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When hermit Peter Potter Kendall II inherits fifty million dollars, his attorney, James Drake, appoints Peter's valet, J. F. Wilson, to teach Peter about the world, then leaves for Europe. His first day out in New York City, Peter witnesses an auction of unemployed workers. When a licentious man bids for pretty Joan Allen, Peter hires her to be his stenographer at fifty dollars a week. She then convinces him to hire Mme. Vivienne Pompadour, a retired stage actress who poses as her mother, as well. Peter invites the women to live with him in his Fifth Avenue mansion, and Vivienne schemes to get Peter to fall in love with Joan by staging a love scene from a play. When Peter tells Vivienne that his courageous self is buried, she bolsters his confidence by telling him the story of "The Little Blue Engine That Could." Shyster Eddie Clifford then convinces Jonathan "Doc" Appleby, Vivienne's ex-husband, to help Vivienne acquire Peter's money. Eddie convinces Peter to start a soup kitchen, which is a huge success and helps Peter to win the loyalty of many of New York's poor. When $100,000 of Peter's cash is delivered from the bank to start a chain of soup kitchens, Vivienne, Doc and Eddie plan to steal it. After Peter is knocked out while officiating a fight, he wakes up and proposes to Joan, and she realizes she loves him and threatens Vivienne with revealing the scheme to Peter. Peter also softens Vivienne's heart when he gives her flowers for Mother's Day, and she confesses the scheme to Peter, ensuring him that Joan really loves him. At Eddie's bidding, Doc then reluctantly takes Joan hostage at the old Metropole Theatre, and Eddie calls Peter for the ransom money. Peter, finally a man of action, goes to the theater with the money to rescue Joan. Eddie's henchmen compete with Peter's loyal homeless friends in chasing Joan, who has the money, around the theater. Finally, Peter fights Eddie himself while repeating to himself "I think I can," and wins. He kisses Joan, and Doc and Vivienne are reconciled.