Strawberry Blonde is the second, and by far the most well-regarded, of the three film versions of James Hogan's play One Sunday Afternoon. James Cagney stars as Biff Grimes, a turn-of-the-century dentist married to onetime suffragette Amy Lind (Olivia de Havilland). A former convict, Biff has great difficulty keeping his temper--and when alderman Hugo Barnstead (Jack Carson), the man responsible for Cagney's unjust prison term, shows up one Sunday afternoon to have a tooth pulled, the pugnacious dentist begins developing homicidal urges. In a lengthy flashback, we learn that Biff and Hugo, once the best of friends, were business partners in a construction firm. When one of their buildings collapsed due to shoddy materials, Biff was sent to jail for five years, while Hugo escaped scot-free. Even worse, Hugo stole Biff's girlfriend Virginia Brush (Rita Hayworth), the "strawberry blonde" of the title. The flashback over, Biff sharkishly welcomes Hugo into his office, fully intending to bump off his old enemy. But during a reunion with his "dream girl" Virginia, Biff realizes for the first time that Amy was the right girl for him all along, and that Hugo did him a favor by taking the strident, shrewish Virginia off his hands. Letting Hugo off with little more than a sore jaw, Biff takes Amy in his arms--but not before settling a few old accounts with his fists, just for old time's sake.
by Hal Erickson synopsis