powered by AFI
Lawrence Fontaine confesses to several murders although he is not guilty, and Captain Walter Reid of the Homicide Squad quickly becomes familiar with his game and dismisses him as a publicity hound. In reality, Fontaine is actor Eric Steele and is setting the scene for killing financier George Bradley, who married his first wife and murdered her to gain her inheritance, as her disappearance has not been declared a homicide. When an actor leaves the cast of Fontaine's current play, young actress Nan brings in recent college graduate Tommy Bradley to replace him. Fontaine is shocked to see Tommy, because Tommy is actually his son, who believes his real father to be dead. Fontaine befriends Tommy and Nan out of genuine love, but when he realizes that George is living in the penthouse across from the theater, he proceeds with his murder plans. George and his sister Amelia support Tommy's acting career so he will be blinded to their manipulations of his mother's estate. When they recognize Fontaine on stage, however, they hurriedly leave the theater and plan to sail with Tommy for Venezuela. On Fontaine's advice, Tommy checks with the Venezuelan consulate and discovers that George has lied about his reasons for requiring Tommy's presence with him. They argue violently, hitting one another, and Tommy demands control of his own money. That night, Fontaine leaves the show during the second act, kills George, and returns in time for the third act. Tommy is indicted for George's murder based on circumstantial evidence and, after a court trial, is sentenced to execution. Fontaine is horrified that his son is paying for his crime and confesses all to Reid, who insists he come up with the murder weapon. Fontaine's devoted valet, Jocko Jenkins, has hidden the gun in his apartment, however, and dies in an automobile accident before Fontaine can find out where he was living. Reid incarcerates Fontaine in a psychiatric hospital for observation because of Fontaine's apparent delusions. In the meantime, Nan, who is in love with Tommy, reveals to Tommy that Fontaine confessed to being his father and tries to get Tommy a reprieve. The governor, however, refuses to grant one. Finally, Fontaine escapes from the hospital and, after searching every boarding house in the theatrical district, finds Jocko's apartment and the gun and turns himself in to Reid. Based on actual evidence, Fontaine is convicted and Tommy is released. To save Tommy further grief, Fontaine now denies being his father, and Tommy resumes his life with Nan.