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In 1919, World War I army major Terry Ellerton O'Neill returns to his hometown of Baltimore only to learn that he will not be offered his old job at the Baltimore Times newspaper. Unable to interest the newspaper in a column about returning soldiers, Terry becomes disillusioned and is forced to accept charity from the parish house. Eventually, though, Terry decides to reverse his fortune by devoting his life to seeking "big dough." When Terry hears about a wedding party for a wealthy socialite, he decides to crash it so that he can hobnob with the city's upper crust. At the wedding, Terry pursues reporter Kay Lorrison, the niece of newspaper publisher Joe Lorrison, and arranges to be seated at the banquet table next to East Coast Commodities founder Lewis J. Malbery. During the meal, Terry intervenes in an argument over business ethics between Lorrison and Malbery. Although he persuades Lorrison to give a him a job writing about Malbery's unsavory business practices, Terry soon switches loyalties and goes to work for Malbery in the stock market. With his new job, Terry sees no further use for Kay and immediately ends their romance. Despite his newly acquired wealth, Terry refuses to continue bailing out his shiftless pals, "Eel," "Snarp", "Fishface" and "Three Finger," and when Snarp is arrested for bookmaking, Terry decides to leave his fate in the hands of Saint Dismas, the "hoodlum saint" who was crucified with Christ. Snarp takes Terry's words to heart, and when he is released from jail, he begins devoting his life to charity, raising money for the needy using Terry's stock tips. Terry's luck soon runs out, though, and he loses everything in the stock market crash of 1929. Kay, who is now a widow, returns to Terry but not in time to save him from ruin. Terry eventually gets a job at a newspaper, but both his writing and his health begin to deteriorate, and he suffers a physical collapse. While recuperating, Terry is visited by his reprobate pals, who inform him that nightclub singer Dusty Millard is planning to steal money from the St. Dismas fund at the church. The news infuriates Terry and prompts him to leave his sick bed to prevent the theft from taking place. After personally ensuring that the St. Dismas fund is safe, Terry returns to Father Nolan's retreat and is nursed back to health by Kay, whom he intends to marry.