Adapted from I. A. R. Wylie's novel, a widow tries to conceal the sordid character of her heroic husband from a writer.
Robert Forrest dies in a car crash. Gatekeeper Jason Richards (Howard Da Silva) keeps reporters out. Steven O'Malley (Spencer Tracy) sees reporter Jane Harding (Audrey Christie) and needs a room; so she registers him as her husband. At the funeral young Jeb Richards (Darryl Hickman) tells Steven it was his fault. Back from Germany, Steven admired Forrest and wants to see his wife Christine, but Geoffrey Midford (Forest Tucker) threatens him. Clive Kerndon (Richard Whorf) tells Steven that Forrest liked his writing, but Kerndon turns away reporters. At the gate Jason tells Steven that Forrest saved him in the war. Crying Jeb idolized Forrest. Steven explains the struggle for freedom, and Jeb guides him to the house, which Steven enters. He asks Christine Forrest (Katharine Hepburn) to tell of Forrest's life, but she says no. Kerndon urges her to talk to avoid suspicion.
At the hotel Jane questions Steven and says he has his own room. Christine comes to see Steven and shows him photos and notes from speeches, saying Forrest had a strong will. Steven questions Jeb and on the phone talks to Mrs. Forrest (Margaret Wycherly). Steven talks with Christine and meets her cousin Geoffrey. Young delegates from clubs Forrest inspired want to talk with Christine, and Steven calls her. Kerndon explains the Forward America movement and says Christine went away for a few days, saying Forrest's mother is an invalid. Dr. Fielding tells Steven that Jeb and his sister Janet worshiped Forrest. Steven sees a cabin, and Christine goes to that arsenal to burn papers. Kerndon plays a speech for Steven, who suggests Kerndon go into politics or advertising. Christine tells Steven she burned personal letters, and he learns she was riding a horse but did not warn Forrest the bridge was out. Steven suspects Geoffrey, because he hated Forrest. Steven goes to see Mrs. Forrest, who says her son was murdered. Christine comes in, and Mrs. Forrest blames her. Steven tells Christine he wants the truth and is quitting.
At the broken bridge Steven finds the horseshoe from Christine's horse. Steven asks her if Kerndon knows she killed Forrest, because she could have warned him. Christine says she did warn him not to go east. Steven asks why. Geoffrey brings Janet back to Jeb, and they plan to marry. Steven finds Christine burning papers and offers to help her. She says she married a hero, but worship destroyed him as he became a cruel Fascist for ambitious men with wealth. Forrest was about to commit treason by sabotage, and she let him be killed. Steven asks Christine to help him tell the truth, and she agrees. Kerndon locks them in the smoking cabin and shoots at an approaching car; but Geoffrey breaks in and saves Steven, who exposes Forrest and writes the life of Christine.
This mystery drama uncovers the hidden evil of an American
hero, who manipulated the public out of arrogant ambition, warning
that Americans could be susceptible to the Fascism infesting Europe.