Private eye Jake Gittes lives off of the murky moral climate of sunbaked, pre-World War II Southern California. Hired by a beautiful socialite to investigate her husband’s extra-marital affair, Gittes is swept into a maelstrom of double dealings and deadly deceits, uncovering a web of personal and political scandals that come crashing together.
A town – where everyone seems to be named Johnson – is in the way of the railroad and, in order to grab their land, Hedley Lemar, a politically connected nasty person, sends in his henchmen to make the town unlivable. After the sheriff is killed, the town demands a new sheriff from the Governor, so Hedley convinces him to send the town the first black sheriff in the west.
Four socialites unexpectedly clash: heiress Brooke Carter runs into gambler Johnny Spanish at the race track while playboy Michael O. Pritchard nearly runs into stage star Kitty O’Kelly with his car. Backstage at Kitty’s show, it turns out she and Brooke are old friends who attended public school together. The foursome do the town, accompanied by Brooke’s companion Elizabeth, who throws herself at Michael’s butler and chauffeur Rodney James.
Bob McGraw is in his 12th year of college, goofing his way through life. Bob, Irwing, Gonzer and Max are the four losers forced and bribed to represent their university in an intercollegiate raft race. Forced and bribed into this role, they make some friends, the lovely Heather Merriweather, but mostly enemies, among others a whole team of marines, and preppy IVY-leaguers determined to win.