Robert Aldrich's screen adaptation of Clifford Odets' stage play reflects the quandary of the writer's later career; the golden boy of the Group Theater in the '30s, when his plays were the toast of Broadway, his talent seemed to wither after a number of years in the screenwriting trenches, and a revulsion for what he saw as hackwork combined with his capitulation to HUAC to blight his final decade. Jack Palance stars as Charlie Castle, a major film star who has refused to sign a long-term contract for big money with a studio run by the tyrannical Stanley Hoff (Rod Steiger). This has led to the return of his wife, Marion (Ida Lupino), who had left him due to his womanizing and a willingness to kowtow to Hoff in doing bad movies only for the money. After his agent, Nat Danziger (Everett Sloane), tries unsuccessfully to get him to reconsider, Hoff himself badgers Charlie, insisting on the absolute necessity of his signing. When the star continues to resist, Hoff threatens to blackmail him with an ugly incident from his past.