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Carroll Aiken is among the many female law students who crowd the murder trial of Fifi Brown to watch defense attorney Barry Conant, called the man of 1,000 surprises. After entering in a wheelchair and purporting to defend Fifi despite a doctor's warning that it might cost him his life, Conant convinces the male jury, already attentive to Fifi's shapely legs, that she could not have killed her husband by having her bite a chunk of cheese and then showing that her teeth marks do not match those on a plaster cast of the dead man's arm. Attracted to Carroll, Conant faints in her arms after the trial, compelling her to accompany him to his apartment. Carroll, who is to take her bar exam in the next week, refuses Conant's proposition to go with him first to Hot Springs and then to Europe. Conant attends the commencement dance at Carroll's school and dances with her. Carroll, who comes from a long line of lawyers, including one ancestor who helped draft the Constitution and another who served on the Supreme Court, asserts that the law is above cheap tricks. Conant, whose family from Ireland included an ancestor who was hung, tells her that he decided to become a lawyer to make money. Carroll says that they have nothing in common and goes to visit her hometown of Clarkdale, which she hopes has not changed from her idealistic vision of small town simplicity and honesty. Although Conant sends flowers and telegrams, she ignores him. The gossiping people of Clarkdale, however, resent Carroll's decision to become a lawyer. They are cold to her except for her uncle Will and Gracie Clay, an extemely shy teenager whose religious father Matt has kept her from boys since his wife died and who has beaten Gracie at times. After Carroll gives Gracie a flashy dress that Gracie desires, Matt catches her at an outing with Everett Clark, the milquetoast son of the town's pompous prosecuting attorney, Milt Clark. Thinking that she got the dress from Everett, Matt takes Gracie home. During a rain storm, Matt whips Gracie in a barn and threatens to tell Everett's mother. While Bede Sanders, whom Gracie earlier rejected, watches through a window, Gracie, horrified at Matt's threat, hits her father with a club, and he falls over a railing to his death. Carroll represents Gracie, who refuses to name Everett, and her fears that the Clarkdale people do not like women lawyers prove to be well-founded when the judge continually refuses her objections and countenances tricks of prosecuting attorney Clark. Arriving from Hot Springs, Conant teams up with Carroll and, after trying to discredit Bede and other witnesses, invites city reporters and photographers to publicize the case and ridicule Clarkdale. After Clark berates Carroll, Conant accuses the people of Clarkdale of being intolerant bigots, and he is put into jail. When he reveals to Carroll that he provoked the community to get the story in the newspaper and thus help his career, she is digusted. After Conant is taken from the jail by his cohorts in masks and reportedly beaten by angry townspeople, Carroll, realizing the ruse, sides with the people of her community and pleads with them to look at the facts of the case. When she appeals to the boy in the case to come forward, Everett, no longer afraid of his father, acknowledges that he loves Gracie. The jury acquits Gracie, and Carroll and Conant are reconciled after he explains that he provoked the townspeople, hoping that she would disassociate herself from him so that the town would accept her.