Dixon "Dix" Steele (Humphrey Bogart) is a talented but violence-prone and washed up screenwriter. Needing money, he reluctantly takes the job of adapting a trashy novel for the screen. Knowing that this is obviously below him, instead of reading the thing he instead asks a naive, celebrity-obsessed girl (who has read the book) he meets at a restaurant to give him a synopsis, which she does enthusiastically. He sends her home with cab money and is abruptly woken up at 5:00 the next morning by a police officer; the girl was found murdered, and Dix was the last person to see her alive. Given his violent past and what appears to be apathy towards her death, he is the most logical suspect until his beautiful neighbor Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame) gives him an alibi (though the audience is never quite sure if she is telling the truth or lies because of her attraction to Dix). There is an undeniable connection between Laurel and Dix, and despite her guarded demeanor and his deep internal demons, the two fall madly in love and for a while they enjoy the happiest time of their lives. Meanwhile, the murder investigation continues and Dix is still the most likely suspect. This puts immense strain on their relationship. The pressure on him is mounting, and as he begins to become increasingly impatient and irritable, this makes her back away from him. Sensing this, he is so frightened he'll lose Laurel, he clings ever more tightly to her, which appears controlling and frightens her. After hearing she didn't tell him about going down to the police station to answer more questions, he storms off and almost kills an innocent bystander, and is only stopped by Laurel's plea. After that incident, Laurel begins to truly doubt Dix's innocence. Dix senses this and from the strain of the accusation, the novel and his fears of losing Laurel, his violence has started up again. In addition, his controlling ways continue to increase from his desperation as she pulls further and further away from him emotionally. Though she loves Dix, Laurel fears for her life and plans to leave him. When Dix finds out, he flies into a rage and nearly strangles the woman he loves; the only thing that stops him is a ringing telephone which confirms his innocence. However, he walks away anything but a free man, having lost forever the one person who he truly loved, who truly loved him, and could've made him happy enough to help him deal with his violent nature.