At City Hall, Nicolai "Nicky" Kusnoff, gangster Stephen Recka's henchman, overhears city councilman Murkil plotting with John Rance to take over the mayor's office. Madame Lan Ying, Recka's mistress, hosts a birthday party for him, which is attended by those who want a share in his city-wide power. Recka becomes interested in socialite Margaret Van Kase when she attends the party without an invitation. That evening, Recka coldly murders Rance after forcing him to write a suicide note. City inspector Brandon believes Recka is responsible for eight deaths, but has no evidence to convict him. Brandon and Recka share the same birthday, and for the seventh year in a row, Brandon refuses Recka's birthday "gift," a bribe. At the racetrack, Nicky reports to Recka on Margaret's fiancé, a handsome bond salesman named Philip Easton. Recka, who models himself after Napoleon Bonaparte, buys a large amount of bonds from Phil, then attends a society dinner with Margaret. Nicky impetuously reveals to Lan Ying that Recka plans to wed Margaret, after which Lan Ying warns Recka that trying to enter society is reaching beyond his grasp. Recka arranges with Crouch and Hanley to rob Phil's bonds in a manner that makes Phil appear an accessory to the crime. When Margaret calls on Recka, he promises to have Phil freed if she will marry him. Crouch and Hanley double-cross Recka, however, and keep the bonds, then are caught speeding by the police. After Lan Ying gives Phil airplane tickets that Recka had bought for a flight with Margaret, Brandon arrests Nicky to keep him from murdering Phil. Lan Ying refuses a large check offered by Recka and warns him that she will not be waiting if he returns, playing a record of "Thanks for the Memory" as a farewell. Although still determined to marry Margaret, Recka is nonetheless confused and lonely and plays a Tchaikovsky piece on his pipe organ. Behind him Lan Ying commits suicide with a knife, and just as Recka realizes something unexpected has happened, Brandon enters and arrests him. Brandon intends that Recka be convicted as the murderer of Lan Ying and thus pay for any other crimes for which he was never tried. Nicky foolishly imagines himself as Recka's successor, while Phil and Margaret fly to their honeymoon.