Excellent depression era drama dealing with the plight of a World War One vet as he struggles to survive. A lot of issues of the day are presented as a man fights for his dignity.
Lt.Roger Winston is assigned to bring in a German prisoner. On the battlefield he hides in a foxhole and refuses to come out. Tom Holmes(Richard Barthelmess) is on the mission with him and captures a German soldier. He’s hit by gunfire at the edge of the foxhole and he tells Roger to take the soldier back to the American line. Roger thinks Tom died from his wounds.
Roger tries to tell what happened but his commander is too busy looking for a hero and Roger gets medals and promotions. Tom survived in a German hospital. He still has shrapnel near his spine and the German doctor says Tom is too weak to operate on and gives him morphine pills to help ease the pain.
Roger is the son of the town banker and gets a heroes welcome. Tom gets a job at the bank as a teller. The pain gets worse and it effects his job. He becomes addicted to morphine. The price of the drug goes up and he can’t buy any more. The doctor says he has to report it if he gives him any. Tom says don’t blame him if he steals or kills somebody.
The doctor calls Roger’s father at the bank and Tom gets fired. He gets sent to a sanitarium to get over his addiction. When he’s discharged he finds out his mother died. Tom hits the road and ends up in Chicago.
He rents a room above a diner/rooming house run by Pa Dennis and his daughter Mary (Aline MacMahon). The other borders are Max (Robert Barratt) a German inventor who is also a Communist and tries to convert anyone he sees and Ruth (Loretta Young). She and Tom eventually have a relationship. She works in a laundry and gets Tom a job there as a driver.
Max invents a new washing machine and Tom raises money from his friends and neighbors so Max can get a patent. He convinces his boss to install the new labor saving machine. He makes him agree that it won’t cost anyone their job.
Tom and Ruth get married and have a son. Everything is going well until the owner of the laundry dies. The new owners are encouraged by their Chief Engineer Jim (Douglas Dumbrille) to install his new, improved machine. That throws a lot of people out of work. They blame Tom.
The now unemployed are ready to tear the new machines apart. They blame Tom for having the original machines installed. Tom tries to stop them but they pick up bricks and clubs and end up having a melee with the riot squad. Ruth goes to the scene to try and get Tom away but is hit over the head and dies. Tom gets five years in prison for inciting a riot.
Max visits him in jail and says their machines are being installed in other cities and they’re getting rich. Max is now in love with Capitalism. He puts Tom’s share away in a bank account. Tom says it’s blood money and he doesn’t want it. It adds up to fifty-three thousand dollars.
Mary has been taking care of Tom and Ruth’s son Billy. He thinks Tom was in Alaska. Max comes over with his usual bluster as Tom sees a crowd of homeless people on the sidewalk. Pa and Mary feed them what they can.
Tom turns the money over to Mary to feed as many people as possible. Then the Red Squad shows up. Because Tom was in prison for inciting a riot they think he’s a Communist and force him to leave town. It’s now life on the road.
It comes to an interesting conclusion. This is one to absolutely check out.