After the prosecution rests its case in the murder trial of Larry Ballentine, the defendant takes the stand to tell his story.
Larry had married Greta for her money. In flashback, he recounts how he started seeing Janice Bell, innocently enough in secluded New York City bars, but feelings developed between them. Unwilling to break up his marriage, Janice gets a job transfer. Larry agrees to run off with her. When he returns home, however, Greta is unwilling to give him up. She tells him she has purchased half-interest in a brokerage in Los Angeles for him. The temptation is too great, and Larry leaves with Greta without telling Janice goodbye.
At the brokerage, Larry once again begins womanizing. One day, he is reprimanded by his business partner, Trenton, for neglecting a rich client. Employee Verna Carlson protects him by producing a copy of a letter supposedly mailed by Larry to the client the day before, but actually written by her and sent special delivery that day. Larry resists becoming romantically entangled again, but Verna seduces him. Soon the two are spending time together. She brazenly admits she is a gold digger (having a prior relationship with Trenton). Late one night, Larry comes home and is confronted by Greta. She tells him that she is finished with him, but will not divorce him. She has sold the brokerage interest and bought an old Spanish ranch in the mountains. She tells him he can come with her, which he does.
The ranch is isolated, without phone or mail service. The closest neighbors are down the road at a general store. Larry is bored, but Greta loves it there. After many months, wanting company, she tells Larry that she wants to build a guest house. He claims that he knows an architect who can do the job and goes to the general store to call him. He instead calls Verna and arranges to meet her in Los Angeles.
Larry decides to clean out his joint checking account and run away with Verna. He writes a check for $25,000 for her and leaves a note for his wife advising her to get a divorce. At the rendezvous, Verna produces the uncashed check, proving that she genuinely loves him. Larry tears it up. Verna has also bought herself a cheap wedding ring, so that they can say they are married. As they drive to Reno that night, however, an oncoming truck blows a tire and swerves into their path. Verna is killed and burned beyond recognition. The police mistakenly identify her as Greta because of the wedding ring. Larry wakes up in the hospital, where he is consoled for his wife's death. He does not correct the error.
Once he recovers, he returns to the ranch, planning to kill Greta for her money. He finds his note at the top of a cliff and her body below in her favorite spot. He dumps the corpse in the nearby river.
Depressed, Larry tours South America and the Caribbean to unsuccessfully try to cheer himself up. In Jamaica, he runs into Janice. He persuades her to reconcile, and they return to Los Angeles together. Later, by accident, he sees Trenton go into her apartment. He eavesdrops through an open window and discovers that Janice has not forgiven him. She is working with Trenton, who has become concerned about Verna's disappearance.
Trenton eventually calls in the police. Lieutenant Carr obtains a search warrant. They find Greta's body, but assume it is Verna's. Local storekeeper Thomason is a witness to Larry and Verna driving away together, the last time she was seen. The police theorize that Larry killed her because she was blackmailing him.
While the jury deliberates, Larry is visited by Janice, whose love for him has revived. He informs her that he has passed judgment on himself for destroying four lives. Back in court, just before the jury's verdict is delivered, he rushes to the window; a fatal shot saves him the trouble of committing suicide. The judge has the verdict read out anyway to make things official: "Not guilty".
- Susan Hayward as Verna Carlson
- Robert Young as Larry Ballentine
- Jane Greer as Janice Bell
- Rita Johnson as Greta Ballentine
- Tom Powers as Trenton
- George Tyne as Lieutenant Carr
- Don Beddoe as Thomason
- Frank Ferguson as Mr. Cahill
- Harry Harvey as Judge Charles Fletcher
- Byron Foulger as Harry Bascomb (uncredited)