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Ex-bootlegger Frankie Madison is released from prison after fourteen years and is met in New York City by Dave, a member of his old gang. Frankie soon learns that Noll "Dink" Turner, who ran the bootlegging racket with Frankie but never visited him in jail, now runs the respectable and upscale Regent nightclub. Hoping to manipulate Frankie into believing that they are still best friends, Noll asks his girl friend, nightclub singer Kay Lawrence, to entertain Frankie for dinner, while Noll has a rendezvous in his office with wealthy society woman Mrs. Alexis Richardson. During dinner, Frankie and Kay begin to fall in love, and he tells her about himself: In 1933, while running a truckload of rye whiskey over the Canadian border, Frankie and Noll split up to escape the police, and Noll promises Frankie fifty percent of all their earnings if he is caught. Noll then escapes on foot while Frankie, who is driving the truck, is arrested. After dinner, Frankie overhears Noll thanking Kay for getting information out of Frankie, and he angrily confronts Noll, demanding his share of the nightclub. Dave shows Frankie a dissolution of partnership paper that Frankie naïvely signed while in jail, and tells him that he is only owed $2,912. Frankie slugs Noll in the mouth and leaves to recruit men to fight him. Later, Noll tells Kay that he is going to marry Alexis, but loves Kay and wants their relationship to go unchanged. She quits and goes to apologize to Frankie, who is visited by an old gang member named Nick Palestro, who now runs a used car business. Accompanied by three henchmen, they arrive at the Regent to demand Frankie's half-ownership. Dave and Noll explain that it is owned by several corporations and that it would be impossible to give him a share without approval of the board of directors. Frankie blames Dave and threatens to kill him, then orders the henchmen to help him take over the club by force, but they refuse. Noll then has his bouncer, Dan, who also used to know Frankie, drag him into the alley in a choke-hold and beat him up. Dave later goes to the alley to tend to Frankie and apologize, promising to meet him later to discuss bringing down Noll. Kay takes Frankie to her apartment to nurse his wounds, while Dave tells Noll that he is going to ruin him by exposing his embezzlement of the nightclub's profits. Later, on Noll's orders, Dave is gunned down in the street by a henchman named Skinner and Frankie is wanted for the murder. He and Kay escape in a taxi provided by Nick to Noll's New Jersey home, where he is waiting for them with a gun. Frankie easily outwits Noll, gets the gun, and takes him at gunpoint to the Regent, where he demands his $2,912 and a written confession. After the police arrive, Frankie reveals only a fountain pen in his pocket, and Noll is arrested. On his way out of the bar, Noll disarms his two police escorts and takes aim at Frankie, but is shot dead by the police. After being cleared at the police station, Frankie and Kay walk out into the New York night to begin their future together.