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After hitchhiking from Chicago, young George Eastman arrives at the Eastman bathing suit factory and arranges to visit his uncle Charles, the company's president, at his home that evening. Charles, a tycoon who recently met his nephew for the first time, introduces George to his wife Louise, daughter Marsha and son Earl. The Eastmans gingerly question George about his widowed mother Hannah, a religious mission worker in Chicago, and George, keenly aware of his lowly social position, responds with vague politeness. After Charles insists that Earl, who has a management position at the factory, find a job for his cousin, debutante Angela Vickers enters the room, mesmerizing George with her beauty. The next day at the factory, the condescending Earl assigns George to the assembly area, where the bathing suits are put into boxes, and advises him about the strict rules against dating fellow employees. George works tirelessly and at night in his modest apartment, composes a list of suggestions for improving productivity on the assembly benches. Yearning to succeed, George drives to the Eastmans' during one of their lavish parties and sees Angela arriving, but cannot bring himself to go inside. Instead, he goes to a movie and ends up sitting next to co-worker Alice Tripp. After the movie, George and Alice walk together, and she comments that George will always be different because he is an Eastman. The uneducated George maintains that he is not special and becomes momentarily lost in thought when he notices a boy singing in a sidewalk mission group. George then asks Alice about her life, and she reveals that she came from a poor family and, ironically, never learned how to swim. Outside Alice's furnished room, George and Alice kiss and agree to see each other again. Later, at the end of another date, the couple wind up in Alice's room and spend the night together. The next morning at the factory, Charles comes through the assembly area and, seeing George, offers to promote him and invites him to another party. When Alice learns that the party coincides with George's birthday, she reminds him that she had already planned a party for him and insists that he leave the Eastmans' early. At the Eastmans', George feels out of place and seeks refuge in the deserted billiard room. While playing pool by himself, George is noticed by Angela, and the two strike up a friendly conversation. Just then, Charles bursts in and insists that George call his mother about his promotion. Though embarrassed, George complies, while Angela hangs on his arm, teasing him. George and Angela spend a few romantic hours dancing, and when George finally shows up at Alice's, she is angry and informs him that she is pregnant. Though stunned, George reassures her, but later accepts Angela's invitation to a party at her parents' house. There, George and Angela confess their love, and George frets that Angela will be leaving soon to spend the summer at her parents' lakeside home. After Angela assures him that they can still see each other, they kiss with deep passion. Later, Alice goes to see Dr. Wyeland about her pregnancy, but he insists that he will help her only if she intends to have the baby. Although Alice tells George that he must now marry her, George protests and asks for time. Alice agrees to wait until the first week in September, when George will be taking his vacation. Sometime later, Angela drops by George's apartment to tell him that her parents have invited him to visit at the lake during his vacation. George calls Alice and begs for another week, stating that he will be with his uncle at the lake and might get a bonus. Reluctantly Alice complies, and George begins a carefree holiday with Angela. At secluded Loon Lake, Angela brings up the subject of marriage and piques George's interest when she tells him about a couple who drowned there the summer before. Alice, meanwhile, waits for mail from George, but instead sees a newspaper photograph of him with Angela. Back at the lake, during a Hawaiian-themed dinner, George receives a phone call from Alice, demanding that he come for her at the bus station. George lies to Angela that his mother is ill, and at the station, Alice threatens to expose George unless he marries her immediately. George gives in, and the next day, he and Alice go to the county courthouse to wed, but discover that it is closed because it is Labor Day. Seeing an opportunity, George suggests that they picnic at Loon Lake and spend the night at the lodge. Before reaching the lodge, George then pretends to have run out of gas and rents a boat under an assumed name. George rows Alice to the far side of the lake and, after night falls, listens with growing agitation as she chatters about how happy they are going to be. Sensing George's displeasure, Alice abruptly asks him if he wished she were dead, and George fights to maintain his composure. When Alice suddenly rises to come to him, causing the boat to sway, George tries to stop her, but the boat capsizes. George and Alice both go under, but only George makes it to the shore. Stumbling in the dark, George walks into a Boy Scout camp before locating his car and driving off. The next day, George returns to the Vickers', while at the courthouse, District Attorney R. Frank Marlowe is notified about Alice's death. After questioning the boatkeeper and the Boy Scout who saw George, Marlowe concludes that only Alice drowned. Detectives then interrogate Alice's landlady, who repeats gossip that Alice was involved with George. George, meanwhile, has a frank conversation about his background with Angela's father Anthony and impresses him with his honesty. Although Angela is unaware of the murder investigation, George senses the police will soon be closing in on him and asks Angela to believe in him, no matter what she may hear. After she swears her undying love, George says goodbye and is arrested by Marlowe. Determined to keep his daughter's name out of the trial, Anthony puts up the money for George's defense. Angela follows the proceedings while in school, but remains dazed by the desperate turn of events. During the trial, several witnesses implicate George, and Marlowe accuses George of bashing in Alice's head before throwing her overboard. On the stand, George admits that he had planned to kill Alice, but changed his mind before the boat accidentally capsized. Despite his candid testimony, George is convicted and sentenced to die. In prison, George is counseled by both his mother and a minister to look into his heart to determine whether he did everything he could to save Alice. Haunted by a vision of Angela, George confesses that he is unsure. Just before his execution, Angela visits George and quietly declares she still loves him. Accepting his fate, George then is led to his death.