Adapted from Louis Bromfield's novel, an elderly woman recalls her marriage to a rich man and advises her family.
In 1938 the family of grandmother Susie Parkington (Greer Garson) gathers, and she is presented with a family history. Jane Stilham (Frances Rafferty) says goodbye, but her grandmother wants to meet her man.
Susie recalls meeting Major August Parkington (Walter Pidgeon), who hires men for silver mining. Susie lets him stay in her room while she sleeps on the balcony. August likes her character and kisses her. The mine caves in, and Susie loses her mother. August asks her to go to New York, but she gives back the $500. Then August says he will marry her. He takes her to the Royal Hotel in New York. In the morning August goes to Baroness Aspasia Conti (Agnes Moorehead) for help. Susie wakes and sees Aspasia, who tells her to buy clothes. Susie signs the bill for a daring dress that pleases August.
Jane brings Ned Talbot (Tom Drake) to see her grandmother, and he says Amory Stilham (Edward Arnold) has committed fraud. Ned stops Amory from shooting himself, but Jane refuses to elope with Ned. Susie offers to loan Amory money and calls in her family.
On their third anniversary August takes Susie to a splendid mansion designed by Aspasia. Susie is expecting a baby. August has Aspasia plan a ball, but few guests attend. Corporation lawyer John Marbey (Hugh Marlowe) tells Susie that August made a violent speech at a club that offended Beaumont. Cellini (Fortunio Bonanova) declines to sing, and angry August fills the table with servants. Susie faints on the stairs and loses her baby. August wants revenge and declines to help a charity for Lady Livingstone, who tells Susie that he has been ruining everyone on his list. Susie has two children, and Lady Livingstone implies they will suffer. Susie tells August she is leaving him. August finds her at Aspasia's and hugs her. Susie says she has been backing Livingstone. She says she loves him, and he burns his list. She wants to help him, and he agrees.
Helen quarrels with her husband Amory, who needs $31 million. Susie will give it if the others agree; but Helen, alcoholic Alice (Gladys Cooper), and Jack Stilham (Dan Duryea) like money and refuse. So Amory says he will give himself up. Jane embraces her father.
Susie recalls her grief after her son died. Aspasia tries to cheer her up and arouses her jealousy by telling about August and Lady Nora in England. They go there, and Susie meets Prince Edward (Cecil Kellaway) during a fox hunt. Lady Nora (Tala Birell), Susie, August, and Edward banter, and Edward gives Nora a royal command to leave. August is locked out of Susie's room. Aspasia tells Susie she is going back to France. Susie says she hated her until she won over August and then loved her. Susie and August are reconciled on the balcony, and she forgives his egotism.
Susie advises Jane to get her man back, and she tells her family that she will pay Amory's debt.
This family melodrama explores the foibles of the very
rich and suggests that inheriting wealth can ruin one's character.