Elia Kazan's anti-racist drama centers on a light-skinned black woman trying to fit into society. When her white boyfriend proposes, Patricia "Pinky" Johnson (Jeanne Crain) fears that he can't handle an interracial marriage and leaves him. She returns to her Southern childhood home, where her grandma (Ethel Waters) cares for rich Miss Em (Ethel Barrymore). When Miss Em wills her estate to Pinky, the young woman must endure a painful legal battle.

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