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Blackie Gallagher and Jim Wade lose their parents when the General Slocum sinks in New York harbor, but they are rescued by Father Joe. Because he has lost his own son, kindly Poppa Rosen takes the boys in, but a few years later he, too, is killed, trampled by police horses used to break up a riot against the Russian agitator Leon Trotsky. While Blackie grows up gambling and playing, Jim studies hard and becomes an attorney. During the 1920s, Blackie runs a gambling club while Jim has been elected district attorney. Blackie worships Jim, even though they are on opposite sides of the law. When Blackie's mistress Eleanor meets Jim, she is also impressed, and tries to convince Blackie to stop gambling and settle down with her. He lets her go, not wanting to change his life, and wishes Jim luck when he marries Eleanor some months later. After gambler Manny Arnold is shot, suspicion rests on Blackie. Because Spud, their childhood pal, has accidentally left Jim's coat at the scene of the crime, Blackie has Spud bring an exact duplicate that he has had his tailor make to Jim, thus mistakenly convincing Jim that Blackie is innocent. Soon Jim runs for governor, but his assistant, Richard Snow, tries to pressure him by indicating that the Arnold case makes Jim look like he is mixed up with murderers. Eleanor tells Blackie about it and Blackie murders Snow in a men's room, unaware that a man sitting outside is not blind, as he pretends, and reports Blackie's crime to the police. During the gubernatorial campaign, Jim must try Blackie for murder. Though convicted, Blackie is still proud of Jim's honesty, and is happy when Jim is elected governor. Eleanor pleads with Jim to pardon Blackie, but he refuses, even after she tells him that Blackie killed Snow to help him. Jim changes his mind after she leaves him though and visits Blackie, but Blackie says that he would rather be electrocuted than get life in prison. After Blackie's death, Jim resigns as governor and Eleanor embraces him after he leaves the state assembly.