Based on a novella by John Steinbeck, lazy men try to find wine without working, but one inherits property and falls in love.
In Monterey, California lazy Pilon (Spencer Tracy) takes a lawyer to Danny (John Garfield) in jail. Danny has inherited two houses in Tortilla Flat and a watch. Pilon persuades Danny to trade the watch for wine. Danny meets pretty Dolores (Hedy Lamarr). In Danny's house Pilon sends Pablo (Akim Tamiroff) on errands and has Danny give flowers to his neighbor Mrs. Marellis (Mercedes Ruffino). They drink and sing. Pilon rents Danny's other house for $15 a month and asks Pablo to pay it. Father Ramon (Henry O'Neill) asks Danny to attend church. Danny sees Dolores and asks Pilon for the rent. Pilon learns that Jose (John Qualen) has $3 and brings him in the house. Pilon buys wine for Danny, who finds them sleeping. Danny calls on Dolores, who says she wants a home. Pablo tells Danny that his house is on fire; but Danny stays to kiss Dolores, who tells him to change and defends herself with a knife.
Pilon apologizes to Danny. A man has a hungry baby, and Pilon sends Danny to Dolores for goat's milk. She takes care of the baby and urges Danny to fix up the house. Pirate (Frank Morgan) sells wood, and Pilon says he saves his money. Pilon visits Pirate and invites him to live with them. Danny finds Dolores working at the cannery and fights the foreman. Danny trades his guitar for a vacuum cleaner he takes to Dolores. Danny finds Pirate's dogs in his house. Pilon says that hiding money is no good. At night they follow Pirate into the woods; but in the house Pirate asks them to keep his money for St. Francis.
Pilon, Pablo, and Jose see Danny working with fish. Pilon tells Danny that people are laughing at him, because Dolores has no wires. Pilon takes the sweeper to Mrs. Marellis for wine. Dolores gets angry at Danny. Pirate's money is gone, and Joe (Allen Jenkins) comes back drunk. They get it back and count it. They loan clothes to Pirate for church, where Father Ramon tells his story. Danny fights at the cannery and is badly injured. Dolores blames Pilon. In the redwoods Pilon sees Pirate tell his dogs about St. Francis. Pilon goes to the church and prays to St. Francis for Danny, promising to cut squids. Pilon works cutting squids, and Father Ramon tells him that Danny is better and wants a boat. People celebrate the wedding of Danny and Dolores, and Pilon raffles Danny's guitar to buy the boat. In the final scene Pilon, Pablo, and Jose let Danny's house burn.
This comedy portrays Mexican Californians enjoying a
simple life of wine, singing and friendship free of work and its
responsibilities; but this is contrasted to the changes in Danny
after he becomes a property owner.