The film deals with life in the small Midwestern town of Kings Row around the turn of the 19th-20th centuries. Parris Mitchell (Cummings) is a serious young man who dreams of being a doctor. His good buddy Drake McHugh (Reagan) is a rich young man who enjoys playing The Casanova with the girls of Kings Row. But there are dark things going on behind the scenes in Kings Row. Parris studies medicine with Dr. Alexander Tower (Rains), but Dr. Tower's wife never leaves her second-story room. Parris courts Dr. Tower's daughter Cassandra, but eventually Dr. Tower locks her up as well. Meanwhile, Drake is taking carriage rides with Louise Gordon, but Louise's father Dr. Henry Gordon hates Drake and won't let him near Louise. And there are dark rumors about Dr. Gordon's medical practices.
Kings Row is remembered mostly for being one of the best movies to feature future President Ronald Reagan, who spent most of his film career trapped in the B-Movie ghetto. Kings Row could have been the start of bigger and better things for Reagan's movie career, but he got drafted into the Army, and the moment passed. "Where's the rest of me?" became his Signature Line, and it was the title of his first autobiography.
- Age Cut: Young Parris hops over the fence to his home. Cut to Bob Cummings hopping back over the fence.
- An Arm and a Leg: Drake has both of his legs amputated needlessly by sadistic Dr. Gordon after an accident. When he wakes from anesthesia, he says the famous line: "Where's the rest of me?"
- Disappeared Dad / Missing Mom: Parris is raised by his kindly grandmother. The fate of his parents isn't explained.
- Driven to Suicide: Dr. Tower kills both his daughter and himself after she starts going mad.
- Empathic Environment: Dramatic thunder and lightning as Cassie and Parris finally kiss.
- Have a Gay Old Time: "There's something queer about those Towers."
- I Can't Feel My Legs: Drake panics after waking up and finding his legs gone.
- Like a Son to Me: "If I had a son, I'd want him to be as nearly like you as possible", says Dr. Tower to Parris.
- Mad Doctor: Dr. Gordon is a monster who has spent years injuring and killing people he judges morally lacking. He has double motive for mutilating Drake, as Drake is The Casanova, and was putting the moves on his daughter.
- Madwoman in the Attic: It turns out that Mrs. Tower is locked away upstairs because she is insane. Dr. Tower later kills his daughter and himself after observing the symptoms of madness in her.
- Meadow Run: The film ends with a triumphant Parris running to his new girlfriend Elise across an open field after Drake's psychological breakthrough.
- A Minor Kidroduction: The film opens with a prologue showing Parris, Drake, Cassie, and Randy as schoolkids.
- The Place: Kings Row, which has some secrets.
- Signature Line: "Where's the rest of me?"
- Stealing from the Till: How Drake loses all his money. A clerk at the bank absconded with his trust fund and a lot more.
- Tomboyish Name: Randy, played by Ann Sheridan, who is quite the tomboy as a girl and is still forthright and assertive after growing up.
- Town with a Dark Secret: This peaceful town features among other things a madwoman locked in an attic and a homicidal doctor. And there was that murder-suicide. The film went through a lot of Bowdlerization when being adapted from the source novel.
- Uptown Girl: Randy is concerned about the fact that her father is a common rail yard worker while Drake is one of the richest men in town.