Based on a play by Clifford Odets, a young violinist takes up boxing to his father's chagrin and falls in love.
Boxing promoter Tom Moody (Adolphe Menjou) needs $5,000 to get divorced so he can marry Lorna Moon (Barbara Stanwyck). Joe Bonaparte (William Holden) tells Tom he can replace his boxer, whose hand he broke. Lorna persuades Tom, and Joe calls Papa Bonaparte (Lee J. Cobb), who shows Carp (William H. Strauss) a $1500 violin he bought for Joe's 21st birthday. Siggie (Sam Levene) wants his father-in-law to buy him a cab and hits his wife Anna (Beatrice Blinn) playfully. Carp says a man hitting his wife is the first step to Fascism. Joe tells Papa he made $100 boxing; but Papa wishes he'd play violin. Joe invites Lorna to a concert. At home Joe finds the new violin and plays it. Tom, Lorna, and Roxie Lewis (Edward Brophy) tell Papa Bonaparte that Joe does not punch hard enough, and they learn he plays violin. Joe quits fighting; but Lorna tells Tom that she will make Joe fight. On a tall building Joe tells Lorna he hates fighting, but she urges him to succeed by boxing. Joe says that she doesn't love Tom and kisses her. Joe packs and won't take the violin.
Joe boxes. Siggie gives Lorna the $600 that Papa wouldn't take from Joe. Eddie Fuseli (Joseph Calleia) comes to see Tom to buy "a piece of Joe." Tom sends Lorna to Joe again. She gives Joe the $600. Lorna goes home with Joe, who gives the money to his sister Anna for Siggie's cab. After dinner they sing with Papa, who gets Joe to play his violin; but Joe is out of practice. Papa asks Lorna to help Joe make the right decision, and she suggests that Joe quit fighting; but now Joe wants to be champ. Lorna warns Joe to stay away from Fuseli. Lorna says how Tom helped her but says she will tell him that she loves Joe. Tom happily tells Lorna that his wife is divorcing him; but Lorna informs Tom that she is leaving him. Joe comes in and sees Tom embracing her. Then Fuseli comes in and gets Joe a fight at the Garden. Joe makes Fuseli his manager. Lorna objects and says she loves Tom. Fuseli keeps Tom as his assistant.
Joe is angry that Lorna is marrying Tom. She complains that Joe has changed by going with Fuseli, who orders her to keep away from Joe. Fuseli buys out Tom, who tells Joe he will lose. Papa comes to see Joe fight. Joe says he is alone now. Joe fights the contender Chocolate Drop. Papa walks out in disgust; but Joe wins by knocking him out. Joe may have broke a hand but learns Chocolate Drop died. Lorna tells Tom she must go to Joe, because she loves him. Joe talks with the bereaved family. Fuseli gives Joe his money and says he is guaranteed $65,000 in the title fight; but Joe quits. Joe calls Fuseli a gutter rat, and Fuseli slaps him. Lorna tells Joe that she loves him, and he can go back to music. In the final scene Joe tells his Papa he has come home.
This drama contrasts the sensitivity of music to the
brutality of boxing and suggests that in this era of growing Fascism
the use of force is becoming increasingly popular.