Based on Clarence Day's memoirs and a popular play, a self-assured father tries to run his family like a business but finds himself giving in to his wife because he loves her.
In 1883 New York, Vinnie Day (Irene Dunne) instructs the new maid Annie. At breakfast Clarence Day the Father (William Powell) complains, and Annie cries. Vinnie asks Father for charge accounts. Father makes a rhetorical speech by himself and frightens Annie, who quits. Cousin Cora (Zasu Pitts) arrives with Mary Skinner (Elizabeth Taylor), who is impressed that Clarence Day Jr. (Jimmy Lydon) is going to Yale. Father learns that Dr. Lloyd (Edmund Gwenn) expects him to contribute the cost of his pew, which is $5,000. Father wants Cora and Mary to stay in a hotel. They go to Del Monaco's for dinner, and Father says he was never baptized.
In church Dr. Lloyd preaches about baptism. Clarence says he did not kneel because he is wearing his father's suit. Clarence tells Mary to write to him, but she asks him to write first. They quarrel, and Mary cries. Father tells Clarence that women do not think but get stirred up, and he says to be firm. Father and Vinnie discuss the household accounts. She cries and says she will try to do better. Cora and Mary leave in a cab, and Clarence decides to write to Mary.
Whitney Day (Johnny Calkins) tells Harlan Day (Derek Scott) that Father is going to hell. Father reads a letter from Mary, and Clarence retrieves it. Vinnie feels ill, and Father tries to comfort her. John Day (Martin Milner) brings home bottles of medicine to sell, and he puts some in Vinnie's tea. Whitney tells Father to come home because Vinnie is ill. Dr. Humphries (Moroni Olsen) tells Father that she seems to have been poisoned. The cook Margaret (Emma Dunn) brings Dr. Lloyd, and Dr. Humphries comes back with a specialist. Father asks Dr. Lloyd to tell Vinnie that baptism is nonsense. Dr. Lloyd asks Father to pray, and he shouts at God. Vinnie comes downstairs, and Father says he will be baptized.
Vinnie goes shopping with her four sons. Clarence orders a suit, and she likes a ceramic dog. John tells Clarence they got paid in medicine, and Clarence asks Father for a suit. Vinnie tells Father that a minister will baptize him out of town. Father refuses, and she says he must keep his promise. He says he will not as long as the ceramic dog is in the house. So Vinnie lets John take the dog back to pay for his suit. Father gives Vinnie a ring and says he loves her. They learn that the medicine killed a dog, and Father says John must buy back every bottle he sold. Cora and Mary arrive again. Vinnie says that Father is going to be baptized, but he refuses. John says that he gave Vinnie the medicine. Father sees the cab waiting and agrees to be baptized.
This charming comedy portrays an era when the father
expected everyone else in the family to obey him. Yet even then
they found ways of getting around him.