Anna's specialty is blackmail, and one of her victims is the erring wife of a prominent plastic surgeon (Melvyn Douglas). He persuades Anna to undergo several operations, although he has his reservations: "If I am successful I will have created a monster: a beautiful face with no heart." When Anna does emerge from the bandages a lovely woman, she takes up with Torsten Barring, played by the suavely evil Conrad Veidt (best known as Major Strasser in Casablanca.) He needs Anna's help to carry out a particularly unsavory plan: doing away with his little nephew (upon whose death Torsten Barring will come into a lot of money.) Anna agrees at first ("I haven't joined the side of the saints yet"), but soon finds that her entire outlook on life (and death) has changed along with her new face.
Joan Crawford was an actress never afraid to "reach", and as Anna Holm she took the unusual (for 1941) risk of playing a woman scarred both inside and out, torn between cold-blooded ruthlessness and the emergence of morals she thought long buried.