Adapted from Aben Kandel's novel, a truck-driver becomes a boxer to help his musician brother and to please his girl, who is a professional dancer.
In 1934 New York City Kid Callahan picks a fight with amateur boxer Danny Kenny (James Cagney), and Mutt (Frank McHugh) urges Danny to fight for money. Danny's brother Eddie Kenny (Arthur Kennedy) gives music lessons; but his scholarship was cut, and he needs $150. Danny tells Mutt he'll fight. Scotty MacPherson (Donald Crisp) bets on Danny, who wins. Scotty offers to manage him, but Danny shows him a punchy ex-fighter. Danny goes dancing with Peggy Nash (Ann Sheridan). Murray Burns (Anthony Quinn) dances with Peggy, and they win the dance contest. Danny and Mutt start a fight with Murray. Peggy calls Murray and agrees to meet him. Danny and Mutt drive a truck. Googie (Elia Kazan) was in prison and asks Danny for a stake. Eddie tells Danny that Peggy is ambitious to be a dancer, and she wins prizes. Danny and Peggy spend Sunday having fun, and Danny suggests marriage; but Peggy urges him to be ambitious. Murray signs a contract with Al (Charles Lane), and Peggy goes along. Danny goes to Scotty and boxes, winning.
Googie invites Danny to his fancy party, and Eddie plays piano there. Danny leaves and finds Peggy with Murray. Danny hits Murray and hurts Peggy's shoulder. Peggy goes to Danny and says she loves him. Al tells Peggy he has a better contract for Murray and her. At a local dance Danny and Peggy are honored. Peggy cries as she kisses Danny good-bye. Danny gets a marriage license but finds a letter from Peggy. Danny is angry and asks Scotty for a title bout. Cannon Ball Wales (Joe Gray) punches Danny, causing his eyes to close. Eddie wants Danny to stop, and Peggy cries as she listens by radio in her dressing room. Danny's eyes are treated. Googie learns that Danny got rosin in his eyes and goes after Dutch (Jerome Cowan), shooting him in a car. Googie warns Cobb (Ben Welden) too; but Cobb gets a gun and kills Googie. The doctor tells Scott that Danny may see only shapes. Scotty blames Peggy and won't let her see Danny.
Eddie plays songs for a show with producer Max Leonard (Thurston Hall). Danny can barely see but encourages Eddie. Peggy asks for a job in burlesque and is helped by Gladys (Lee Patrick). Danny tells Scotty he wants something to do. Peggy rooms with Gladys and learns of Eddie's symphony. Danny sells newspapers on the street and makes Mutt take the concert tickets; he listens on radio. Eddie conducts his symphony. Peggy attends, thinks of Danny, and cries. Eddie is applauded and thanks his brother Danny. Peggy rushes out and goes to Danny, who says he is all right. She is still his girl, and they embrace.
This heart-tugger portrays a scrappy boxer sacrificing
himself so his brother's musical talent can flourish. Peggy thinks
she wants a career but realizes she is better off with the man
she loves, suggesting that different kinds of ambition bring different