Picture a charming home in the South. Into this peaceful scene put the prosperous, despotic Hubbard family—Ben, possessive and scheming; Oscar, cruel and arrogant; Ben's dupe, Leo, weak and unprincipled; Regina wickedly clever—each trying to outwit the other. In contrast, meet lonely intimidated Birdie, whom Oscar wed for her father's cotton fields; wistful Alexandra, Regina's daughter; and Horace, ailing husband of Regina, between whom a breach has existed for years. The conflict in these lives has been caused by Ben's ambition to erect a cotton mill. The brothers still lack $75,000 to complete the transaction. This, they hope, will come from Horace, who has been in a hospital with a heart ailment. Horace is beset by his relatives the first hour of his homecoming, but refuses to commit himself. Desperate, Leo and his father, Oscar, plan for Leo to take $80,000 worth of bonds from Horace's safe-deposit box. However, knowing that he is to be short-lived, Horace has his box brought to him. Discovering the theft, he informs his wife that he has willed the bonds to her. He promises to say nothing about the theft, calling it a loan. Cruelly, Regina recalls their unhappy married life, causing Horace to be stricken with a severe attack. Regina refuses to get his medicine upstairs, hoping that the effort of climbing may prove fatal. Horace collapses. Then Regina blackmails her brothers into giving her 75% of the business instead of their planned 33 1/3%, or she will reveal their theft. We feel, however, that crafty Ben holds the trump card by his parting remark, "What was a man in a wheelchair doing on a staircase?"
A milestone in American drama.