A gambler works for a cartel boss, who marries his ex-girlfriend, complicating their love-hate relationship.
In Argentina, Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) wins money at dice and is held up; but Ballin Mundson (George Macready) rescues him with a sword-cane and recommends a gambling club. Johnny goes there and wins at blackjack. Ballin is the owner and tells him to leave, but Johnny hits back at his thug Casey (Joe Sawyer) and asks for a job. People celebrate the end of the war, and Ballin puts Johnny in charge while he is away.
Ballin returns with Gilda (Rita Hayworth) as his wife. Johnny knows Gilda and asks Ballin why a short man (Saul Martell) is allowed to win. Johnny says Gilda married for money, and she tells Ballin that she hates Johnny. Ballin tells the short man not to sell tungsten wire. The short man shoots at Ballin and then kills himself. Ballin shows Johnny the safe and says he has a cartel. Ballin admits he is mad about Gilda. She comes home with a drunk man, and Johnny makes him leave. Gilda says that Johnny is protecting Ballin. Johnny wakes at 5 a.m. and hears Gilda singing "Put the Blame on Mame." Johnny tells Gilda to leave. She is afraid that Ballin will find out about her. Johnny takes her home, and Ballin is up.
Two Germans tell Johnny that they want to see Ballin. Gilda tells her maid she is superstitious. Ballin tells Gilda to go to the carnival party with Johnny. They dance, and Johnny pushes her away. He gets a note to meet her at 2. During the unmasking a German has been murdered. Ballin tells Johnny to take Gilda home. He does so, and she says they are alone. Johnny tells her to get dressed, and she kisses him. Johnny sees Ballin and follows him to an airport. Johnny and Maurice Obregon (Joseph Calleia) see a plane take off and crash in the ocean. A boat picks up Ballin.
Johnny reads the instructions in Ballin's safe. He tells men that he is carrying on and is marrying Gilda. The German tells Johnny they put Ballin in charge of the cartel till the war was over, and they want it back. Johnny tells Gilda to think about her sins. She says there is only Johnny and her, but he spurns her until she names the others. Johnny has Casey keep men away from Gilda. She gets a job in Montevideo singing and dancing. She tells Tom (Donald Douglas) that she is not divorced yet, and he says she can go back to Buenos Aires and get an annulment.
Tom takes Gilda to a hotel room and Johnny. She cries and slaps Johnny, begging him to let her go. Obregon asks Johnny who is in the monopoly. Johnny sees Gilda sing and start to strip, but Casey stops her for Johnny. Obregon tells Johnny that the German was arrested, and he demands the signatures. Johnny shows Obregon the safe. Obregon says that Gilda was putting on an act, and she is going back home. Johnny tells Gilda that he wants to go with her. Ballin appears and demands his wife. He says he will kill them both, but Uncle Pio (Steven Geray) kills him. Obregon calls it justifiable homicide, and Gilda wants to be with Johnny.
This drama has two powerful currents. One is a personal
relationship in which love has turned to hate, and the other is
the fascist attempt to control the world by using the power of
money. After much cruelty, hate can turn back to love; for ultimately
hatred and cruelty are self-defeating.