C.C. Baxter is an up and comer in the cavernous sea of anonymity that are the workers employed by Consolidated Life Insurance. Baxter’s popularity among some of the more influential executives is not due to any particular talents or aptitude or abilities—though he is certainly a hard worker with an amiable personality. No, Baxter’s star is on the rise due to one particular gift he has to offer the all-male executives capable of giving him a helping hand.
The apartment is small, though decorated with a flourishing taste. Most important, however, is that it has a bed that those executives do not have to pay for when they engage in trysts with their mistresses.
Baxter’s rising star seems to be a star in name only, however. In addition to the indignity of the executives who make promises of advancement that never seem to arrive, Baxter must also face the accusatory looks from his neighbors who view the constant stream of woman going in and out of his apartment with a distinctly 1950’s form of prudish distaste. The ultimate indignity, however, may be those cold, lonely nights when Baxter does not even have his bed to sleep in and must gave up longingly at the light in his window.
The great irony of C.C. Baxter’s life is that despite the fact that his neighbors think he is a callous playboy, he is in reality one of the loneliest men in the Big Apple. Making matters even worse is that he pines for the pert and pretty girl who runs the elevator where he works. Making matters even that much more worse is that he is constantly being told that the girl—Fran Kubelik—is committed to being hard to get. So hard to get that it seems she has never been gotten.
One day after catching a cold by being forced to spend a cold, rainy evening outside, Baxter starts getting a little fed up and starts a complicated process of juggling the existing appointments of execs lined up to use his apartment. All he wants is just one night to have his own apartment to himself. Then he suddenly finds himself being called into the office of one of the bigger execs, J.D. Sheldrake who questions him about his popularity among the other executives. Baxter thinks he is on the verge of losing his job when in reality Sheldrake wants in on the game. Even though his cold is pretty awful and he’s been promised advancement before that never came through, Baxter is simply too enticed by the power that Sheldrake possesses to actually come through and agrees to let him use the apartment that night.
Knowing that he won’t be able to go home anyway, Baxter works up the courage to invite Fran the elevator girl out to play that night. She agrees to meet him after finishing some business earlier in the evening. That business turns out to be a meeting with Sheldrake in a bar in which she informs that she can’t date a married man anymore. Sheldrake responds by telling Fran that he is planning on asking his wife for a divorce. While Baxter waits for Fran at the theater, Fran arrives at his apartment with Sheldrake.
That disappointment soon fades as Sheldrake actually comes through with Baxter’s promotion as promised. He struts through the impersonal rows of endless anonymous workers until some of the execs threaten him with retribution because they have been shut out of their use of his apartment. Baxter gleefully ignores them because he knows he’s got a major in with Sheldrake. What he still doesn’t know is the identity of the woman Sheldrake keeps taking to his apartment.
The Christmas office party makes a major turning point. Fran is there, much to Baxter’s delight, but she has just been informed by Sheldrake’s secretary that her boss makes a habit of promising to divorce his wife in order to continue affairs before he finally gets tired and moves on to the next. And she should know because she was once in Fran’s exact place. While Baxter tries to chat her up, Fran pulls a compact out of her purse and it looks exactly like the one left behind in his apartment one night after Sheldrake used it. When he learns that Sheldrake plans on using the apartment after the party, Baxter goes to a bar and gets mixed with up with a pretty stranger at the same time that Fran is growing increasingly hurt and depressed by the offer of a $100 Christmas “gift” from Sheldrake.
When Sheldrake leaves, Fran finds Baxter’s bottle of sleeping pills and tries to kill herself, passing out unconscious on the bed. Baxter returns home with the girl from the bar, finds Fran, kicks the girl out and tries to get his doctor neighbor to help revive Fran. The next morning finds Sheldrake at home looking for all the world like the perfect husband and father enjoying Christmas morning. The scene is interrupted by a phone call from Baxter informing him of Fran’s condition, but he refuses to talk to her. Baxter and Fran play cards until she falls asleep.
When she next wakes up, she wonders if anyone would even mind if she died and Baxter assures he would mind very much. She wistfully wonders why she can never fall for a nice guy like him. The next morning finds Sheldrake firing his secretary who is planning to meet with his wife and spill the beans. Meanwhile, Baxter and Fran are having a spaghetti dinner and talking about their romantic problems. A series of misidentifications and misunderstandings involving Baxter and Fran, Fran’s brother-in-law, disgruntled executives and Baxter’s neighbor results in his getting a black eye, but proving himself a hero for stepping in to sake Fran’s reputation.
Baxter shows up to inform Sheldrake that he’s ready to Fran off his hands, but Sheldrake beats him to the punch by telling him his wife has kicked him out. After a plan to sow some oats with other girls, he will eventually reunited with Fran. Baxter also learns that he has been promoted all the way up to Sheldrake’s assistant with his own key to the executive washroom. Come New Year’s Eve, however, when Sheldrake asks for the key to his apartment, Baxter says no. Later on he packs up his stuff, including a gun. Fran shows up at the New Year’s Eve party with Sheldrake, but when she learns that Baxter would rather give up his great new job than allow Sheldrake to use his apartment with her, she finally realizes that it is C.C. who really loves her and not Sheldrake. As she runs to the apartment, she hears what sounds like a gunshot and, crazed with the idea that Baxter has shot himself to death, pounds desperately on his door. The door opens to reveal the sound was merely that of a champagne cork popping.
Baxter expresses his love for Fran as they sit down to enjoy another game of cards.