A chance meeting with his uncle after his father's passing leads to George Eastman (Montgomery Clift) being caught in the middle of two worlds and not truly belonging in either one. The son of poor missionaries, George meets his wealthy paternal uncle Charles Eastman (Herbert Heyes) while working as a bellhop in his uncle's hotel in Chicago, Illinois. Wanting a better life for himself, George takes his uncle up on his offer for a placement somewhere in one of the Eastman factories, Charles' want in this offer being for any Eastman to take his proper place in the world. Under his cousin Earl's (Keefe Brasselle) directive, George is placed on the factory assembly line. Largely neglected by the Eastmans, George still sees this position as a stepping stone to something better, which he's willing to work hard to achieve. Lonely in his new surroundings, George breaks the company rule of no fraternizing with fellow employees when he starts to date fellow Eastman assembly-line worker Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters). Several months later, Charles remembers his nephew and promotes him both professionally and personally. Although uncomfortable in society gatherings, George is eventually befriended by one person in this new world, beautiful society lady Angela Vickers (Dame Elizabeth Taylor), with whom he fell in love at first sight even before arriving in town. Angela too falls in love with George, which does not sit well with her parents, if only because they know nothing of him. George is caught between his want for prosperity and Angela, whom he truly loves, and his obligation to needy Alice who, as she learns of Angela and his other rich society friends, realizes she's pregnant by him and tries to get him to marry her.