When Rocky (Cagney) and Jerry (O'Brien), two boys from the slums of New York, engage in a boyish prank, Jerry escapes, but Rocky is sent to reform school. This sets the two friends on very different paths. Jerry takes vows as a priest and works to help children in the city. Rocky becomes a gangster--and the idol of the boys of Jerry's parish. But when his underworld associates plan to murder Jerry, Rocky kills the plotters--for which he is arrested and sentenced to die. But in a final selfless act, Rocky accedes to Jerry's request: To dissuade the boys who revere him from a life of crime, Rocky publicly pretends to be a coward as he is led to the electric chair.

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