A girl kills her rich aunt and marries the witness, but their other friend comes back to town eighteen years later and meets a woman just out of jail.
In Iverstown in 1928 young Sam (Darryl Hickman) and Martha Iverson (Janis Wilson) are caught running away, but Sam escapes. Martha's aunt Iverson (Judith Anderson) slaps her. Sam comes in Martha's window, and she insists on going with him. Mrs. Iverson beats the kitty, and Martha hits her with the stick. Young Walter O'Neil (Mickey Kuhn) backs up Martha's story, and his father (Roman Bohnen) says Mrs. Iverson is dead. Martha denies doing it, and the O'Neil's go along with her.
In 1946 Sam Masterson (Van Heflin) drives into a tree in Iverstown and learns that Walter O'Neil is running for re-election as district attorney and is married to Martha Iverson (Barbara Stanwyck). Sam meets Toni Marachek (Lizabeth Scott), and she stays in town. Martha finds Walter O'Neil (Kirk Douglas) drunk at home and asks why he missed his speech. He feels bad a man was executed for the murder of Mrs. Iverson. Sam and Toni get adjoining rooms in a hotel. Toni says she just got out of jail. Two detectives wake Sam and say that Toni was jailed for violating probation. Sam goes to see Walter and asks him to help Toni. Martha comes in. Walter tells Martha he expects the gambler Sam to blackmail them.
Sam calls on Martha, and they talk about their lives. Sam says he is leaving, and Martha kisses him. Martha calls the garage to delay Sam's car. Detective McCarthy (Charles D. Brown) reports to Walter about Sam. Walter interrogates Toni and threatens her with five years. Toni gets out and is met by waiting Sam. They dine out, and a man says he is her husband; he and other men beat up Sam. McCarthy tells Toni to leave. Bloody Sam flags down a bus, and he sees Toni alone getting on a bus. Sam asks her why, and she says O'Neil's men told her what to do. Toni stays with Sam. He walks into Walter's house and hits him when he tries to grab a gun. Walter asks how much the blackmail is. Sam warns Walter about violence and walks out. Toni is a little jealous. Sam reads a news story of Mrs. Iverson's murder. Sam meets Martha at her office and asks for half. She tells how she built up the business.
Sam tells Toni that she is good luck and kisses her. Martha walks in. Sam goes dancing with Martha, and he knocks out the man who said he was Toni's husband. On a mountain Martha asks Sam why he didn't stop her that night, but he says he wasn't there. Sam struggles with Martha and kisses her. She tells how she was afraid of Mr. O'Neil. Tony sees Sam kiss Martha in her car, and Sam finds Toni crying. Walter calls Sam to come over. Toni tells Sam she is taking a bus and advises him to leave too.
Sam tells Walter that Martha did not want to marry him. Walter and Martha argue about past actions. Walter is drunk and falls down the stairs. Martha asks Sam to finish him off, but he helps him. Sam tells Martha he feels sorry for her. Martha holds a gun on Sam and says she could argue self-defense, but he walks out. Walter pulls a gun, and Martha helps him pull the trigger and shoot her. Then Sam hears a second shot. Sam finds Toni at the hotel, and they drive west together.
This sordid melodrama of covering up manslaughter causes
the couple wedded by it to feel guilt and fear blackmail, but
a gambler has an ethics that restrains him from committing murder.
Even great wealth cannot make up for obtaining it the wrong way.