Adapted from a novel by Cid Ricketts Sumner, Pinky passed for white in nursing school, but she returns to her grandmother in the South and nurses her white friend.
Pinky Johnson (Jeanne Crain) comes back to her Granny (Ethel Waters), who takes in washing. Pinky asks Jake Walters (Frederick O'Neal) for her money, but Rozelia (Nina Mae McKinney) tries to take it back. Police stop by and take Pinky's side until Rozelia says she is colored too. Judge Walker (Basil Ruysdael) gives each a lecture and releases them.
Grandma burns a letter, but Jake says he will write to the doctor. Pinky walks on a road and is grabbed by two white men. She runs home and packs. Granny comes in and says Em has heart trouble. Granny wants Pinky to nurse her, but she says she is going away. Granny says that Em nursed her.
Pinky goes to the big house to nurse Em (Ethel Barrymore). Dr. Joe McGill (Griff Barnett) says there is no phone, but he will come back. Em recognizes Pinky and is in pain. Em faints, and Pinky gives her a shot.
Black Dr. Canady (Kenny Washington) invites Pinky to dinner and hopes she will train nurses, but she says no. Pinky resents Em's pride, and they quarrel. Dr. Thomas Adams (William Lundigan) finds Pinky and kisses her. She tells him about Granny. He says he has plane tickets. She says she has a case, but then she will come.
Em's cousin Melba Wooley (Evelyn Varden) visits her. Em wants to make a will. Em insists Pinky take time off, and she writes on a paper. When Pinky comes back, Em collapses. Em has Dr. McGill sign her will. Em dies, and Granny cries.
Pinky buys a mourning veil, and Melba complains they are not waiting on her first. Dr. McGill tells Granny and Pinky that Em left her jewelry to Melba, her clothes to Granny, and her property to Pinky. Melba has hired a lawyer. Jake is glad Pinky is leaving, but she decides to stay. Judge Walker agrees to take her case, and Pinky washes clothes. Thomas arrives and shows Pinky a news article. He asks her to drop the case and marry him. Pinky says they are stealing Em's property.
In the trial Mr. Stanley (Dan Riss) argues that Em was senile and was drugged by colored Pinky. Walker says that Em was sane and was paying Pinky with all she had. The policeman testifies how he arrested Pinky. Melba says that Em was doped. Granny saw Em writing her will and Pinky giving her shots. Dr. McGill is busy delivering a baby, and Judge Shoreham (Raymond Greenleaf) denies any delay. However, he affirms the validity of the will, making people upset.
Pinky and Thomas go to Em's house. He suggests she sell it and says he got a job in Denver. Pinky says Em wanted her to do something with it, and she asks Thomas to go. In the final scene Pinky is using the house to train black nurses.
The producers missed a golden opportunity to make this
an even greater movie when they declined to cast Lena Horne in
the title role. This drama reflects the racism that is gradually
beginning to be challenged but still is deeply embedded in American
society, especially in the South.