In San Francisco in 1870, Ada Stritch owns a bank, but there's a run on it. She needs $3 million to keep it open. In desperation, she turns to a wealthy man she despises, Rip MacCool.
Also in need of Rip's help are newspaperman Johnny Sanderson and an old acquaintance, Flutey, each of whom, like Ada, has issues with Rip from their past. Rip offers to deal a hand of poker—if Ada wins, he will give her the $3 million. If not, he gets the bank.
Everyone recalls how they first met. Fifteen years before, Ada, a widow, has a small hotel that she'd like to sell. Rip and his pal Shocker are guests there. Rip woos her romantically, then offers $3,000 cash plus shares in the "Mona Lisa" gold mine. Ada accepts, only to learn later that the stock is worthless.
Johnny was a prizefighter. After a defeat, Rip helps him find a job. Rip is broke, but suddenly discovers that a vein of gold struck at the Mona Lisa mine has made his stock worth a quarter of a million dollars.
A beautiful singer, Lily Douvane, is loved by Johnny, but is seduced by Rip's money and weds him instead. Johnny is heartbroken. They have a baby boy and named it after Johnny. It's a loveless marriage, though, and when Lily catches Rip in a compromising position, she demands a divorce, a million dollars from Rip and custody of their child.
Johnny cares about the baby and also for Zoe, the nanny. Rip interferes again, proposing to Zoe, then angering her as well as losing his fortune. Zoe mortgages their home. She also is pregnant. Rip regains his money, thanks again to the Mona Lisa mine, but loses both Zoe and his new baby in childbirth.
Shocker explains to those present how Rip became the cold-hearted man he is. At 16, unable to pay for his own parents' funeral, he worked beside Shocker in a mine. Money came to mean everything to him. After hearing this, Ada agrees to the winner-take-all hand of cards. Rip gracefully loses and the bank is hers, although all suspect that Rip, having a heart after all, actually held the winning hand.David Brian as Rip
Mercedes McCambridge as Ada
Barry Sullivan as Johnny
Arlene Dahl as Lily
Paula Raymond as Zoe
Lon Chaney, Jr. as Shocker
John Considine as Boy in Hotel Reception (uncredited)
The film was a major financial disaster. According to MGM records, the movie earned $552,000 in the US and Canada and $217,000 elsewhere, making a loss to the studio of $1,282,000.