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When he returns to his mother and his home in the Jewish section of New York City, Benny Horowitz, who has spent the last five years in prison, vows to remain free and honest. However, soon after his reunion with his mother and Bertha, a young woman with whom he grew up, Benny is approached by Monk, the neighborhood gang leader. Monk, who was responsible for tempting the once-studious Benny into a life of crime, informs Benny that not only is he now the head of a lucrative protection racket, but is the lover of Shirley, Benny's former girl friend. To the relief of Mrs. Horowitz, who suffers from heart disease, Benny scoffs at the suggestion of gang member Skippy that he rejoin the gang and rejects the advances of the still enamored Shirley. When he fails to find a job after weeks of searching, however, Benny grows despondent and confides in Bertha that he is thinking of leaving the city. After Bertha begs Benny to stay, Skippy announces that, through a bit of brute force, he has secured a mechanics job for the ex-convict at a local garage. Though his pay is low, Benny works hard at the garage and earns the respect of its owner, who confides in him one night that Monk's protection racket is driving him to bankruptcy. Determined to help his boss, Benny challenges Monk and his gang and tells them that they will not be receiving any more money from the garage. Stymied by Benny's bold defiance, Monk backs down from his demands and loses the respect of his cohorts. Later that night, Benny, buoyed by his victory over Monk, flirts with Shirley and boasts that, if he wanted, he could have Monk's woman as well as his gang. Benny then throws a matchmaker, who has come with a marriage proposition for Bertha, out of his mother's apartment after he scathingly insinuates that Bertha is in love with an ex-convict. Later, Mrs. Horowitz chides Benny about his bachelorhood and suggests that Bertha would make a good wife for him. Convinced that she deserves a better man than he, however, Benny refuses Bertha's love but fights an urge to reclaim Shirley. Benny is overwhelmed by his conflicting emotions and retreats to his tenement's rooftop. He is soon joined by Shirley, who throws herself at him in hysterical passion. As Shirley is about to force Benny into a kiss, Monk bursts onto the rooftop and threatens Benny with his gun. During the ensuing fight, the gun is fired and tossed, and Monk accidentally falls from the roof to his death. Shirley seizes on the incident and tries to force Benny into returning to her by threatening to tell the police that he murdered Monk. With Bertha's loving support, Benny decides to resist Shirley and confess to the police. However, when the police are unable to find Monk's gun, which would prove Benny's innocence, Shirley's story appears accurate. Before he is arrested, Benny is saved by Skippy, who having located Monk's gun in the back of a milk truck, presents the vindicating evidence to the police. Thus cleared, Benny embraces Bertha and reassures his mother that all is well.