powered by AFI
On the seventh anniversary of her husband's disappearance, Muriel Chaney hires Manhattan society attorney Scott Barton to have him declared legally dead. Unknown to Scott, the scheming Muriel murdered her husband, wealthy financier Hartford Chaney, III, because he was threatening to leave her. Scott is at first reluctant to accept the case but relents when he realizes that Chaney was the author of Port of Forty Thieves , a scathing expose of forty corrupt Wall Street tycoons. While Scott begins proceedings to release Chaney's multi-million dollar estate to Muriel, Muriel relaxes with her gigolo boyfriend, Frederick St. Clair. The case is complicated when Scott is notified that an out-of-the-way hotel has received a check signed by Chaney. The infuriated Muriel orders Scott to investigate, then reveals to Frederick that Chaney could not be alive, as she was responsible for his death. Muriel, who has just purchased some diamond bracelets, then threatens to blackmail Frederick with his many debts if he reveals the truth about her crime. Scott goes to the small hotel where Chaney's check was discovered and there talks with switchboard operator Nancy Hubbard, who flirts with him and agrees to inquire after the source of the check. Later, Muriel meets with tycoon Charles Farrington and demands $50,000, reminding him that she is still in possession of damning material about him, which she convinced Chaney to leave out of his expose. After Farrington reluctantly agrees, Muriel returns to her penthouse. There, she realizes that the drunken Frederick will sooner or later reveal her secret, and engineers a fatal fall down the elevator shaft. The next day, Nancy's friend and co-worker, Gladys Burns, visits Scott in his office and gives him another mysterious check, which she saw Nancy putting into the hotel's cash drawer. Scott then visits Nancy's apartment, where he dines with her and her aunt Caroline. When Scott confronts them with the check, Nancy and Caroline admit that they forged the checks and have been harassing Muriel to frighten her into confessing her guilt. Caroline then reveals that Chaney was once married to her sister Martha, who became pregnant before Chaney's snobbish family had the marriage annulled. Chaney did not find out about the existence of his daughter, Nancy, until she was seven, but over the years kept in touch with her and Martha, and even bought Martha a pair of diamond bracelets when he decided to leave Muriel and return to his first wife and daughter. After Chaney disappeared, Martha died of a broken heart, and Nancy spent the next seven years trying to find evidence of Muriel's guilt. Upon Scott's return to Manhattan, he confronts Muriel with Nancy's accusations, but she denies everything and states that she just purchased the bracelets that he suspects were for Nancy's mother. Muriel then attempts to sabotage the elevator again, but her plan is foiled when Farrington arrives with the blackmail money. As Farrington and Scott are leaving together, Farrington reveals that Muriel has been blackmailing him. His suspicions about Muriel confirmed, Scott returns to her apartment and there finds Muriel threatening Nancy with a gun. Muriel cruelly tells Nancy that her father is dead, but Farrington shoots the gun out of Muriel's hand before she can kill Nancy. Calling the diamond bracelets "beautiful handcuffs," Nancy allows Muriel to wear the jewelry as she is led away, and Muriel declares that all she wants is a good wardrobe for the trial.