Dr. Robert Richardson, (Lew Ayres) a dedicated young general practitioner, seeks to establish himself in an isolated fishing village on Cape Breton Island off the Nova Scotia coast. The population is poor and the struggling physician generally gets paid for his efforts in barter. When he meets Belinda McDonald, (Jane Wyman) a young deaf mute callously dismissed by family and neighbors as "the dummy," he alone senses her innate intelligence. He overcomes the initial skepticism of her father, Black (Charles Bickford) and indifferently cold aunt, Aggie (Agnes Moorehead) who operate a grist mill and farm, and devotes himself to teaching the young girl sign language and lip-reading.

When Black learns that he can communicate with his daughter, a bond grows between them. One evening, a group of young people, including belligerent Locky McCormick (Stephen McNally) and his girl friend, Stella Maguire, (Jan Sterling) Robert's assistant, come by the farm to pick up some flour. An impromptu dance breaks out, and Robert places Belinda's hand on the violin so that she can feel the vibrations. Her tentative attempts to dance briefly attract Locky's attention.

Later, having been rejected by Stella, who secretly loves Robert, a drunken Locky rapes Belinda. Belinda becomes withdrawn afterward, and Black begs Robert to find out what is wrong with her. Robert convinces Black to allow him to take Belinda to town for diversion. While there, Robert brings Belinda to an ear specialist for an examination and learns that she is pregnant.

Back at Cape Breton, he reveals her secret to Aggie, but does not tell Black, fearing his anger. Black has become very proud of his transformed daughter and, accompanied by Robert, brings her to church for the first time. Locky and Stella attend the service as well, to hear their wedding banns read, and Belinda's reaction to Locky gives Robert cause to think that he may be the father of the child. He says nothing, however, and after the baby, whom Belinda names Johnny, is born, the townspeople, believing that Robert is the child's father, ostracize him and the McDonalds.

Robert offers to marry Belinda, but Black dissuades him, stating that Belinda will understand that he does not love her. When Locky appears during a storm, Black suddenly realizes the identity of Johnny's father, and assaults Locky, who pushes Black off a cliff to his death.

When a lack of patients forces Robert to leave town, he promises to send for Aggie and Belinda as soon as he is established. Meanwhile, certain that Belinda is incapable of caring for her child, the townspeople decide to take the baby from her and give him to Stella and Locky, who have since married. Stella changes her mind, however, when she sees how much Belinda loves Johnny. Locky then tells Stella that he is determined to take the child because he is the baby's father. When he comes after the baby, Belinda shoots and kills him. At Belinda's murder trial, Stella initially refuses to disclose the reason why Locky was killed, but finally tells the truth, and Belinda is acquitted.

12 Nominations
1 Award
Best Actress

Golden Globes
2 Nomination
2 Awards
Best Picture
Best Actress
Jane Wyman was perhaps the most underrated and unappreciated actress of the 20th Century, while actually delivering some of the greatest performances seen on the screen. She brings superior insight and tenderness to the role and not once does she speak throughout the picture. Her face is the mirror of her thoughts. Yet she makes this pathetic young woman glow with emotional warmth. She never tried to over-shadow her co-stars Lew Ayres, Charles Bickford and Agnes Moorehead, all of who was letter perfect in their parts.

Mr. Ayres makes a credibly humble young doctor in a hamlet of gossipy folks. And Stephen McNally is forcibly brutish as the town bully who secretly violates the girl. As father and aunt of the poor girl, Charles Bickford and Agnes Moorehead are excellent, while Jan Sterling does rather nicely as a featherhead that can't keep still.

Filmed in effective black-and-white, the studio’s recreation of a Nova Scotia fishing village is convincing, while director Jean Negulesco underplays many scenes, allowing the performances to resonate with the material. Ironically, Negulesco was fired late in the production of the film, when studio execs saw that he was avoiding the sort of tear-jerking sentimentality that they had expected. Because it would have been too expensive to re-shoot the entire picture, the studio reluctantly released it pretty much as Negulesco had wanted. The result was Warner Bros. biggest hit of the year. The film was nominated for twelve Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actress for Agnes Moorehead (an honor she should have received), with Wyman winning the Best Actress Oscar as the only category in which it won.