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One morning, Mrs. Vivien Leslie, the owner of a Beverly Hills rooming house, advises tenant Nadine Roland not to worry about the ailing Lan McKay, pointing out that the young man's "illness" is just a hangover. Vivien does express concern for elderly lodgers Mr. and Mrs. Herb Poole, who are visiting their dying, hospitalized daughter, but tells Nadine that she must learn to take life's tragedies in stride. Despite Vivien's advice, Nadine nurses Lan, and Vivien gives him some coffee. A bit later, Lan, dressed and recuperated, thanks Vivien but complains when she lectures him about his reckless driving. Lan then drops by his sister Felice's house to deliver a birthday present to his mother and argues with his domineering older brother-in-law Lewis, whose wealthy lifestyle Lan both resents and envies. After Lan returns to the rooming house, Vivien, inspired by the noisy, thoughtless behavior of neighbor Pixie Croffman and her teenage friends, begins to reminisce about her romantic past: Shortly before World War II, Vivien, known as Vivien Keeler, is singing in a Greenwich Village bistro when she meets refined, quiet George Leslie. George and Vivien hit it off, and while taking a walk in Central Park the next day, George asks Vivien if she would like to go to California with him for six weeks, as his paid "companion." At first, Vivien rejects the invitation, assuming that George is looking for a sexual relationship, but George, who describes himself as an overworked manufacturer, insists that he wants nothing more than friendship. Vivien agrees to go but is fired by her boss at the club. Although surprised when Jim, George's chauffeur in California, addresses her as "Mrs. Leslie," Vivien does not correct him and soon becomes the mistress of George's beautiful seaside house. During the day, Vivien swims and fishes with George, and in the evening, keeps him company while he reads books on his favorite topic¿the American Civil War. One night, George receives a mysterious long distance phone call, and later, Vivien hears him crying out in his sleep. Vivien goes to George's room to comfort him but does not ask him about his nightmare. After spending a carefree day fishing and smashing wine glasses at a local eatery, George gets another phone message and announces he is returning East the next day. Again Vivien does not question George and agrees to see him again in a year. Back in the present, Vivien comes out of her reverie and tells Lan that he is welcome to use her piano that evening to practice his dance routines. Lan then drives Nadine, an aspiring actress, to a television audition and, after dropping her off, meets talent agent Fred Blue. Having seen Lan with Nadine, Fred agrees to come by the rooming house to watch Lan's routine on condition that Nadine is also there. Nadine, meanwhile, fails to impress the television producer, who dismisses her as "starlet fluff." Later, at the rooming house, Vivien, who has agreed to babysit Pixie, tries to have a conversation with the sullen teenager and earns her wrath when she sends her rowdy friends away. After Pixie accuses Vivien of lying about her marital status and storms off, Vivien recalls more about her past: Vivien has trouble finding work when she returns to New York but makes ends meet until she and George rendezvous again in California. George soon discovers that Vivien has been learning about the Civil War and, touched by her selfless devotion, gives her some money with which to become more financially secure. Vivien and George part with a kiss, and once back in New York, Vivien opens a dress shop. One night, after the start of World War II, Vivien goes to a movie theater and is stunned when George appears in a newsreel and is identified as aviation great George Leslie Hendersall, the married head of a new aeronautical board in Washington, D.C. Devastated, Vivien runs from the theater and sometime later, when George finds her in her shop, angrily rejects him. George demands that she dine with him and, at the restaurant, explains that he married Evelyn, a former aviatrix, for money but never loved her. While admitting his mistake, George states that for various reasons, he cannot divorce, but begs Vivien to stick with him. Vivien agrees and spends another peaceful vacation in California. Back in the present, Vivien hosts Lan's audition, which features Lan and his female partner dancing the mambo. Fred, however, is more interested in Nadine, who used to run with a wild Hollywood crowd, than Lan's performance and tells him that he has no talent. After Vivien shows Fred the door, Lan asks Nadine out, and the two commiserate over drinks. Though drunk, Lan insists on driving home and almost crashes his car. Sobered by the near miss, Lan tells Nadine his problems, and she admits that her real name is Alice and she is as lost as he. Meanwhile, at the rooming house, Vivien returns to her reverie, remembering the last time she saw George in California: George apologizes for making her live her life in "weeks instead of years," but Vivien insists that she is content. When they kiss goodbye, Vivien has an uneasy feeling, and later, while the rest of New York madly celebrates the end of the war, she reads about George's death on a Times Squares news ticker. Soon after, Vivien learns that, through the discreet actions of Evelyn, she has inherited enough money from George to buy a house. At the rooming house the next morning, Vivien says goodbye to the grieving Pooles, offering her sincere condolences. Nadine then announces that she and Lan are getting married, but Vivien tells her that Lan moved out early that morning. Before Nadine can react, however, Lan returns in a new car, ready to go to Las Vegas. Relieved, Vivien wishes the couple well and advises them to "go for everything" in life.