A conceited American athlete goes to Oxford University and brashly makes friends with women and men.
Dan Sheridan (Lionel Barrymore) delays his newspaper till his son Lee Sheridan (Robert Taylor) wins the 440 race. Dean Williams (Walter Kingsford) gets Lee a scholarship to Oxford, but Lee says he must help his father with his newspaper. Dan asks Ben Dalton (Claude Gillingwater) for $2,000 for Lee to go to Oxford. Lee says good-bye and is given a send-off.
On an English train Lee tells Paul Beaumont (Griffith Jones) and Ramsey that he is an athlete. Paul tells Lee to avoid his welcome and get off early so that they can organize his welcome. Lee chases a phony dean and kicks the college dean (Edmund Gwenn). Paul tries to take the blame. Lee argues with Molly Beaumont (Maureen O'Sullivan) and kisses her abruptly. Valet Scatters (Edward Rigby) packs clothes for Lee, who decides to stay. Lee meets his tutor and agrees to study English history. On a bike Lee knocks down the dean. At the bike shop Lee meets Elsa Craddock (Vivien Leigh), who has an elderly husband. She loans Lee her bike, and he shows he can run in his coat. Paul gets Elsa off her job to go to London with him. Lee returns Elsa's bike to the bookstore and invites Molly to dinner. Lee falls ice skating with Molly.
Molly sees Lee win a race. The relay is moved up, and Paul replaces Lee, who grabs the baton and wins amid silence. Paul leads students in a funeral march, and they take off Lee's pants. Lee finds Paul in a bar with Elsa, and they fight. Paul is caught and is fined by the dean. Paul tells Molly that Lee hit the bursar. Paul refuses to fight Lee lest he be expelled. Lee goes out with Molly and joins the crew. Lee and Molly see Paul with Elsa.
Dan Sheridan gets letters and learns about bump races. Lee rows his college's boat ahead as stroke. Captain Paul gives Lee the honor but won't be his friend. Paul tells crying Elsa they must end it. Tom Craddock (Noel Howlett) looks for Elsa in Paul's room; Lee gets her out, but she is found in his room. The dean expels Lee. Paul asks Lee for the truth, but Lee says he's been seeing Elsa. Scatters tells Lee that Molly won't talk to him, but the students give him a send-off. Dan Sheridan arrives and sees Lee cheered. Dan tells Lee to write to Molly while he goes to her. Molly says that Lee must be protecting someone. Dan goes to Elsa, buys a book, and asks her to help Lee. Elsa tells the dean it was Wavertree (Robert Coote), who wants to be expelled like his father; but the dean fines him. Paul shakes hands with Lee, and they defeat Cambridge in the boat race.
A top athlete symbolizes American arrogance, which clashes with British tradition. Lee excels in sports, woos a woman, and tries to be a good fellow but never seems to open a book, indicating what movie audiences like.