A con man falls for a woman from Boston and manages to take over a town and become rich, though her father resents how he did it.
Con men Candy Johnson (Clark Gable) and Sniper (Chill Wills) are about to be tarred and feathered when Candy offers a trick and gets a gun to escape with cash on a train. Candy sees Elizabeth Cotton (Lana Turner), and she gets $10 from him for charity. She is greeted by her father, Judge Cotton (Frank Morgan). In the saloon Candy finds Gold Dust Nelson (Claire Trevor). Judge Cotton asks him for a loan. Candy asks to see the house cards; owner and sheriff Brazos Hearn (Albert Dekker) draws, and Candy shoots his hand. They play Russian roulette, and Candy gets $15,000. Candy takes the Judge home and gives Mrs. Varner (Marjorie Main) $1,500 for a mission. Candy kisses Elizabeth three times before she slaps him. Candy opens a new saloon, and Mrs. Varner preaches in her new building. Candy tells how he replaced liquor with candy.
Candy tells Gold Dust he won't get married, and she tells Elizabeth that he is not the marrying kind. Candy asks Elizabeth to go to Sacramento. She gets him to drink, and he wakes in her room married. Candy tells Gold Dust and then Judge Cotton, who says he hates him. The Judge tells his daughter that Candy is a cheat like himself. Candy finds Elizabeth's door locked and courts her before getting angry and breaking it down to say goodnight. Candy invites Gold Dust to dine in a private room. Elizabeth comes in and joins them. Gold Dust goes out, and Candy kisses Elizabeth. She wakes and is glad to see Candy. She asks him to leave his gun behind; but challenged in the street, Candy pulls a gun from his pocket and kills the man. Brazos tries to arrest Candy, who persuades Daniel Wells (Henry O'Neill) and the crowd to fire Brazos. Candy suggests elections.
Brazos works for Candy, who runs the town. Sniper warns Candy that Judge Cotton is talking. At a dinner in their plush house for the governor the Judge comes in drunk and exposes Candy as a boss. Elizabeth tells Candy he will be a father. The Judge says he is moving out, that Candy has changed Elizabeth. Brazos and "the boys" tell Candy they should get rid of the Judge. Candy puts the Judge on a train, but he gets off. Candy goes to the meeting, where Wells accuses him of graft. The Judge comes in and is shot by Brazos. Elizabeth falls out of a carriage. Dr. Otis (Russell Hicks) tells Candy that she lost the baby and is in danger. Delirious Elizabeth tells Candy she may lie and cheat like him. Sniper tells Candy that Brazos and his men are defending city hall with guns. Dr. Otis tells Candy that Elizabeth will live. Candy leaves money for Elizabeth and goes to Brazos, who took over. Brazos holds a gun on him, but Candy shoots him. Candy tells the men to start shooting, and the militia will oppose them, causing them to flee. Candy and Sniper go to Cheyenne, and in the final scene Elizabeth joins Candy.
This is a vintage Gable character, using his charm to
manipulate people and movie fantasy to escape unharmed despite
lying, cheating, stealing, and killing. This western symbolizes
that American violence is all right as long as it seems to be
in self-defense against even worse criminals.