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Although immensely successful as a criminal lawyer, Kent "Barry" Barringer womanizes, drinks heavily and is unable to feel love for anyone because, even after ten years, he is still bitter about his ex-wife's desertion. Through his clever but morally dubious trial techniques, Barry also shows disdain for the law, but appreciates the challenge of a "good" case. Consequently, when admitted husband-killer Florence Steele presents her case to Barry, he accepts the assignment, while turning down a representation request by Doris Worthing, whose father has been wrongly accused of murdering his wife. However, when Doris casually mistakes Florence for a lingerie shop owner named Madame Celeste, Barry seizes on the error and asks Doris to find Madame Celeste in exchange for his representation. Although at her trial a number of witnesses identify Florence in connection with the murder, Barry's presentation of her look-alike, Madame Celeste, stuns the jury into an acquittal. In spite of his promise to Doris, Barry immediately takes off for Florida with his devoted girl friend, Catherine Watson, and then, growing despondent about his life, drops from sight for several days. While Barry is away, Roger McKane, his junior partner, takes on Doris' case and orders investigator Lester to interview Tony Perez, a gangster with whom Worthing's wife had an affair. When confronted by Tony's bodyguards, however, Lester leaves without questioning the gangster. Eventually, Barry returns from Florida and is about to make good on his promise when Doris shows him a photograph of her murdered stepmother, who turns out to be his ex-wife. Devastated by the revelation, Barry smashes the framed photograph and runs from his office without explanation. Barry again drops from sight and, overwhelmed by grief, drinks himself into a stupor. Roger, meanwhile, does his best to try Worthing's case but loses in the face of inadequate evidence. Two weeks later, Barry is found in jail, nearly dead from pneumonia, and is taken to a hospital. During his recuperation, Barry confesses to Doris and Roger the reason for his erratic behavior and vows to win Worthing's case on appeal. Once again, however, Barry gives in to his emotions and tells Roger that he is unable to find the necessary evidence to win. Outraged by his partner's behavior, Roger knocks Barry out and has him disbarred for refusing to do his best for his client. While Worthing is losing his final appeal, Barry opens a legal consulting firm, which caters to criminals. Aware of Tony's involvement with his ex-wife, Barry finally overcomes his fears and asks Catherine to help him trap the gangster. By posing as a would-be lover, Catherine ensnares Tony and then, on the eve of Worthing's execution, sets him up to meet Barry alone. Minutes before Worthing's eletrocution, Barry confronts Tony about his ex-wife's murder and, as their conversation is being recorded by Lester and the police, extracts a confession of guilt from him. With only moments to spare, Worthing's execution is stopped, and Tony is apprehended. Later, Barry, who has been reinstated, announces his engagement to Catherine, while Roger announces his to Doris.