powered by AFI
At Underhill College, English literature professor Thornton Sayre dedicates his life to academia and the rearing of his prim daughter Carol. The Sayres's austere existence is disrupted when a group of jeering college students reveal to Carol that her father was once a silent movie actor known as Bruce Blair, and that his old films, co-starring Gloria Marlowe, are shown on television. A confused Carol confronts Thornton, who admits that he was once known as "Dreamboat" because of his dashing, romantic screen persona. Thornton informs Carol that he was virtually shanghaied into becoming an actor by Gloria, a forceful diva, and that despite his great popularity, he gave up his Hollywood career to marry her late mother and teach. Thornton is horrified that his films have been revived, especially upon learning they are broadcast during The Exotic Perfume Hour , which is hosted by Gloria. When news of Thornton's former life is spread, college president Mathilda May Coffey presides over a meeting of the board, which wants Thornton to resign in order to protect the college's prestigious reputation. Thornton assures the board that he and Carol will travel to New York and force the show's producer to discontinue broadcasting his films. Mathilda then asks the board to leave any disciplinary action to her discretion, but when she is alone with Thornton, the romance-hungry Mathilda reveals that she has had a crush on "Dreamboat" for many years. Aghast, Thornton rejects Mathilda's advances and drives to New York with Carol. There, the Sayres meet Sam Levitt, the television agent who bought the Blair-Marlowe films and revived Gloria's career with them. Sam arranges for junior executive Bill Ainslee to take Carol on a tour of the city while he talks with Thornton, who is adamant that the movies be taken off the air. Sam, who has craftily arranged for publicity concerning Thornton's surprise re-appearance in public life, calls in Gloria, who joins him in urging Thornton to drop his protests. Thornton insists that the broadcasts are an invasion of his privacy, however, and threatens to sue Sam. Later, Bill brings Carol back to her hotel, and Carol realizes that the handsome Bill considers her "the museum type" rather than the fun-loving girl she would like to be. That night, Sam takes Thornton to hear Gloria sing at a nightclub, after which Gloria lies to Thornton, telling him a sad tale of her debt-ridden life. Feeling sorry for his former co-star, Thornton is about to drop his case, even though his standing as an educator will be ruined, but the next morning, he discovers that Gloria is actually very wealthy. Infuriated, Thornton files for an injunction preventing Sam from broadcasting his pictures. Meanwhile, Carol agrees to date Bill again, and later that day, accuses Thornton of turning her into an over-educated bore while he himself is besieged by female fans. That night, Carol insists on going to Bill's apartment, and there the young couple's kisses make them realize that they are perfect for each other. Back at the hotel, Mathilda arrives and throws herself at Thornton. The professor again demurs, but Mathilda wonders why, if he does not embody at least some attributes of "Dreamboat," he has not yet stopped the flow of publicity. Soon after, Thornton's invasion of privacy suit is heard in court, and using television as his evidence, Thornton proves that it is an often idiotic medium, and that his movies have been re-edited for broadcast. Thornton alleges that the re-editing, which makes it appear that he is endorsing the sponsor's perfume, has turned him into "the world's foremost nincompoop," and the judge grants the injunction. That night, as Thornton seeks to celebrate his victory with Carol, she chastises him for his snobbery, telling him that he is the talented idol of millions, and that he should pursue his movie career rather than teach. Carol also informs her father that she is staying in New York to marry Bill. Thornton is then fired by Mathilda, and dejected, he goes to the hotel bar. There, Gloria taunts him about his failures until he reveals that he has received an offer from a major movie studio. Months later, Carol and Bill snuggle in the audience as Thornton's new film, Sitty Pretty , is previewed. While the crowd roars with laughter, a smug Gloria informs Thornton that she has bought his contract and now controls his career.