Based on Theodore Dreiser’s novel, a young woman lacks money and lives with a salesman before falling in love with a married man, who gives up everything for her.
Carrie Meeber (Jennifer Jones) says goodbye to her parents and on a train to Chicago she talks with Charles Drouet (Eddie Albert). Carrie sews shoes, injures her finger, and is let go. She asks Charles for a job, and he gives her $10. Carrie’s sister Minnie warns her. Carries dines with Charles, who lets her stay in his flat while he pretends to be away.
Carrie asks Charles when he is going to marry her. He brings George Hurstwood (Laurence Olivier) to see her, and they play cards. George quarrels with his wife Julie (Miriam Hopkins) and lets George Jr. go out with a girl. George calls on Carrie, who says she is not married. He asks if she loves Charles and kisses her. Charles comes home, and Carrie goes out to meet George. He asks her to leave Charles and go away with him, and she agrees.
Carrie meets Charles at Fitzgerald’s, and he tells her that George is married and has kids. Carrie walks out. Julie comes in to see George and asks about Carrie. George asks for his freedom, but Julie tells him to give up Carrie or she will tell Fitzgerald. Carrie asks George if he is married. George blames Julie and demands a divorce. George finds Charles at the bar, and Charles says he is going to marry Carrie.
George removes money from Fitzgerald’s safe, and it locks. George goes home, and Fitzgerald (Basil Ruysdael) says his salary will go to Junior. George goes to Carrie and lies that Charles is hurt. They take a train. George admits he lied because he loves her so much. He says he is getting divorced. Carrie stays on the train and kisses George.
George brings Carrie a new hat. Allen (Ray Teal) tells George to give back what he has left or he will be arrested. George gives him $9,300. Carrie asks what is wrong, and George says he is broke. He gets a job in a restaurant and loses it. Carrie and George argue over money.
Carrie asks Mrs. Oransky (Sara Berner) how much a child costs because she is pregnant. She tells George. He pays fifty cents for a dishwashing job. Julie with O’Brien calls on George. Julie wants to sell her house, and George asks for half for his signature. Julie threatens to have George arrested for bigamy, and Carrie cries. George asks for a divorce, and Julie agrees; he signs.
Mrs. Oransky tells George that Carrie lost the baby. George tells Carrie they can wait. She says she is young and will live. She gets a job dancing in a show. George reads his son is doing well, and he goes to see him. George sees Jr. and his wife being met by her parents, and he hides. George finds a goodbye note from Carrie. She acts in plays, and Charles comes to see her. He tells her that George stole $10,000. Carrie says she ruined him.
Carrie takes a heater to Mrs. Oransky and learns that George was thrown out. George waits on the street for Carrie and says he is hungry. She takes him in, gives him money, and wants to take care of him. George takes only a coin and leaves.
This realistic drama explores how socio-economic status affects self-esteem and the opportunities people have to form stable relationships. One lapse of judgment resulting in a serious crime can have an immense effect on one’s career and happiness.