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New York theatrical agent Charlie Y. Reader, a confirmed bachelor and all-around cad, is paid an unexpected visit one day by Joe McCall, his boyhood friend who now lives in Indianapolis. Joe, who has decided to take a "vacation" from Ethel, his wife of eleven years, and their three children, is impressed by the attractive women constantly parading through Charlie's apartment. After Poppy Masters promises to prepare a special whitefish for Charlie, she leaves the apartment, only to be succeeded by Jessica Collins who has come to deliver a prized cheese she has bought for Charlie. As Charlie awaits the arrival of his date for that evening, concert violinist Sylvia Crewes, his neighbor Helen strolls in to take Charlie's dog for a walk. At an audition the following day, Charlie is intrigued by the talented Julie Gillis, a neophyte in the theatrical world, and invites her to join him for coffee along with Joe and Sylvia. At a café, Julie single-mindedly asserts that marriage, and not a career, is her goal in life and outlines her plan for obtaining a husband, three children and a house in Scarsdale. When Charlie invites Julie to dinner, she declines, stating that he does not fit into her "marriage plan" because there is no chemistry between them. The next day, Julie refuses to sign a contract for the run of the play, insisting that she can commit herself beyond March 12th, the day she plans to be married, even though she has not yet found a suitable candidate for the groom. Meanwhile, Joe spends his day answering Charlie's telephone, fielding messages from women trying to curry Charlie's favor. One day, when Julie has failed to appear for rehearsal, Joe and Charlie switch on the television and see her in the audience of a homemaking show, scrutinizing furniture arrangements for her future house. Charlie hurries to the television studio to see Julie, standing up Sylvia in the process. Later, at rehearsal, Charlie, unimpressed by Julie's rendition of a song, demonstrates how it should be sung. Charlie's performance makes an impression on Julie, and she accepts his invitation to dinner. While Charlie dines with Julie, Joe begins to spend time with Sylvia. One night, when Charlie discovers that Julie's parents are out of town, he takes her home early to "neck." Although Julie tries to divert him with art books, her battle is nearly lost when Charlie passionately embraces her. Encircling him with her arms, Julie feels a bulge in his coat pocket and pulls out a wad of phone messages from his many girl friends. After ordering Charlie to stop seeing other women, Julie declares she has fallen in love with him, even though he is "too selfish, arrogant and old." When she mentions marriage, he disabuses her of the notion of matrimony and she throws him out. After Charlie returns home, Helen comes to walk his dog, and when he invites her to dinner on the rebound, she informs him that she has just become engaged and will no longer be available to walk his dog. Poppy next comes to Charlie's door, and after handing him a whitefish, calls him a "stinker" and notifies him that she is now dating a "considerate man." Amused by Charlie's sudden comeuppance, Joe labels him a "louse." They then argue over Charlie's callous treatment of Sylvia. Later, when Sylvia comes to the apartment, Joe asks her why she endures Charlie's mistreatment. She replies that there are few single men available for women of her age, and concludes that although she does not love Charlie, she still wants to marry him. Charlie then emerges from the bedroom and stutters a proposal to Sylvia. She accepts, then breaks into tears, after which they all pour themselves stiff drinks. To break the air of impending disaster, Charlie decides to throw a party to celebrate his engagement and invites a number of friends to attend. After Sylvia leaves to buy food for their soon-to-arrive guests, Charlie realizes he has made a grave mistake and runs outside to hail a cab to drive him to Julie's. Just then, a cab bearing the contrite Julie pulls up outside Charlie's building. As Charlie jumps inside to embrace Julie, his guests begin to arrive, prompting Charlie to make up a story about an early rehearsal and send Julie home. The next morning, Joe awakens with an excruciating hangover and finds the apartment in disarray. Just as Julie arrives and demands an explanation for the mess, Sylvia comes in and hugs Charlie. When Julie announces that she and Charlie are engaged, Joe tells her that Charlie is engaged to Sylvia, too. After Julie storms out in indignation, Joe admits to Sylvia that he has fallen in love with her and proposes. Sylvia replies that she wants to be a wife, just like Joe's wife Ethel, and tells Joe that what he really wants is a "girl," not a wife. Sylvia then resolves to stop settling for second best and find "an honest to goodness guy." At the elevator, Sylvia meets Mr. Loughran, Charlie's handsome, eligible neighbor, who recognizes her from her television concert and invites her to dinner. As Joe packs his suitcase to return home to Ethel, an abject and lonely Charlie begins to envy Joe's life as a married man. Charlie then goes to Europe for a year to set up talent agencies, returning home just in time to attend Sylvia's wedding to Loughran. At the ceremony, Sylvia tosses Charlie her bouquet. After most of the guests depart, Charlie spots Julie, throws her the flowers and proposes.