Pearl Chavez (Jennifer Jones), a sultry half-breed who oozes sex, is taken in by distant relative Laura Belle McCanles (Lillian Gish), whose husband (Lionel Barrymore) is a rich Texas cattle baron. The quintessential home-wrecker, Pearl is attracted to the two McCanles sons -- wild he-man Lewt (Gregory Peck) and educated, methodical Jesse (Joseph Cotten). The scene is set for a battle royal that pits brother against brother.

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