Recovering heroin addict Frankie Machine (Frank Sinatra) has been released from prison. On the road to returning to a life outside prison, he re-joins his invalid wife Zosch (Eleanor Parker) but she interferes with his dream of playing drums in a big-time band. He ends up back in jail, addicted to heroin but manages to serve his sentence and gets a tryout with a band. He decides to go cold turkey and beats the addiction with the help of an old girlfriend. When he announces to his wife that he plans to divorce her she admits to a murder to the police, leading a series of unfortunate events.