Rip MacCool has learned early in life that "money talks" (and other stuff walks), as does the audience via flashbacks, and when he arrives in San Francisco, he has no qualms about being ruthless in business, and his first fast-deal bilks Ada Stritch out of her hotel. A combination of shrewd deals and playing the stock market builds him a financial empire. He marries Lily Douvane, who presents him with a child, but Lily has some ambitions of her own and leaves him, taking a sizable chuck of his money on the way out. He soon marries Zoe Carnot, his son's nurse, loses and wins a fortune again, but sinks into gloom when Zoe dies giving childbirth. He keeps piling up the money and he soon as most of it in San Francisco, and there is about to be a run on the bank, operated by Ada Stritch (from way back there), and the city and its citizens face ruin. Rip puts up his fortune against the bank and a hand of cards dictates winner-takes-all.