Based on Sidney Kingsley’s play and directed by William Wyler, a tough police detective unravels after he learns about his wife’s past before he met her.
Mary McLeod (Eleanor Parker) misses her husband Jim McLeod (Kirk Douglas) because he works so hard as a police detective. McLeod brings in Arthur Kindred (Craig Hill) for stealing. Attorney Endicott Sims (Warner Anderson) is representing Karl Schneider and warns McLeod not to rough up his client. McLeod hates criminals.
Lou Brody (William Bendix) gives sandwiches to an arrested shoplifter (Lee Grant) and Arthur. Burglars Charlie Gennini (Joseph Wiseman) and Lewis Abbott (Michael Strong) are brought in. McLeod questions them, and Lewis talks. Susan Carmichael (Cathy O’Donnell) comes in and tells McLeod about Arthur, but McLeod says he is a thief.
McLeod is leaving when Karl Schneider (George Macready) arrives and refuses to answer questions. McLeod gets Miss Hatch (Gladys George) to look at a line-up, but she refuses to identify Schneider. McLeod thinks he gave her a fur. McLeod tells Joe Feinson that he knows evil because of his father. McLeod takes Schneider in the wagon to the hospital, but the witness died. McLeod tells him to leave New York, and he hits him. Police carry Schneider in to the police station. Sims arrives and is angry at McLeod.
Stolen goods are found in Gennini’s apartment. They call the owners to identify them. Susan offers money to pay back Arthur’s employer Pritchett. Lt. Monaghan (Horace McMahon) sends McLeod to the files upstairs and tells Mary that McLeod assaulted a prisoner. He asks her about Dr. Schneider and if she had a baby. Tami Giacoppetti (Gerald Mohr) comes in and knows Mary, who cries.
Lou persuades Pritchett to drop the charges against Arthur, but McLeod objects. He tells Pritchett that it is war, and he agrees to prosecute. Lt. Monaghan asks Giacoppetti about Mary, and he says her baby was born dead and that she had seen Dr. Schneider. She tells Monaghan that McLeod does not know. She tells her husband, and he questions her. McLeod is filled with hate as he learns what happened.
McLeod books Arthur. The shoplifter leaves for night court and says goodbye. McLeod gives them time alone, and Arthur tells Susan that he loves her. Gennini makes fun of Arthur. Lou asks McLeod to give Arthur a break. McLeod says he can’t change or compromise. Joe urges McLeod to go to Mary, who says she is leaving him because he called her a tramp. McLeod says he needs her and loves her. Sims tells McLeod to clean up his own house. Mary embraces McLeod. He gets upset about her past, and she says she won’t see him again. McLeod tells Joe that he always hated his father. Handcuffed Gennini grabs a gun. McLeod walks toward him and is shot three times. He tells Lou to let Arthur go. McLeod prays and dies. Lou prays too and releases Arthur, who leaves with Susan.
This precinct office drama explores the psychology of a cop who is vindictive to criminals because he always hated his father and once let a man go who then committed a worse crime.