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In California, Nancy Fallon eagerly anticipates the arrival of Dodie, her fifteen-year-old daughter whom she has not seen since her divorce eight years earlier. Nancy lost custody of Dodie to her first husband, the wealthy Eric McGowan, who wanted to punish her. Nancy fled their desperately unhappy marriage and fell in love with Jay Fallon, to whom she is now married and shares a seven-year-old son, Larry. Although the court mandated that Dodie spend three weeks a year with her mother, Eric took the girl to Europe to prevent Nancy from seeing her. Eric has relented, however, and agreed to the visitation so that he can run off and marry Helen Sheldon without first informing his daughter. When Nancy comes to the airport to meet Dodie, she fails to recognize her now nearly-grown daughter. Aloof and affecting an air of superiority and sophistication, Dodie insists on being called Dorothy and refuses to address Nancy as "mother." At the Fallon home, Dodie snidely comments on the modesty of the dwelling designed by Jay, an architect, and then snubs Dick and Jane Hewitt, the two affable teenagers who live next door. Rejecting her mother's overtures of friendship, Dodie calls her father in New York and asks to come home, but Eric tells Dodie that legally, she must remain with Nancy for three weeks. In an attempt to break through Dodie's defenses, Jay offers Dick and Jane money to befriend the lonely girl, and Dick agrees to paint Dodie's name on the jalopy he is building for a big drag race. When Jane comes to visit, Dodie discusses her father's new romantic interest, but then abruptly withdraws and angrily dismisses Jane. Taking the offensive, Dick climbs up a tree to Dodie's second-floor window and invites her to the drag race, but she refuses his invitation. After Dodie informs Nancy that she would like to return home two days early, Nancy senses the girl's loneliness and warns that life can be empty and miserable without love. Nancy then recalls fleeing from the deep unhappiness of her loveless marriage to Eric, causing Dodie, seething with resentment and feeling abandoned, to declare that her mother is dead. Determined to make a "regular kid" out of Dodie, Jay buys her a frilly party dress to wear to the big country club dance. Dodie sneaks out the back door and proceeds to the local soda fountain, where Dick finds her sneering at the other teens. When Dick takes a backward pratfall off his stool, Dodie laughs in spite of herself. Later, Dick escorts a smiling Dodie home and she calls Nancy "mother" for the first time. At the drag race, Dodie cheers Dick on, and when his engine bursts into flames, she consoles him in his defeat. Afterward, Nancy is puzzled when Dodie refuses to attend the dance party at the Hewitt house until she realizes that her daughter is embarrassed because she does not know how to dance. Nancy then presents her with the pink frilly dress that Jay bought and tutors the girl in the jitterbug. On the eve of the country club dance, Dodie, dreamy-eyed, confides to Nancy that she is in love with Dick. Next door, as Dick dresses to take Dodie to the dance, Madeline Johnson, his Southern belle sweetheart who has spent the summer in Texas, shows up, expecting Dick to escort her to the club. Dick hurries to the Fallon house for advice, just as Dodie sweeps down the stairs in her pink dress. After confessing that he has been going steady with the absent Madeline, Dick tells Dodie that Madeline now means nothing to him because he has fallen in love with her. Feeling betrayed, Dodie insists on calling her father, and when Nancy tells her that Eric is away on his honeymoon, Dodie accuses everyone of lying to her and rips her dress in anger. The next day, Nancy takes Dodie back to New York, where her father has just returned with his new bride Helen. Dodie defiantly declares that she wants to return to school immediately. When her father willingly consents, relieved to be rid of her, Nancy protests. After Helen reassures Nancy that she genuinely likes Dodie and will be solicitous of her, Nancy pleads with her daughter to stay at home with her father and his new wife, then says goodbye and leaves. Running after her in tears, Dodie pleads with Nancy to take her home to California.