Young Martha (Barbara Stanwyck) inadvertently causes the death of her cruel, authoritarian aunt. Martha lies to the cops, and Walter (Kirk Douglas), who saw the crime, corroborates the girl’s story. Eventually, they wed out of convenience; the meek Walter is genuinely in love, and Martha thinks that her secret is safe since she has married the one witness to her aunt’s death. However, when her childhood pal, Sam (Van Heflin), shows up, Martha knows her dark past may not stay a secret for long.
Sailor: [after Sam has crashed his car] What happened?
Sam Masterson: The road curved, but I didn’t.
Sam Masterson: [looking at a campaign poster of Walter O’Neil] Hey, I want to ask you something. Does that guy look like a scared little boy to you?
Toni Marachek: He looks like he’s going to cry any minute.
Toni Marachek: You know what probation is?
Sam Masterson: Oh sure, a knife stickin’ in your back.
Sam Masterson: Look! I don’t like to get pushed around! I don’t like people I like to be pushed around! I don’t like anybody to get pushed around!
Walter O’Neil: I wasn’t going to shoot.
Sam Masterson: I wasn’t gonna wait and see.
Martha Ivers: [in a catty tone, after letting herself into the room unannounced where Toni is showing off a new outfit to Sam] The sun suit looks very well on her, Sam, she’s got just the figure for it. She’s a very pretty girl.
Toni Marachek: [in retort] I give another show at 8 o’clock.
Martha Ivers: In your room or here?
Bus Driver: What happened to you?
Sam Masterson: [cut, bruised and disheveled from a beating] Not a thing. I’m just made up for Halloween.
Hotel Clerk: There are half as many baths as there is rooms. Half the rooms has baths and half hasn’t; that’s one way of looking at it. Another is, for each two rooms, one has a bath in the middle and the other hasn’t. Or, you might say, there’s a half a bath to each of two rooms.
Toni Marachek: I missed a bus once and I was lucky. I wanted to see if I could be lucky twice.
Mrs. Ivers: I know why you offered to tutor Martha. I know why you’ve made Walter do his daily lessons with her. I know why you want him to live here. A scholarship for Walter, that’s why. But I’m not a foundation, Mr. O’Neil. I don’t care if Walter drives a truck or goes to Harvard. Probably be a lot happier driving a truck.
Toni Marachek: Go ahead and hit me, Sam. I’ve got it coming.
Toni Marachek: [offering a hotel room Gideon’s Bible] I’ll loan you a book for a couple of cigarettes if you don’t mind what kind of a book it is.
Detective #1: Good morning, Mr. Masterson.
Sam Masterson: [realizing he’s a detective before he’s shown a badge] You don’t have to show me who you are. I can tell by the smell.
Detective #1: My nose isn’t that big.
Martha Ivers: What do you think he wants?
Walter O’Neil: What he can get. He’s a gambler, a sharpshooter, an angle boy. They come through my office by the hundreds. Couldn’t you see blackmail in his eyes?
Martha Ivers: A sure thing is never a gamble.
Sam Masterson: No? What odds you give that’s a fact?
Sam Masterson: [recounting the time he was away from Iverstown] Well, that brings us up to my 21st year, when I became a man… officially.
Martha Ivers: How did it feel to become a man, officially?
Sam Masterson: I’d felt I’d been there before.
Sam Masterson: How did you feel about becoming a woman, officially?
Martha Ivers: I felt I’d been there, too.
Martha – As a Child: You don’t own the whole world.
Mrs. Ivers: Enough of it to make sure you’ll always be brought back here.
Sam Masterson: [seeing she has married Walter] Aren’t you glad now you missed that circus train?
Martha Ivers: I don’t know.
Martha Ivers: It would have been so different if you hadn’t run away. It would have been you instead of Walter. Or if you had stopped me. When I lifted the cane, why didn’t you stop me? You know how much I hated her! Why didn’t you stop me?
Sam Masterson: I wasn’t there, Martha.
Martha Ivers: And then I stood there after it was over…
Martha Ivers: You… you weren’t there?
Sam Masterson: No, Martha. I wasn’t there. I left when your aunt came into the hallway. I didn’t want to stick around. I was in enough trouble as it was. I never saw what happened. I never knew until tonight about your aunt or that man. The one they hung. The man that you and Walter killed.
Sam Masterson: You fell down the stairs.
Walter O’Neil: I remember. You… carried me in here?