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When Caroline Bender, an eager young college graduate, reports for her first day of work as a secretary at the Fabian Publishing Company in New York City, Mary Agnes, the chatty head of the stenography pool, assigns her to work for Amanda Farrow, a ruthless, calculating editor whose regular secretary, Gregg Adams, is out sick. Also starting work that day is April Morrison, a naïve young woman in search of true love. When Amanda insists that Caroline work late to type a rejection letter to an author, Caroline reads the manuscript and offers a positive evaluation, highlighting the novel's potential. Caroline's insight impresses Mr. Shalimar, a lecherous senior executive at Fabian, and Mike Rice, the company's world-weary, cynical magazine editor. After praising Caroline's report, Mike warns her to get out of publishing and try marriage instead. That night, April invites Caroline to join her and her roommate, Gregg, for dinner. Over their meal, Caroline rhapsodizes about her fiancé, Eddie Harris, who is traveling overseas, prompting Gregg, an aspiring actress, to profess the virtues of independence. Gregg and April invite Caroline to share their apartment, and she agrees. Later, Amanda, who is conducting a secretive, unsatisfying affair with a married man, accuses Caroline of trying to steal her job. At her mother's insistence, Caroline agrees to have dinner with her friend's son, Paul Landers. As Caroline waits for Paul to pick her up at the office, Eddie phones from London to tell her he has married a rich oil heiress. Shattered, Caroline sits at the restaurant, numbly listening to the insufferable Paul list his accomplishments. Spotting Caroline from across the room, Mike comes to her rescue and takes her home. Drunk, Caroline begs Mike to make love to her and then passes out. Soon after, Shalimar promotes Caroline to the position of reader while Amanda enlists Gregg to work as a maid at a party at her apartment. There, Gregg meets theatrical director David Savage, who invites her to spend the night with him. At the company picnic, Gregg moons over David while Caroline dispenses business advice to Shalimar. Meanwhile, at the clubhouse, April meets playboy Dexter Key, who drives her back to New York in his snazzy sports car and then seduces her. Soon after, Gregg resigns her job as secretary to take a small role in David's new play, prompting Amanda to caution her about David's fickleness toward women. After the play opens in Boston, David decides to replace Gregg with another actress. Now obsessed with David, Gregg demeans herself by begging to stay on as an understudy. At Mary Agnes' wedding in New York, meanwhile, April faints after catching the bridal bouquet and then confides to Caroline that she is pregnant. Afterward, Caroline cooks Mike dinner, and as they are about to kiss, Eddie phones and asks to see Caroline. Realizing that Caroline is still in love with Eddie, Mike storms out. Now back in New York, Gregg becomes increasingly possessive of David and, suspecting that he might be having an affair, searches his drawers. Furious, David throws her out of his apartment and life. Dexter, meanwhile, convinces April that he plans to marry her, but after he picks her up to drive her to the ceremony, he informs her that they are headed for an abortionist. Hysterical, April jumps out of the car and suffers a miscarriage. Upon awakening at the hospital, April feels sullied and broken but is comforted by her doctor, Ronnie Wood. When Amanda quits to marry a widower from Illinois, a man she has known for years, Caroline is awarded her position and office, and Mike sarcastically congratulates her on emulating Amanda's sterile life. Soon after, Amanda returns, having realized that it is too late for her to embark on a life of domesticity, and Caroline graciously relinquishes her office. While April and Ronnie start to date, Caroline and Eddie resume their affair. Caroline naively believes that Eddie intends to divorce his wife to marry her, but when proposes that she become his mistress, she denounces him and leaves for good. Meanwhile, Gregg, becoming increasingly depressed, begins to stalk David, and when a passerby sees her standing outside David's door, he thinks she has been locked out and tries to help. Panicked, Gregg stumbles backward and falls to her death through a hallway window. After David notifies Caroline of Gregg's death, Caroline finally senses the emptiness in her own life. As she leaves work, she sees Mike standing outside the office building, and they smile at each other and walk off together.