Pearl Chavez (Jennifer Jones), is a stunning young girl who after her father's death, is taken in by distant relative Laura Belle McCanles (Lillian Gish), whose husband, Senator (Lionel Barrymore), is a Texas cattle baron of immense wealth. She soon finds herself attracted to the two McCanles sons: the magnetic hell-raiser Lewt (Gregory Peck) and the educated, restrained Jesse (Joseph Cotten). Almost immediately, Pearl becomes the object of an emotional tug-of-war between the virtuous sons. Since she is presumed to have inherited her mother's hot-blooded disposition, she's tagged as a bad girl by Lewt, who quickly makes a pass at her without success. The two brothers become bitter rivals after Pearl comes to live on their sprawling ranch and disturbs their dynasty.