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Amateur documentary filmmaker Pete Sheppard meets a despondent Gladys Glover in New York City's Central Park while working on his latest project. Gladys reveals that she has just been fired from her job modeling girdles and wonders how she can make a name for herself. Pete encourages her to realize her dreams and promises to send her tickets to his film screening. Later, walking in Columbus Circle, Gladys sees a huge blank billboard and, envisioning her name written there, decides to rent it for the three-month minimum. Several days after Gladys has her name painted on the billboard, wealthy young businessman Evan Adams III complains to his advertising firm that his soap company traditionally rents the Columbus Circle billboard for the spring season and demands Gladys be forced to give it up. Gladys meets with Evan and the agency representatives, but refuses their proposal of returning her money and an additional five hundred dollars. Back at her apartment, Gladys delightedly discovers that Pete has just moved into her building. She encourages him to visit Columbus Circle and thanks him for giving her the inspiration to follow her dreams. The two arrange a date for that evening, but Gladys is forced to rearrange it when Evan telephones and asks her for another business meeting. That night with Evan, Gladys insists on driving through Columbus Circle several times to admire her sign and despite her thrill at going to a famous nightclub and Evan's unabashed charms, Gladys refuses his offers to give up her billboard. When Gladys returns home, Pete assails her with criticism about the billboard, which he visited, but Gladys remains undaunted. The following week Gladys meets with Evan and several of his board members, but refuses to surrender her sign until Evan finally offers her six signs at prime locations throughout New York City. At lunch with Pete, Gladys gloats over her multiple signs, then wonders if she should have held out for eight. Pete protests that she should be trying to be with people, not above them, and when he asks Gladys what her name stands for, she cannot say. Later while shopping at Macy's, across the street from one of her signs, Gladys receives a burst of attention from shoppers when she gives her name to a saleslady, to Pete's dismay. Several weeks later, Gladys and Pete enjoy an afternoon at a diner, although Gladys laments that the lease on her signs expires in three days. Just then, the couple is startled when they hear reporter Brod Clinton discussing the mystery "Gladys Glover" signs on the television over the bar. Gladys takes offense at Clinton's sarcastic tone and telephones him to demand an apology and ask if he wants to know the truth. Sensing a potential quirky human interest tale, Clinton agrees to meet Gladys and after hearing her story, finds it so ludicrous that he believes he can get her some air time on television. Pete tries to talk Gladys out of the idea, but when she learns she would be paid for any appearances she makes, Gladys agrees, hoping to extend the lease on her billboards. Gladys' nervous, then bubbling appearance on The People Speak is a success and, as Pete watches in horror, Clinton quickly becomes her agent, signing her for several shows including a stint as a guest contestant on a panel show with famous personalities. Evan learns of Gladys' success and, feeling partially responsible, signs her up to be the "average American girl" representative of his soap company. Soon Gladys is the center of a nationwide advertising campaign and earning large amounts of money. Agreeing to dinner with Evan, Gladys breaks a long-planned date with Pete to visit his parents in Jersey. Later, when Pete sees Evan in his sports car waiting for Gladys, he warns Evan not to take advantage of her, but Evan scoffs at him. Evan takes Gladys to his apartment, where he plies her with champagne and attempts to seduce her, promising her a national publicity tour. Gladys abruptly declares that the average American girl should not be in this kind of situation and departs. Gladys' advertising fame continues, but one afternoon she returns home to find a projector in her room and a note from Pete, instructing her to watch the film, entitled "Goodbye Gladys." In it, Pete reveals that he is in love with her but cannot compete with her obsession with fame and Evan's wealth and good looks. When Gladys runs to Pete's room, she finds another tenant there. At her next advertising appearance for a weight loss product, a gloomy Gladys complains to Clinton that the engagements are becoming increasingly undignified, but Clinton waves her concern away. The following day Clinton takes her to a military air base, where a fighter plane is to be named after her. Gladys stumbles over her rehearsed lines several times and then bolts, before Clinton forces her to return. At the podium, however, Gladys declares that her name does not stand for anything and that each Air Force enlistee is far more worthy of the honor, even in their anonymity. Gladys suggests christening the plane "One of the Crowd" instead. Gladys then reunites with Pete, declaring she is through with fame, and the two head for Jersey.