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In a New York theater, young playwright Anthony Monaco watches a workshop performance of his new play, featuring Cornel Wilde and student actress Mary Craig. After the performance, Mary confesses to Wilde that she hates the play because of its callous attitude toward love and domestic happiness. A bit later, the tough, cynical Tony encounters Mary on the street and bitterly tells her that Wilde is no longer interested in doing the play. Their bickering is interrupted by the appearance of Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer, who are on their way home from the theater, and after watching the glamorous couple's exchange, Tony and Mary suddenly share a passionate kiss, unaware that they are being observed from across the street by songwriting team Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The following day, Rodgers and Hammerstein compose a song, inspired by the kiss, for their new show. Meanwhile, Tony and Mary resume quarreling, and Mary tells him she has a nice, stable boyfriend named Frank back home in South Terre Haute Junction. Tony then calls on his agent, Mildred Waterbury, who suggests that he write something upbeat for a change. Eager to make some money, Tony agrees to try his hand at writing a popular hit. Their meeting is interrupted by the arrival of Mildred's star client, Tallulah Bankhead, who complains that she is only offered roles as murderers and other "tiger women." Mildred quickly assures Tallulah that Tony is writing a play about wholesome, American motherhood just for her. Later, Tony accompanies Mary on the train back to Terre Haute and confesses his love for her, adding that he hopes to make enough money to become a family man. Mary introduces Tony to her parents, and it soon comes out that Mary made up the story about her boyfriend "Frank." Tony stays with the Craigs while he works on his play, drawing inspiration from the happy family. Eventually, however, the pressure of writing about a world he has never experienced grows too great, and Tony returns to New York with Mary's blessing. After Tony leaves, a young man named Frank Johnson comes to Terre Haute to open a hardware store, and endears himself to the Craig family with his homespun charm. Back in his New York apartment, Tony leaves Mary's letters unopened as he struggles with the play, until his kindly landlady, Molly Goldberg, insists that he write to her. However, Mary is upset by the terse, unromantic tone of Tony's letter, and as Frank comforts her, she begins to see him in a new light. Meanwhile, in New York, Tony finally abandons his play's sweet, domestic theme and writes a hard-boiled murder mystery, Calico and Lust . Mildred and Tallulah are extremely displeased, and the despondent Tony is arrested when he throws a wrapped package, which he says contains the remaining copies of the script, off the Brooklyn Bridge. Mary hears of Tony's arrest while listening to a New York radio program with Frank, and decides to go to him. Actress Ethel Barrymore is also listening to the broadcast in her dressing room, along with her brother Lionel and Louis Calhern, and they are moved by the young playwright's situation. Louis gets Tony out of jail, and when Ethel tells him he must write the play again, Tony admits that he still has one copy of the script at home. The Barrymores enlist director John Van Druten in their cause, and he calls Tallulah and convinces her to read the script. Mary is with Tony when a telegram from Van Druten arrives saying that the play will start rehearsals the following week. Tony proposes marriage, but Mary, who is torn between him and Frank, agrees only to stay with him through the production of his play. One day, during a rehearsal break, the mercurial Tallulah listens to a baseball game on the radio, and when New York Giants manager Leo Durocher's decides to pull pitcher Duke Snider, she calls the bullpen and yells at Durocher. On the night of the play's Broadway opening, Frank secretly arrives in town and buys a ticket. At intermission, after listening to the unfavorable comments from the audience members in the lobby, Tom encounters Frank in the bar. Certain that his play is going to flop, and impressed by his rival's solid qualities, Tom urges Frank to take Mary back to Terre Haute. After the performance, however, Mary tells Frank that she loves Tom and has come to appreciate the contribution that such artists make to society. Mary finds Tom outside the theater, and with the lights of Broadway shining down on them, they kiss.