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In an Italian museum, art thief Sam Conride executes a meticulously planned robbery of a Renaissance painting of Christ that is on loan from a Taormina, Sicily church. He hides the small wooden painting in the base of his portable typewriter, then hires a boat to sail to Tunisia. Just before landing, Sam sets fire to the boat, grabs the typewriter and wades ashore as the craft explodes. Later, Sam goes to a cocktail party in Tunis and makes contact with Felix Guignol, an art dealer specializing in stolen art. Although Felix is skeptical about Sam's claim that the painting was burned, when he verifies that the boat exploded, he grudgingly accepts the story. Because Felix does not want to lose his $100,000 sale to Mr. Aramescu, a wealthy client desperate to own the painting, which purportedly has mystical powers, Sam suggests that they hire a forger to recreate five or six copies of the painting and sell each for a similar amount. Felix suggests that Sam ask Anna Vasarri, a talented young painter who has mastered the Renaissance style. After being introduced to Anna, Sam takes her home and mentions the forgery, but she is insulted. Sam apologizes, but thinks that she is holding out for more money. The next morning, when Aramescu goes to Sam's hotel room begging to buy the painting, Sam denies having it, thus convincing the suspicious Felix, who has been listening in the hallway. Sam takes Anna to lunch that afternoon and tells her that a Sicilian nobleman wants to finance a copy of the painting so that it can be placed on the altar of the Taormina church, as a comfort to the people who loved it. Touched by what she thinks is an unselfish gesture, and falling in love with Sam, Anna agrees to paint a copy. After telling Felix that Anna will do the work, Sam is visited by European art dealer R. F. Hawkley, whom Sam secretly contacted to buy the real painting. Hawkley agrees to buy the painting after his companion, MacWade, who is a chemist, verifies its age. Hawkley gives Sam a $1,000 deposit, then returns to Europe to arrange to wire the money, but insists that MacWade stay to administer a final test when the transfer is made. When Felix learns from his underlings, Charles and Anton, that a man with a large case visited Sam's room, they go to his hotel and threaten him. Sam says that MacWade was a jeweler from whom he planned to buy something for Anna. Felix, Charles and Anton then go to Anna's to see how the copy is coming, and the dense Charles lets it slip that it is to be sold. Anna then angrily goes to Sam's hotel and says that she pities him. Sam admits his guilt, but says that he loves and wants to marry her. Although he does not want to get married, Sam realizes that he must go through with it and later talks Felix into financing a honeymoon. They agree that, after the wedding, Sam and Anna will sail to Taormina, where Sam will sell the forged painting, then meet Felix in Rome. After the wedding, Sam calls MacWade to complete the sale, but learns that Hartley has called it off because of the notoriety surrounding the case. After the call, Charles enters MacWade's room and threatens him. A short time later, as Sam and Anna's boat departs for Sicily, Charles rushes to the dock with MacWade and tells Felix everything. On the boat, while Sam is on deck, his typewriter falls open onto the floor. Anna picks it up and sees the real painting, then goes to Sam. He finally admits everything, and because he now really is in love with her, tries unsuccessfully to convince her to go away before she is hurt. In Taormina, Sam visits Aramescu's hotel but is told that he is out. After he leaves, the desk clerk telephones Felix, who is also in Taormina. Meanwhile, Anna visits the local church and sadly looks at the painting's empty place on the altar. As she is about to leave, she is approached by Lt. Massiro, who tells her that he will arrest her husband for the theft, but if the painting is returned, things will be easier for him. Without admitting anything, Anna asks him not to do anything until Sunday at 8:00 p.m. The next day, while Sam is out, Anna takes the painting from the typewriter case and hides it under a table. She then takes her copy to the Roman ruins and puts it through the various processes which Sam had told her would make a new painting appear old. When the process is complete, she puts it back in the typewriter case. When Sam returns, he asks her to leave for an hour and calls Aramescu to come over with the money. Anna is meanwhile followed by Charles, who, despite Felix's orders to the contrary, threatens, then beats her to find out where the real painting is. While Aramescu is in Sam's room, Felix and Anton arrive, but Sam hides with Aramescu while they search unsuccessfully for the painting. After they leave, Sam gives Aramescu the painting from the typewriter case, but Aramescu recognizes immediately that it is a forgery. That evening, when Anna comes home, Sam bitterly confronts her because Massiro had called and talked about the Sunday agreement. Because Anna has not turned on the light, Sam does not immediately know that she has been beaten. When he sees the marks, she says that she did not reveal where the painting was because it belongs in the church. She then reveals where it is and runs off. The next morning is Sunday and Massiro awakens Sam, telling him that he only has until 8:00 pm. That evening, Felix, Anton and Charles come to Sam's room. Felix is genuinely sorry about Anna and does not interfere when Sam slugs Charles. Sam then gives Felix Aramescu's telegram offering $100,000 for the painting, and they agree to split the money. Felix, Charles and Anton leave with Anna's copy, thinking it is genuine, and Sam calls the lobby to alert the waiting Massiro. After Massiro arrests them, Sam takes the real painting and goes to the church. In the confessional, Sam talks to the priest, then leaves the painting and disappears. After verifying that the painting is genuine, the priest places it on the altar. Outside the church, Massiro tells Sam not to come back and lets Felix, Charles and Anton go. Seeing Sam and Anna walk away together, Felix philosophically says "we've lost him" and stops Charles from shooting Sam.