William Powell plays a journalist back from fighting in World War I. He finds a severe shortage of jobs, but manages to talk his way into working for a big paper after impressing the owner's daughter (played by Esther Williams) by sneaking into a high society wedding. Then, after having convinced the paper to really hammer a banking magnate, he switches sides and runs a P.R. campaign for the banking magnate. Which somehow gets him to executive vice president and giving financial advice to the nation. Until the 1929 stock market crash.
Does that seem like kind of a mess? Well, there's also a whole other thread about this quartet of, let's be square about it and call them losers, that Powell's known for a long time. They mostly exist to get into trouble, which they expect Powell to save them from. Powell eventually makes it look like he's stopped helping them, but really does, while pretending the assistance came from Saint Dismas, patron saint of thieves. The Internet says he's actually patron saint of prisoners, and Nicholas is patron saint of (repentant) thieves. But they didn't have the internet in the 1920s (lucky bastards) so we'll let it slide.
This then turns into a whole charity the guys run, initially with good intentions, until Powell's lounge singer girlfriend (played by Angela Lansbury) takes over and decides they'll keep most of the money for themselves. So Powell has to stop worrying about making a fortune on his own and convince these people to see the true importance of community, or something.
It's all kind of a mess. Admittedly, part of the issue was Ben Mankiewicz oversold how much of a departure from the Nick Charles style characters this was for Powell. I was expecting a real scumbag, but it seems like the bad thing is he stopped constantly bailing his buddies.
Keep in mind, when we first meet them, it's because Powell has to use all the money he has to get them out of jail for running an illegal betting parlor. Then he finds out they sold all his clothes to pay their rent while he was off nearly getting gassed in the trenches. When he leaves Baltimore to try and work for the banker, they sneak on specifically because they know there is no one else who will save their stupid asses. When they keep falling behind on the rent for the pool hall (and illegal betting parlor) they run, he gives them the dough to buy it, makes them promise no more illegal stuff, and warns them this is the last time. Then they get busted trying to sell the place to undercover cops when they show off the illegal betting parlor in the back.
I'm supposed to shake my head disapprovingly at Powell for washing his hands of these dipshits? Hell, he still provided bail money, he just fed them the whole story about Dismas being responsible instead of him so they'd leave him alone.
I guess it's supposed to be bad he's using religion as a scam of sorts, albeit with the sole purpose of not being hassled by those morons. Or that he's decided money is all that's important. That he can buy the love of the woman he favors, when she never cared about that. Of course, she's not dealt with poverty, so it's easy for her to dismiss the value of something she takes for granted. I think the film is trying to show Powell's character isn't a bad man, just one that's gone astray, but it doesn't pull it off.
Either subtract the romantic subplot and focus on him and the "mugs", or subtract the "mugs" and focus on the two women.