A hostess at a night-club testifies against the gangster boss after her sister is murdered.
Johnny Vanning (Eduardo Ciannelli) takes over a night-club, and Mary Dwight (Bette Davis) calls it a clip-joint. Vanning fires Estelle (Mayo Methot) for being too old; but Mary persuades him to let her stay while declining to go out with Vanning. Estelle wants to get another job, but Mary says factory work pays too little. At the Club Intimate Gabby (Lola Lane) sings. Mary is with Ralph Krawford (Damian O'Flynn), who writes a check for $2184; but in the cab he tells her he has no money. Mary tells him to leave town; but two men grab him. Louie (Allen Jenkins) asks the five women to pay for their dresses and shows them more. Mary's sister Betty Strauber (Jane Bryan) arrives, and Mary says they are models. Betty tells about college. Police say that Krawford was murdered, and they arrest Mary and the others.
David Graham (Humphrey Bogart) says Vanning is terrorizing the city, and the District Attorney (Henry O'Neill) lets him prosecute. All the women are identified except Betty. Graham questions Mary and says he wants to help her, but threatening her with jail if she won't talk. Vanning tells his lawyer Gordon (John Litel) to get Mary out of jail; but Gordon wants her to talk. Mary tells Graham that Vanning will kill her, and Graham asks her to help him get Vanning. Mary testifies against Vanning and two men. Betty hears that Mary is a hostess, and an officer testifies that the two men were in his jail. Gordon persuades the jury to acquit them; Vanning thanks Mary, and Graham blames her.
Betty tells Mary that she is not going back to school, because she is ashamed. Emmy Lou (Isabel Jewell) invites Betty to a party, where she meets Bob Crandall (William B. Davidson). Betty returns in a cab with a $100 bill, and Mary quarrels with her. Betty goes back to Vanning's party, and Bob tries to kiss her. Vanning knocks Betty down the stairs. Mary asks Emmy Lou about Betty. Mary also asks Vanning and threatens him. Mary goes to Graham, who learns that Betty is dead. At the apartment Graham questions Mary, Estelle, Gabby, and Florrie (Rosalind Marquis) about Emmy Lou. Vanning comes in to make sure they won't talk. Mary is defiant, and Vanning has his henchmen beat her.
Police raid the Club Intimate. Vanning sends Charlie to take Emmy Lou away; but she escapes. Mary's friends visit her in the hospital, and Emmy Lou comes in and cries. Mary asks Emmy Lou to tell on Vanning, and Graham learns they will talk. In jail Vanning tells Gordon he will get those "girls." In the trial Florrie, Estelle, and Gabby testify. Mary tells how she was beaten, kicked, and cut in the face. Emmy Lou says that Vanning killed Betty. Graham tells the jury of Vanning's empire of vice and crime and how these five women had the courage to stop it. The jury finds Vanning and three others guilty, and they are sentenced to 30-50 years. Graham offers to help Mary, but she says they live in different worlds.
This realistic drama was inspired by the life of Lucky Luciano. The point is made that honorable men were unable to stop this crime syndicate until five courageous "hostesses" spoke against them.