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In Beverly Hills, California, gold digger Carolyn Grant has been estranged from husband Harlow Grant for two years. When Harlow falls in love with Louise Nelson, Carolyn refuses to grant him a divorce, unless he gives her a large percentage of his chemical company plus $300,000. Knowing that Harlow does not have that much, she suggests that he sell his father Philip's half of the company, which Philip spent his life building. Harlow is unsuccessful in talking Carolyn into a reasonable settlement. Carolyn runs an art gallery with her lover and silent partner, Wayne Vincent, an unethical art critic who brings in business by writing about her paintings in his column. Carolyn's assistant, wholesome Betty Allen, is engaged to fisherman Dick Sawyer, who has recently bought a boat. Planning to make Dick her next conquest, Carolyn tricks Betty into breaking her date with him. She then goes to the Newport Beach boatyard to finagle an invitation from Dick to go on a fishing trip. On the boat, Carolyn tries to force Dick into dating her, but he refuses. Betty, after discovering that Carolyn and Dick are together, sees them arguing in the boatyard and thinks they are embracing. She leaves his engagement ring in an envelope with Virginia Gillis, who runs the boatyard office. Upon returning to the gallery, Betty finds Vincent waiting for Carolyn. She then reports to the gallery caretaker, Otto Peterson, that she is quitting her job. Later, at Betty's apartment, Dick tries to explain the fishing trip, but Betty refuses to listen, as Carolyn has called and said that she is spending the weekend with Dick. After threatening to push Carolyn in the ocean, Dick leaves. That night, Harlow is so depressed that he uncharacteristically gets drunk at a bar. When Philip finds him, Harlow sends him away, after saying that he must break up with Louise, who deserves more than to wait indefinitely for him. When Carolyn returns to the studio, Vincent tells her he has been fired for using his column to foster private enterprise. Predicting that sales will drop without his "advertising," Carolyn informs him that he is now useless to her. As he leaves, Louise arrives, hoping to convince Carolyn to divorce Harlow. When the bar closes, bartender Sandy, who has listened all night to Harlow's complaints about Carolyn, gets Harlow to leave by joking that she is almost worth killing. Without realizing what he is saying, Harlow responds, "with a dull knife." At 3:00 a.m., in her upstairs bedroom, Carolyn hears someone entering the gallery below. While investigating, she is shot dead and her assailant leaves after breaking a glass pane in the door. The next day, Otto finds her body and calls the police. Lt. Colton, who is in charge of the murder investigation, determines that robbery was not a motive and brings in Harlow and Betty for questioning. Betty lies that she quit the job to get married and that her engagement ring is at the jewelers. Vincent comes to introduce himself to the police and inform them that some of the paintings in the studio belong to him. When he mentions seeing Louise at the studio, she is added to the list of suspects. Too drunk to drive, Harlow spent the previous night in his car in a parking lot and therefore cannot provide an alibi. After ballistic tests determine that the murder weapon was a German Mauser and Harlow acknowledges that he has an historical gun collection, he becomes the lead suspect. Sandy tells the police that Harlow left the bar "bitter drunk" and relates the remark about the "dull knife." Harlow is then taken to the station, but released when Philip confesses to the murder. Guessing that Philip is innocent, Colton's superior, Capt. Hostedder, assigns officers to tail Harlow, who, with Louise, goes to the studio. There they pack paintings and Carolyn's belongings. When Otto tells Harlow that only he, Betty and Carolyn had a key, Harlow suspects Betty of killing Carolyn and breaking the door pane to deflect suspicion. After Harlow calls Dick at the boatyard, Virginia tells him that Dick and Betty broke up. When Harlow visits Vincent to get Betty's address, Vincent again claims to own some of the paintings. After explaining that they have been packed for removal, Harlow invites Vincent to collect them at his house the next day. After proceeding to Betty's apartment, Harlow accuses her of lying to the police and of murdering Carolyn. Dick, who has reconciled with Betty, shows up and together they explain that Betty lied to protect Dick, who she feared might not have an alibi. Betty remembers that Vincent gave Carolyn a Mauser, and also says that she left her key with him. Although Betty is certain that Vincent knew where Carolyn kept the gun, no one can think of a reason for him to kill her, as they do not know about Carolyn breaking up with him. Later, believing he is alone, Vincent hides the Mauser in a box of paintings at the studio to frame Harlow for the murder. From the bedroom where she is packing, Louise sees him and calls the police, but Vincent breaks the phone connection and tries to kill her. Harlow then arrives and tries to subdue Vincent, but Vincent threatens to shoot Louise, mentioning that she is standing in the same place Carolyn stood when he shot her. Having trailed Harlow to the gallery, the police arrest Vincent. With Carolyn gone and the case solved, Louise and Harlow can now marry.