Preston Sturges wrote this heart-warming drama about a thief and a prosecutor who fall in love after he bails her out for Christmas.
Lee Leander (Barbara Stanwyck) takes a diamond bracelet from a store but is locked in a pawnshop. Jack Sargent (Fred MacMurray) is called to prosecute because he knows how to get convictions on women. The defense attorney pleads to the jury she was hypnotized. Jack gets the case delayed until January. Lee wants to be out for Christmas, but the bail is $5,000. Fat Mike (Tom Kennedy) does not charge Jack to bail her out and takes her to him. Lee suspects Jack's motive, but he says she is free to go. She has no place and owes the hotel. He takes her to dinner, and they dance. They learn they are both from Indiana. He offers to take her home for Christmas. Jack drives her, and they get lost, smashing a fence. After eating and sleeping in the car, Jack tries to milk a cow. A farmer arrests them and takes them to a judge on three charges. They give false names. Lee starts a fire, and they escape. At her old home Lee finds her mother (Georgia Caine) has remarried. Her mother calls Lee a thief, and they leave.
Jack takes Lee home with him. His mother (Beulah Bondi), Aunt Emma (Elizabeth Patterson), and Willie (Sterling Holloway) welcome Lee. Jack makes popcorn and plays piano. Lee plays, and Willie sings "End of a Perfect Day." Jack tells his mother that Lee is a crook. They open Christmas presents, and Lee gets some too. Aunt Emma and Lee make popovers for Jack, but he laughs at the idea he loves Lee. At a charity bazaar Lee takes money from a judge. Aunt Emma dresses Lee in a corset for a barn dance. At New Year midnight Jack kisses Lee. He invites her to his room; but his mother tells Lee how poor they were and how hard he worked, asking her not to ruin him.
Jack and Lee say good-bye and drive off to Canada. Jack tells Lee that she could stay there. He says he loves her and wants to marry her; they kiss at Niagara Falls. In New York Lee tells Jack that she does not love him and would be bad for him. The judge (Charles Waldron) tells the D. A. (Paul Guilfoyle) that he saw Jack dancing with Lee. Jack cross-examines Lee harshly and tries to antagonize the jury; but Lee gets upset and says she is guilty. The judge sends her to jail, where Jack gets angry at her for pleading guilty. Jack wants to marry her there. Lee says she doesn't want to hurt Jack, but she admits that she really loves him.
The contrasting characters of their mothers show why
two people took different approaches to life; but the loving influence
of Jack and his family rehabilitates Lee, and, I hope, some in
the audience too.