Based on David Boehm's play, a ruthless manager of a department store manipulates the lives of a young couple and others.
Kurt Anderson (Warren William) manages the successful Monroe department store. He rejects supervision, demanding his salary be doubled, and the board agrees. Anderson cancels an order of 5,000 coats that is late for a sale even though it ruins the business of Garfinkel (Frank Reicher). Anderson finds Madeline (Loretta Young) waiting for a job; he takes her to dinner, kisses her, and hires her as a model. Anderson tells Polly Dale (Alice White) to distract Denton Ross (Albert Gran) from watching him.
Sales drop during the Depression, but Anderson cuts salaries instead of laying off workers. Martin West (Wallace Ford) suggests selling men's drawers to women, and Anderson fires the elderly Arnold Higgins (Charles Sellon). Madeline models a wedding gown, and Martin admires her; but he has to break a date to work late. When Martin rejects drawings, Anderson promotes him to his assistant. Anderson says he has no time for a wife, and Martin puts off marrying Madeline until they see a wedding. Anderson finds Garfinkel working for him with determination and invests $5,000 for him to start a business. Anderson complains that his secretary Miss Hall (Ruth Donnelly) bought a dress on 6th Avenue, and he plans to better it. After Higgins gives up on waiting for Anderson, Sweeney (Allen Jenkins) tells Anderson that Higgins jumped out a window, leaving behind a watch Monroe gave him in 1906. Martin asks Anderson if he has any friends. Polly complains that Ross only wants to play chess with her.
At a company ball Madeline tells Martin she'll go out with someone else. Anderson gives her a drink, and they get drunk. Anderson tells her to rest in 1032, and then he joins her. Martin wakes up on the floor at six and asks Madeline to forgive him. The banker Bradford (Berton Churchill) tells Anderson to retrench and not spend, threatening his job. Anderson tells Ross to get Monroe's votes. Anderson invites Madeline to dinner, but she has no feeling for him; she tells him she is married to Martin. Anderson tells Polly to break up Martin's marriage; but she refuses. Ross asks Anderson for help with a black-mailing woman, and he says kill her. Anderson asks Martin to move into his hotel, but Martin says he's married. Anderson tells him to let her go and lets Martin listen as he talks to Madeline. Martin learns that Madeline took poison and threatens Anderson, who gives him a gun; Martin shoots Anderson in the arm. Anderson learns that Madeline will recover and asks Polly to go to Paris with him; but Ross gets the votes and stops the board from firing Anderson, who then tells Polly to forget it. In the final scene Martin visits Madeline and says he loves her.
This drama exposes an ambitious businessman, who seems successful but has little feeling for people, as he makes a shambles of their lives.