Adapted from a play by Edward Langley and Robert Morley, a wealthy but unscrupulous businessman tells the story of his late son.
Millionaire Arnold Boult (Spencer Tracy) says that his son Edward died at the age of 23. Arnold remembers his first birthday and tells his wife Evelyn Boult (Deborah Kerr) that he is starting a new business with Harry, a convict.
At age six, Edward has a bad hip and may have to be put in a cast. Dr. Larry Woodhope (Ian Hunter) tells Arnold he could have an operation for a 1,000 pounds. Harry Sempkin (Mervyn Johns) tells Arnold they are bankrupt. Arnold suggests increasing their fire insurance. Harry objects, but Arnold has arranged the fire.
In 1930 Arnold visits Edward's school. Headmaster Hanray (Felix Aylmer) says Edward is a corrupting influence and must leave. Arnold blames Hanray and refuses to remove Edward. He says he now holds the school's mortgage and could foreclose. Hanray gives in, and Arnold gives him a check to pay the mortgage.
In 1935 Evelyn talks with Larry about Arnold's questionable ethics. Harry went to prison, but Arnold made money. Larry admits that he loves her. Arnold tells Larry his symptoms and asks for an exam. Harry comes to see Arnold and asks for a trusted position. Arnold drinks and talks with his secretary Eileen Perrin (Leueen MacGrath). Arnold sees that Harry jumped from the building. Sergeant Kenyon questions Arnold, who denies he saw Harry that day. Eileen backs up his story, and he invites her to dinner.
A year later Arnold celebrates with Eileen and gives her a pearl necklace. She says a man is watching her flat. They tell him to come up, and he takes notes. Then Arnold makes him leave. Arnold calls his lawyer and tells Eileen that he won't be seeing her for a while. Arnold tells Evelyn that he won't give her a divorce. She says that Edward got drunk, and Arnold bullies her.
In 1939 Larry meets Edward's fiancée Phyllis. Evelyn drinks. Betty Foxley (Tilsa Page) tells Arnold and Larry that she is sure she is pregnant. Arnold tells Larry to step out. Then Betty gives Edward's letters to Arnold and leaves. After Edward's death in the war, Larry calls on alcoholic Evelyn. Arnold comes in and says that Edward's commanding officer called him a good pilot. Evelyn says that Arnold has lost his moral direction. Arnold tells Larry that he acted as he did because he loved his son.
In 1946 Arnold comes to Larry's office and wants to find Edward's son by Betty, but Larry says he won't find her. In the final scene Arnold tells the audience that he went to prison for the arson.
This sad drama portrays a ruthless businessman who uses
his son as an excuse for his greedy devices while his partners
in life are driven to suicide or alcoholic oblivion.