves with her. Talya visits Joe without the baby and shows him the photo. She says she will change their son's name; but Joe orders her to bring Joe Jr. Joe throws food at Caspar and starts a fight. During the riot tear gas is used. Paul takes flowers to Talya and plays with Paul Jr., who calls him Daddy. Paul wants to marry Talya.
Days, months, and years pass. Paul sees that Joe is getting out next month, and he tells his wife Talya. Paul and Paul Jr. (Douglas Scott) go fishing. Curly greets Joe and takes him to a bar to meet two women; but Joe asks where Talya is to pay her off. Curly persuades Joe to take a plane to New York to the boys. Curly asks Joe where the money is, and Joe is tortured. Joe is shown his son, who says Paul is his father. Talya finds a note that Paul Jr. was taken. When Jr. is tortured, Joe tells them where to find his money. They drop off Joe and Jr. in the rain, and Joe swears to get even. Joe tells the boy he is his son, and they camp out. Paul learns that Joe's gang was caught and killed. Joe gets angry at Jr. for talking about his Dad. Joe and Jr. arrive at the home of Talya and Paul, and Joe puts Jr. to bed. Jr. says that he loves Talya and Paul but that Joe is all right too. Talya thanks Joe, who rejects his boy and leaves. In the rain Acey Kile shoots Joe, who manages to kill Acey to keep him from publicizing his son; then Joe dies too.
This drama reflects the changed status of gangsters since Prohibition by showing the consequences one faced. The contrast between the Napoleonic Joe and the Boy Scout values of Paul is seen in the father-son interactions.