Quicksand (1950) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • After taking 20 dollars from his employer to go on a date with plans to repay it the next day, an auto mechanic falls into increasingly disastrous circumstances for more and more money which rapidly spirals out of his control.

  • Motor mechanic Dan Brady lacks funds for a heavy date with new restaurant cashier Vera, the type whose life's ambition is a mink coat; so he embezzles twenty dollars from his employer with plans to repay it the next day. To make up the shortage, he goes in debt for a hundred. Thereafter, every means he tries to get out of trouble only gets him deeper into financial difficulties that lead to bigger crimes as everyone he meets is out for themselves.

  • The auto mechanic Dan Brady "borrows" twenty dollars from the cash register of the garage where he works to date the blonde cashier Vera Novak Monday night. His intention is return the money Tuesday when a friend is to repay him a debt. However, the next morning the garage bookkeeper shows up a couple days early and finds the missing twenty and Dan tries to cover the embezzlement, falling deeper and deeper into debt and resorting to bigger crimes.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Dan Brady, an auto mechanic with Mackey Motor Co., is having lunch on Monday with a couple of buddies at the lunch counter. Dan, who spent four years in the Navy, has broken off with his girlfriend Helen because she was getting serious about marriage. A new cashier, Vera Novak, enters the restaurant and captures the young men's attention. Dan is persistent and asks Vera out on a date that night and she agrees. Dan doesn't have any money and can't borrow it from his friends and Buzz who owes him $20 can't repay him until the next day. Dan runs the parts counter and has a cash register float he is responsible for that doesn't get checked until Thursday. Dan decides to "borrow" $20 and pay it back before the company bookkeeper checks on Thursday. Dan's former girlfriend Helen drops by the garage and is still interested in Dan but he blows her off. When Dan picks up Vera she wants to go window shopping downtown. Vera is fascinated by a $2,000 mink coat that she is desperate to have. Vera then takes Dan to Joyland, a penny arcade where she used to work, and he meets Nick Dramoshag, the sleazy proprietor. The next day at the garage the bookkeeper shows up early to do some tax reports for Mackey. Dan rushes out and tries unsuccessfully to get a payday loan. He then decides to purchase a $100 watch with $1 dollar down and $10 monthly payments and promptly takes the watch down the street and pawns it for $30 to reimburse his employer. Dan is confronted by the bookkeeper and deviously slips the missing $20 back into the cash sack. A car pulls into the garage and Moriarity from California Investigation Services hassles Dan about the watch as the jewelry shop owner is worried Dan will skip out on the payments as he has hocked the watch. Moriarity explains the conditional sales agreement means Dan doesn't own the watch and his selling or hocking it constitutes larceny. Dan is given 24 hours to repay the $100. Dan tries selling his jalopy, but the $300 he is offered is less than the $350 he owes the finance company on the car. Dan goes into a bar and notices a drunk who has a large amount of cash. Dan follows the drunk to the parking lot and uses his handkerchief as a mask takes the drunk's wallet. Dan escapes into an alley, removes the cash, and then notices Helen and her friend walking by and he joins them to evade suspicion. He leaves Helen to go meet up with Vera. Vera is at Joyland in an argument with Nick over $50 which he says he loaned her and she claims was a gift. Dan hits Nick, cuts his hand and throws a $50 bill at him to settle the debt and drops his bloody handkerchief. Nick figures out where the $50 came from as does Vera. The next day Dan pays off Moriarity. Nick calls him at work and arranges a meeting. Nick blackmails Dan into stealing a new car from Mackey Motors so Nick can resell it to someone leaving the state. Dan leaves a window unlocked and slips in that night to Mackey's and steals a new car and delivers it to Nick and trades the car key for his bloody handkerchief. Mackey comes by the next day and tells Dan he knows who stole the car. Mackey gives Dan 24 hours to return the car or pay him the retail value of $3,000. Dan meets Vera at the cafe and asks her to run away with him to Texas. Vera gets the whole story and tells Dan she knows where there is 3 or 4 thousand dollars that can be taken easily. Nick has large amounts of cash on hand to cover payroll checks. Dan breaks in and steals the money and get chased and shot at by the watchman. Dan goes to Vera's and leaves the cash behind when they are interrupted by her landlady who kicks Dan out. Dan goes to work the next day and makes an appointment to pay Mackey that night. Dan is frantic trying to get hold of Vera. When he goes to her place, he finds she has taken half the money, her half, and paid $1,800 for the mink coat from the window. Dan is upset but Vera convinces him to take his $1,800 and make an offer to Mackey to settle the issue. Mackey accepts the $1,800 and then starts to make a call to the police and tells Dan the deal was for the full $3,000 and Mackey pulls out a pistol. Dan jumps him across the desk and strangles him and leaves with his pistol. Dan goes to Vera's and by coincidence meets Helen with his friend and fellow employee Chuck out on a date on the street. Chuck tells Dan that Mackey called him into his office and blamed him for stealing the car and asked him for $3,000 and Chuck quit. Dan realizes Mackey has conned him. Dan goes into Vera's and again asks her to go to Texas with him as he believes he has killed Mackey. Vera has no intention of running and Dan leaves in disgust. The police arrive at Vera's causing Dan to hide on the fire escape. The police, acting on a tip from Nick, have a search warrant and find the mink coat and the receipt for $1,800. Vera rats Dan out about Mackey which is news to the police. Vera is arrested and Dan escapes. Dan finds Helen waiting in his car. They drive away and Dan is pulled over by a motorcycle cop on a traffic offense and Helen stops him from pulling the gun. Dan then admits all to Helen. Helen suggests they run away to Mexico and on the way Dan's car engine's bearing fails. Dan and Helen then hijack an older man in a car and force him to drive them to the border. The old man turns out to be a lawyer and offers Dan advice and suggests that Mackey may not be dead. Dan changes his mind about driving to the border and orders the lawyer to drive him to his friend's charter boat that is heading south to Mexican waters on a fishing trip that morning. Two motorcycle police are at the wharf and end up chasing Dan. Dan drops his pistol, it goes off, and the police end up shooting Dan in the shoulder and capturing him. Helen and the lawyer have heard on the radio that Mackey is not dead and come back to the wharf to rescue Dan. The lawyer joins Helen and Dan in the backseat of his car which the police are going to use to drive Dan to the hospital. The lawyer advises Dan he will be charged with the robbery, stealing the car and the break in at Nick's but that he is a first time offender and should get a minimal sentence. Helen pledges to wait for Dan and the car drives away.

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