In the South Pacific, the passengers of a boat must disembark prematurely at the island of Pago Pago due to a cholera scare. Among them are missionaries Alfred Davidson (Walter Huston) and his wife (Beulah Bondi), and a spirited prostitute, Sadie Thompson (Joan Crawford). On the island, Thompson lives it up with the American soldiers stationed in the village, and captures the heart of Sgt. Tim O'Hara (William Gargan). But Thompson's wild ways are too much for Davidson, who tries to convert her.