CBS cameraman Harry Hinkle (Lemmon) is injured when Cleveland Browns player Luther "Boom Boom" Jackson (Ron Rich) collides with him during a game. Harry's injuries are slight, but his brother-in-law, fast-talking attorney "Whiplash Willie" Gingrich (Matthau, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance), sees the chance for a big settlement if Harry exaggerates them. Following is a comedy of deception mixed with the drama of remorse, as Hinkle sees the effects the con has on the guilt-ridden player.
- Ambulance Chaser: Whiplash Willie.
- Batman Gambit: The P.I. Purkey successfully employs one of these against Hinkle.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Harry has been pining for his ex-wife since she left him. Once she comes back into his life after the accident he realizes she's as scheming as Willie.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Harry, when he calls out his ex-wife for her cold Gold Digger attitude.
- Butt-Monkey: Poor Harry Hinkle, his wife left him, and his brother-in-law is constantly trying to use his accident as a means to make money.
- Control Freak: Willie, keeps trying to control Harry's life in order for his scheme to work, he nags Harry into going along with it.
- Deliberately Monochrome: This was the last of Wilder's films shot in black and white. In part this is to mirror TV production values, where most shows were still aired in B&W, although this changed soon afterwards.
- Easily Forgiven: Jackson seems to take it well that Harry and Willie were lying to him about Harry's condition.
- Flirtatious Smack on the Ass: Willie & Harry's ex-wife
- Frivolous Lawsuit / Insurance Fraud
- Gold Digger: Harry Hinkle's ex-wife reenters the picture when she thinks he's going to get rich off the lawsuit.
- Hilarity Sues
- Nice Guy: Luther "Boom Boom" Jackson
- Obfuscating Disability
- Pretend Prejudice: Part of the aforementione Batman Gambit. Deconstructed in that, as Willie demonstrates, it could still be used against the perpetrator.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Harry and Willie, respectively.
- Shout-Out: Willie likes to hum the prelude of The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini. Indeed, he is as cunning as Figaro.
- Spectator Casualty: An incident of this starts the plot when Hinkle is accidentally knocked down by a football player.