Nicky Wilson (Beatty) and Oscar Sullivan (Nicholson) are inept 1920s scam artists in Northeastern United States who see pay dirt in the guise of Fredericka Quintessa "Freddie" Bigard (Stockard Channing), the millionaire heiress to a sanitary napkin fortune. She loves the already married Nicky, but because the Mann Act prohibits him from taking her across state lines and engaging in immoral relations, he proposes that she marry Oscar and then carry on an affair with the man she wants. Oscar, who is wanted for embezzlement and anxious to get out of town, is happy to comply with the plan, although he intends to claim his spousal privileges after they are wed.
Once they reach Los Angeles, the men try everything they can to separate Freddie from her inheritance without success, but with sufficient determination to arouse her suspicions. When she announces her plan to donate her money to charity, Nicky and Oscar conclude that murder might be their only recourse if they're going to get rich quick. Eventually arrested for the murder, Nicky and Oscar confess everything to the Los Angeles Police Department. This leads to unusual complications when the arresting detective meets the very-alive Freddie, who passed out and was oblivious to the entire "murder", and is shocked to hear the story.
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