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At Mardi Gras time in New Orleans, young doctor Jason Kent loses an impoverished patient and expresses his bitterness to Father Victor Carducci, a boyhood friend who has come to administer the last rites. Victor tells Jason about his hopes for a new clinic for the poor, but Jason has already decided to accept a position in India with noted researcher Dr. Surtees. Jason's mentor, Dr. Konndorff, congratulates Jason, but wants him to think about his decision over the weekend. At home, Jason is visited by Joe Piavi, another boyhood friend who is now a punch drunk fighter. Joe reminisces about the kindness of Jason's father, who also was a doctor, further reminding the disillusioned Jason that his selfless, idealistic father died beloved but broke. After the squawking of Jason's monkey unnerves Joe, Jason gives his almost blind friend money and urges him to keep his eye appointment at the hospital. As Joe leaves, Jason's girl friend, Susan Corvier, arrives. Although born to a wealthy family, Susan is an idealist, who wants to help the poor. When Jason tells her that he is accepting the position in India and wants her to come with him as his wife, she agrees, even though she would like him to stay. The next day, when Victor is informed by Monsignor Lavaud that the diocese will not give him money to build a clinic, Victor feels powerless and threatens to leave the priesthood. Meanwhile, Jason is visited by reporter Danny Farber, an acquaintance, who wants Jason to get him an interview with Surtees. Jason scoffs, but asks Danny to get money that crooked fight promoter Mike Hennighan owes to Joe for his last fight. Danny then goes to see Hennighan, who angrily denies owing Joe money and says that Joe might be committed to a sanitarium if he keeps making wild charges. He then asks Danny to come up to his room that night to make a deal. Later, Danny finds Joe, gets him drunk and says that Hennighan wants to have him committed. When Danny says that Jason will soon be going far away, Joe is upset and goes to Jason's apartment. There Jason admits that he is leaving, saying that he does not want to wind up like his father. He feels responsible for Joe, though, and promises to send him money. He again prods Joe to have an eye operation and suggests that Joe go to Hennighan and ask, politely, for his money. When Joe amiably goes to Hennigan's hotel, henchmen stop him from going upstairs, and one of them gives him money for drinks. Now upset, Joe drinks heavily in a poolhall and becomes violent. A short time later, Danny goes to Hennighan's room and finds Joe's hat on the floor, and Hennigan's body in the bathtub. Meanwhile, Jason talks with Surtees and learns that he cannot bring a wife to India. Trying to decide whether to take the job or not, Jason crashes a fancy dress ball looking for Susan, who defies her mother and leaves with Jason. At a diner, the understanding Susan tells Jason that she will wait for him, but their conversation is interrupted when a newsboy comes in talking about Hennighan's murder and saying that Joe is the prime suspect. Blaming himself, Jason goes looking for Joe in his usual haunts, but cannot find him. In the morning, a disoriented Joe wakes up on the docks, not remembering what he has done, and finds a lot of money in his pockets. He sees his picture in the morning paper, but his vision is too poor to read the story. He goes to Jason's father's old office, where he is reminded by the neighborhood grocer that the doctor died. A short time later, two of Hennighan's thugs go to the grocer looking for Joe and force him to admit that Joe had just left. At the same time, Jason goes to Victor and learns from his sister Rosa of Victor's problems. Meanwhile, the two thugs continue looking for Joe in the neighborhood, unaware that Joe has already let himself into Jason's apartment. When Danny goes to the apartment, Joe asks him to read the newspaper story, and Danny lies that it says Joe is going to referee the Silver Gloves boxing matches. Hoping to cash in on a good story, Danny tells Joe that he needs to have a more recent photograph and suggests that they could easily get through the crowds if Joe wears Jason's Mardi Gras costume. Danny then takes Joe down to the street and avoids the two thugs, who have been watching Jason's apartment. Joining in with the revelers, though, Joe starts to shadowbox, thus attracting the attention of the thugs, who fire shots that wound Joe and kill Danny. Jason arrives moments later but is knocked down when he tries to stop the thugs from escaping. Just then Victor, who has heard the commotion while praying in his church, arrives and gives the last rites to Joe, who clings to life. As he climbs into the ambulance, Jason tells Victor that somehow he will help him start up the clinic. That night, when Jason walks back to his apartment, Susan is waiting for him and smiles as Jason glances at a plane flying overhead.