A successful escaped convict, who is innocent, is blackmailed by the thief and is sent back to the chain gang.
An oil-well fire rages, and they call expert John Ingram (Edward G. Robinson). His assistant Moose McCarthy (Guinn Williams) says they will come in two hours. He starts a fire in his office and puts it out with dynamite. John's wife Helen Ingram (Ruth Hussey) goes with John to the fire. John explodes the well, putting out the fire; but he hides from reporters. John, Helen, and their son Hank (Bobs Watson) look at their oil well. William Ramey (Gene Lockhart) asks John's housekeeper (Esther Dale) for a meal and walks in. Ramey asks John for help, a job. John gives Ramey cash and hires him. At the well Moose tells John that Ramey is a bad worker. Ramey tells John he did the robbery, and he can clear John for $25,000. Ramey types a confession and proposes to mail it as John mails the deed to the oil well to him; but Ramey does not put the stamp on his letter. The next day John is arrested, and Moose finds Ramey. At the police station Ramey denies the confession, and John threatens him. Moose tells Helen that Ramey left town. John gets five years. Moose tells John that they have to make payments on the well to Ramey. Helen tells John not to risk escape.
John meets the hardened guard Rawlins (Arthur Hohl), from whom he escaped before. John is chained in a cage. John works and does not want to escape. Helen writes that everything is fine. Moose arrives and says he is John's lawyer. John asks Moose what is really happening and realizes that Ramey got the well. Rawlins hits John, who fights back and is whipped. John gets a photo, and Rawlins takes it. John learns that Ramey is selling the well for $700,000. John decides to escape. Moose advises him not to but helps him by bringing a car nearby after a rain. John and Diggs (John Wray) file their chains during rain. John fells a tree to block the cars. Diggs cries, "Snake!" and hits a guard with an ax. He and John run. Diggs is shot, but John gets away and escapes in the car. John in a suit says he is a salesman but has to flee under a truck. Police watch Helen and Moose. As Moose leaves, John sneaks in. Helen is prepared for John, and he watches her with Hank. Police surround the house, but John goes outside. Ramey learns that the well is on fire and takes a plane. Moose says that Ramey must pay $20,000. John grabs Ramey, who fears fire and confesses. Helen tells John it is okay now, and he boils an egg for her as he puts out the fire.
This drama exposes the cruelty of chain gangs and provides
a warning against succumbing to blackmail rather than facing the
truth even though it may be unpleasant to do so.