Based on John Van Druten's play from the novel by Kathryn Forbes, an immigrant family is described by the oldest daughter who wants to become a writer.
Katrin Hanson (Barbara Bel Geddes) recalls her Norwegian family in San Francisco. Nels Hanson (Steve Brown) asks Mama Hanson (Irene Dunne) if he can go to high school. They all help so they won't have to go to the bank. Aunt Trina (Ellen Corby) tells Mama she wants to marry Peter Thorkelson, and Mama tells Aunt Jenny (Hope Landin) and Aunt Sigrid (Edith Evanson) not to laugh. Jonathan Hyde (Cedric Hardwicke) does not pay rent, but he reads to them.
Uncle Chris Halverson (Oskar Homolka) drives a car. Dr. Johnson (Rudy Vallee) says that Dagmar Hanson (June Hedin) needs an operation. Christine Hanson (Peggy McIntyre) tells Uncle Chris that Aunt Jenny is bossy and that Aunt Sigrid whines. At the hospital Aunt Trina and Thorkelson ask Uncle Chris for a dowry, but he says parents do that. Dr. Johnson tells Mama that Dagmar is okay, but no one may visit the first day. Uncle Chris is visiting Dagmar and sings raucously. Mama washes the floor in order to see Dagmar and sings gently.
Dagmar's cat is sick. Hyde leaves with luggage. Mama finds a check for $130, and Lars Hanson (Philip Dorn) reads his letter; but Aunt Jenny says that Hyde has no bank account. Mama chloroforms the cat, but Dagmar finds him alive. Katrin learns her lines for the role of Portia. Katrin tells Christine that she wants a dresser set for graduation. Christine tells Mama, and she sells her heirloom brooch. Katrin cries, and Lars says the show must go on. Mama learns that Christine told Katrin and scolds her. Lars says his strike is over, and he is going back to work. He gives Katrin a cup of coffee to show she is grown up. Lars says Nels is nice, Katrin is dramatic, and Mama is practical.
Mama, the three aunts, and Katrin go to visit Uncle Chris on his ranch. He is dying and tells Mama and Katrin that the housekeeper is his wife. He says Katrin will be a writer, and he introduces his wife Jessie (Barbara O'Neil) to Mama. They drink with him, and then he lays back and dies. Mama tells the aunts how he gave all his money to help crippled children walk, and they meet his wife. Mama has Katrin look at death so that she will not be afraid of it.
Trina and Thorkelson are married and have a child. Nels is studying medicine. Katrin says she is not going to college because she has no gift for writing. Mama goes to see the writer Florence Moorhead (Florence Bates) and offers her a secret recipe. Moorhead reads five stories by Katrin. Mama tells Katrin that Moorhead has recommended an agent for her. Katrin should write about what she knows, and Mama suggests Papa. Katrin learns she sold a story for $500. Mama admits she has no bank account, and Katrin reads her story about Mama.
This nostalgic story portrays an immigrant family adjusting
to the struggles of everyday living, reflecting how many people
came to America and found their way to happiness and fulfillment.