When Charlie Oakley (Joseph Cotten) returns to Santa Rosa, he is welcomed into the heart of the community: brother-in-law Joe works at the bank, and sister Emma is a doyenne of the town’s many ‘clubs’. Emma worships her big brother, going as far as naming their eldest daughter Charlotte (Teresa Wright), known as ‘Young Charlie’.
When the film begins, Oakley is laying on his bed, staring into space, piles of cash spilling from his dressing table onto the floor. Charlie is not the warm-hearted family type. He may even be the ‘Merry Widow Murderer’, hunted by the police.