powered by AFI
Attorney Tyler Craden dictates to his secretary, Colette Menthe, a letter supposedly from the mother of convicted murderer Frances "Big Boy" Bradmore and encloses a phony lock of her hair. The warden, believing the letter sincere, releases Bradmore, who immediately begins to murder again. At the Federal Bureau of Investigation's training school, agents return every eighteen months, including Scott Britton, Ross Waring and George Mattison. George's family includes his wife Rita, his two sons Bob and Jim, and Aunt Lindy, his black cook. The F.B.I. is called into the Bradmore case after he steals of batch of furs. Aware that parole board member Gustav Kalkus is badly in need of money, Craden blackmails him into supporting the parole of criminal Steve Eddson. Simultaneously, Craden begins a petition drive for Eddson, "a boy who never had a chance," capitalizing on the idle time of wealthy, philanthropic ladies, especially Mrs. Thornton Casserly. Enid Casserly, who attends business school, disagrees with her mother's activity. Despite their class differences, Enid is engaged to Bruce Eaton. While George is driving with his family, he spots Bradmore, and is shot in the back as he trails the criminal. F.B.I. agent Hoover telephones Rita to console her grief, while other agents take care of her children. Eddson's parole hearing becomes a debate on the benefits and drawbacks of parole: a member named Ben posits whether the state saving $400 a year in prisoner costs is worth the life of a George Mattison, while another member claims that Eddson's handwriting proves his character has possibilities. With the help of Mrs. Casserly's lawyer, Porter Randall, and Kalkus' manipulation of the parole board, Eddson is released. Mrs. Casserly hires him as her chauffeur, and soon Porter is defending Eddson against a traffic ticket. Aunt Lindy's new restaurant, which now supports the Mattison family, is patronized by F.B.I. men, who discuss the abuses of the parole system. When Porter demands $75,000 as payment for fixing Eddson's parole, Craden and Eddson meet with him at a cabin hideaway to discuss the matter, and Craden suggests Eddson engineer the abduction of Enid to secure the money. Eddson hires Bradmore and Edward "Slim" Racky to handle the kidnapping, and Enid is abducted with Bruce to make it look as if they have eloped. Eddson leaves a ransom note for Porter, in order to avoid being suspected. Agent Bartley Hanford takes charge of the case, and a scientific search is made of Enid's car and Eddson's room. Aunt Lindy cleverly tricks Craden into allowing her to take evidence from his shoe. To make Eddson suspect Bradmore of a double-cross, the F.B.I. men send a second ransom note. When Craden and Eddson go to the cabin, they are caught, along with their accomplices. A plan to reform the state's parole system along the federal model is enforced, and a plaque is raised to honor slain F.B.I. agents such as George Mattison.