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Overwhelmed by melancholy because of her recent divorce, young Betty Preisser, a receptionist and part-time model for a New York clothing manufacturer, leaves work early, taking a contract she is typing to finish at home. Later that afternoon, Jerry Kingsley, one of the owners of the garment company, stops by the apartment Betty shares with her mother, Mrs. Mueller, and sister, Alice Mueller, to pick up the finished contract. The middle-aged Jerry, lonely and bereft since the death of his wife two years earlier, feels compassion toward Betty, who over the course of the afternoon tells him about her loveless marriage with her musician ex-husband George and her indecision about his desire to reconcile with her. Jerry, who has a twenty-five-year-old daughter, fatherly advises her to stop feeling sorry for herself and make her own decisions. That night, over dinner with his daughter Lillian and spinster sister Evelyn, Jerry frequently mentions Betty's beauty. Evelyn, who is overly possessive of her brother, with whom she lives, archly comments on Jerry's repeated references to Betty. The following day after work, Jerry summons up his courage to invite Betty to dinner. When Jerry returns home in an upbeat mood to dress for dinner, Lillian, who is more devoted to her father than her husband Jack, is intrigued by Jerry's sudden interest in a woman. Betty and Jerry begin to date, but after several weeks, Betty announces that they should stop seeing each other because Jerry is her boss. His vanity punctured, Jerry asks if the difference in their ages is the real reason she wants to end their relationship. When Jerry declares that he has fallen in love with Betty, she warns him that she is incapable of loving anyone. Jerry, who has to return to the factory to mark some patterns, asks Betty to join him. As she hovers over his shoulder in the cutting room, Jerry embraces her and she returns his passion. With the holidays approaching, a newly invigorated Jerry asks Betty to go the mountains with him for the weekend. On the drive there, Jerry suggests that they get married, alarming Betty, who begins to babble hysterically. After calming down, Betty finally admits that she loves Jerry. At the lodge on New Year's Eve, the other guests assume that Jerry and Betty are married. Exhilarated by the thought, Jerry gets drunk and boasts about his young wife, then passes out later in the cabin. On the drive home, Betty worries about the reaction of Jerry's family to their pending marriage. Betty's mother, who considers all men to be "bums," is vehemently opposed to the idea of her daughter marrying an older man. Consequently, when Jerry stops by to pick up Betty for a date, Mrs. Mueller chides him for being a "dirty old man." The next day at the factory, Jerry informs his partner, Walter Lockman, that he is marrying Betty. The womanizing Walter, who has been trapped in a loveless marriage for thirty years, encourages the union, then confides to Jerry that although he was impotent, he felt compelled to have a series of flings because his life is so empty. After Jerry ebulliently informs Lillian, Jack and Evelyn about his impending marriage, Evelyn, indignant at the thought of her brother marrying a twenty-four year old, calls Jerry an old fool and Betty a fortune hunter. Fearing that Betty will displace her in Jerry's life, Evelyn then storms out of the room and slams the door. When Jerry tries to explain his decision to Lillian, Lillian terms their relationship neurotic and unsuitable for a sound marriage. Only Jack, happy for Jerry's newly found happiness, congratulates him on his upcoming marriage, prompting Lillian to lash out at her husband. Suddenly stern, Jerry tells Evelyn to arrange a formal dinner at which he intends to introduce Betty to the family. Deciding that her father needs her more than her husband, Lillian decides to cancel the vacation that she and Jack had been planning, infuriating Jack, who charges that Lillian's entire life has been devoted to her father. At the family dinner, and later at an office celebration of their engagement, Jerry seems strangely distant and moody. The next day, after work, Jerry takes Betty to a nightclub. When a friend of her ex-husband says hello to Betty, Jerry becomes jealous. After Jerry drives Betty home in silence, they begin to argue, and Betty jumps out of the car and slams the door. Upon entering her apartment, Betty finds George waiting to see her. Once her mother and sister discreetly excuse themselves, George, who has just returned from a stint in Las Vegas, begs her to come back to him. Although Betty feels a strong physical attraction for George, she pushes him away, but finally succumbs to her desire. The following morning, Betty arranges to meet Jerry in the park where she confesses that although she made love to George, it meant nothing to her. Betrayed and humiliated, Jerry declares he never wants to see her again and leaves. Upon returning to his apartment, Jerry informs Evelyn that the marriage has been called off. As Jerry slumps into his chair, Lockman's panicked wife calls to inform Jerry that her husband has just phoned from a hotel and announced that he plans to commit suicide. Hurrying to the hotel, Jerry finds that Lockman has taken an overdose of pills, but will survive. Lockman's act of desperation forces Jerry to realize that Betty has awakened his passion to live. Jerry proceeds to Betty's apartment and rings the doorbell, and when she opens the door, they embrace.