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Down-on-his-luck songwriter John Howard Tracy is reduced to making up lyrics for customers in his favorite San Francisco bar after his successful career stalls. One night, Tracy is forced to humble himself to drunken businessman Wilbur K. Grossett, then suffer insults from playboy artist Peter Hayden, who walks away with Pat Peterson, a department store executive whom Tracy has befriended. Hours later, when Pat's boyfriend, police detective Simon Shayne, and his partner Lt. Gunning rouse him from a drunken stupor, Tracy gives them a song sheet of his latest tune. Barely able to walk out of the bar, Tracy then goes to Hayden's place to confront him, but when he arrives, Hayden is lying dead on the living room floor. Initially, Tracy plans to call the police, but fearing that he will be accused of killing Hayden, he leaves, taking Hayden's drawing of Pat along with him. The next day, Shayne tells Pat about Hayden's death, adding that he found and removed her gloves at the crime scene to protect her. Pat explains that she returned home with Hayden after accepting a ride, but when he attacked her, she struck him with the vase in self defense. Believing that the blow caused Hayden's death, and fearing the drawing will incriminate her, Pat is wrought with guilt and prepares to turn herself in. As Shayne tries to convince her otherwise, Tracy arrives at the apartment announcing that he has the drawing. When Shayne insinuates that Tracy is trying to blackmail Pat, Tracy bitterly asks for their cash, then hands the drawing to Pat, who does not believe Shayne's accusations. Later, Gunning tells Shayne that witnesses saw a woman at the apartment, but she has yet to be identified. However, the fingerprints found at the scene match Tracy's prints from his sheet music. Soon the police set up check points at all San Francisco bridges, ferries and airports trying to find Tracy. Meanwhile, Tracy tells Pat and Shayne the truth about how he found Hayden, hoping that Pat will explain what really happened. Shayne insists that, between the fingerprint evidence and a neighbor hearing a man's voice at Hayden's that night, the case is building against Tracy and threateningly suggests that he leave town. Meanwhile, Pat, not wanting an innocent man to be convicted of a crime she committed, once again wants to confess, but Shayne convinces her to be silent. Forced to sleep on the streets to avoid capture, Tracy gets food and clothing from friend Turnip, a street-wise drunk who frequented the bar. Meanwhile, after Pat receives a letter from Tracy returning the $25 he took from her and Shayne, she decides to help him and asks Turnip for his location. Pat then gives Tracy a train reservation to Los Angeles that is supposed to be for her boss, Claude Duffy, and promises to help Tracy escape to Los Angeles and on to Mexico. When Duffy arrives at the station and warns police of the imposter, Tracy's old bar friend Olga Valerie Lewis swaps identification with Pat and stalls the police while the couple escapes out the back of the station. As the police scour the city for them, Tracy and Pat return to her apartment, where a desperate Pat contemplates suicide. After Tracy prevents Pat from jumping from her window, she berates him for his failings and hiding from his life, but in the heat of the moment, they kiss and vow to help each other. Spotting Shayne approaching the apartment, Tracy and Pat race to Chinatown, where they bump into a still drunken Grossett, who invites them to a socialite's party. After Tracy and Pat elude Grossett and proceed to the party, Grossett, learning of their crime from the barman, alerts police of Tracy's location. Introduced as songwriter to the socialites, Tracy is soon asked to play a number, but, suspecting that the party host has learned his real identity, Tracy's orders Pat to escape without him while he keeps the crowd entertained. The song intrigues a movie music executive who wants to buy the material, but everyone is soon horrified when Tracy reveals his real identity and offers to turn himself in. Despite Tracy orders, Pat has remained at the party and convinces him to flee with her to Hayden's apartment. Still determined to turn himself in, Tracy asks Pat to call Shayne to send the police. Although Shayne promises to call Gunning, he heads for Hayden's apartment alone. Meanwhile, Tracy plays an album of his music that he finds on the phonograph and remembers that at five o'clock, when he arrived on the night of the murder, the radio was playing and there were two glasses on the table. Shocked, Pat explains that she did not share a drink with Hayden and Tracy's album was playing, not the radio. It was two o'clock, not five o'clock when she left after hearing someone stumbling towards Hayden's apartment door. As they both deduce that the murder must have been committed by someone else, Shayne enters the apartment and, holding the couple at gun point, orders them out the window. While police surround the building, Shayne forces Tracy and Pat to climb up to the roof, hoping to evade capture. Having earlier seen Hayden's drawing of Sally Doyle, Shayne's former girl friend, Pat and Tracy realize Shayne killed Hayden out of jealousy. The police climb to the roof just in time to shoot the gun from Shayne's hand and arrest him, saving Tracy and Pat, who vow to begin a new life together.