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After buying suits on credit and sneakining drinks from the medicine cabinet of their scientist friend, "Doc" Powers, coal miners Cash Evans and Charles "Pittsburgh" Markham go to a vaudeville house, where a promoter is offering $500 to any man who can last three minutes with boxer Killer Kane. Just as they are about to enter the theater, they meet beautiful Josie Winters. Pittsburgh tricks Cash into taking the boxing challenge, and a riot breaks out when the promoter tries to sneak out of the theater after Cash defeats Kane. The riot, however, is interrupted by news of a cave-in. Cash, Pittsburgh and Josie rush to the mine, where they learn that Doc is trapped with the injured miners. After almost being killed himself in the rescue, Pittsburgh learns that Josie worked in the mines as a child and her father was killed there. Although he brags that he is going to be a "big-shot" someday, Josie accuses him of being all talk and no action. She later challenges Pittsburgh to make good on his boast, so he and Cash quit their mining jobs, then arrange a meeting with Morgan Prentiss of Prentiss Steel, where they offer to sell the steel magnate coal for three dollars a ton less than the current price. Morgan agrees to a contract with the two, on the condition that Pittsburgh and Cash raise $250,000. Though neither has the four dollars necessary to pay their back rent, they forge Morgan's name onto the contract, which gets them the necessary bank loan. With Doc and Josie as their partners, Pittsburgh and Cash soon become a great success. That success, however, goes to Pittsburgh's head, as he forgets his promises to the union miners and begins courting Morgan's daughter Shannon. When Josie, Cash and Doc plan a surprise birthday party for Pittsburgh, he fails to come home, having spent the evening with Shannon. That night, Josie admits her love to Pittsburgh, then tells him that they are finished. Cash tells Pittsburgh that he is in love with Josie, and that he now plans to court her. Pittsburgh and Shannon are soon married, but on their wedding night, Pittsburgh goes to see Josie and tells her that she will always be his. Josie refuses his advances, however, and orders him to leave. The bitter Pittsburgh becomes a ruthless businessman, taking over both the Wilson mine and Prentiss Steel. Shannon later demands a divorce from her cruel husband when, during a party held in their home, his infatuation with Josie is made clear to all, but he refuses to cooperate. After Pittsburgh announces that he going to close down Doc's medical research lab, an irate Cash quits the partnership and sells out his shares to Pittsburgh. After the two men go down a mine shaft to fight, Josie is critically injured when she attempts to stop them. At the hospital, Cash tells Pittsburgh that he is no good, and that his old friends never want to see him again. The repentant Pittsburgh goes home to Shannon in an attempt to make amends, but she refuses him. Later, Morgan keeps his promise to avenge his betrayed daughter by bankrupting Pittsburgh. At the outbreak of World War II, the broken Pittsburgh learns humility and goes back to work as a steel mill worker under the name "Charles Ellis." The factory Pittsburgh works for is owned by Cash, and when Cash decides to fire the unproductive production manager, union boss Joe Malneck recommends "Ellis" for the position. Cash and Pittsburgh immediately begin to argue, but then Josie arrives and convinces them that they must put aside their personal grievances and order to work together for the good of the country. With industry and labor working together, Markham and Evans Industries soon becomes a leader in defense, building an "arsenal of democracy."