When Sam Masterson (Van Heflin) returns to his hometown after decades away, he's surprised to learn his old flame, Martha Ivers (Stanwyck) — now a wealthy, self-made industrialist — has married childhood friend Walter O'Neil (Douglas), a weak-willed alcoholic. Suspecting that Masterson has returned to blackmail her over the dark secret she shares with Walter, now the town's district attorney, Martha begins to plot against her former lover.
Kirk Douglas made his first screen appearance in Milestone's simmering noir drama, playing a guilt-ridden, defeated cuckold. Starring alongside the future A-lister was Stanwyck, a calculating harpy who's scornful of Walter and distrustful of Masterson, but still in love with the man who might cause her ruination. Produced for Paramount by the seasoned Hal Wallis, "Martha Ivers" is dark, gripping, and exceptionally strong on character.