Hell, 1942. Henry Van Cleve, age 70, has just died and (voiceover) as his soul "passed over the Great Divide, he realized that it was extremely unlikely that his next stop could be Heaven, and so, philosophically he presented himself where innumerable people had so often told him to go." His Excellency, Satan, grants him an interview and asks him to name some outstanding crime he committed on earth. Henry replies he can't think of one, but can safely say his whole life has been one continuous misdemeanor. Henry's story is told in flashbacks set on his birthdays. The Van Cleves' Fifth Avenue home, New York, 1872. Mother (a society lady) and grandmother dote over the infant Henry. Central Park, 1874. A nurse flirts with an Irish policeman as Henry squalls in his carriage. The same, 1881. Nine-year-old Henry's first lesson in the ways of the opposite sex: little Mary accepts a beetle from him as a gift and then charms and beguiles him out of a second one. The Fifth Avenue house 1887. Mrs. Van Cleve engages a French maid and pays her extra to tutor Henry in French. On Henry's birthday he is in bed with a strange sickness. It comes out it's nothing more than a common hangover, he and Mademoiselle slipped out and went carousing the night before. Mademoiselle is discharged. The same, Sunday morning of Henry's twenty-sixth birthday, 1898. The older Van Cleves are concerned over Henry, who throws away his money gambling and running around with showgirls. Henry rhapsodizes privately to his mother he's finally found the girl for him though he's seen her only once and doesn't know her name. That evening Henry's stuffy cousin Albert brings his fiancée, Martha, and her parents, the E.F. Strabels, the meat packers of Kansas City, to Henry's party. Martha, it turns out, is Henry's special girl; he followed her into a bookstore the day before and pretended to be a clerk in order to talk to her. Later, when Martha has to excuse herself during someone's song to sneeze, she goes into the library and Henry is there. He kisses her and begs her to marry him. To the astonished stares of all those assembled, Henry disinherit her. Grandfather Van Cleve is delighted and sends money for a honeymoon. The Van Cleve house the morning of Henry's birthday, 1908. Henry and Martha have an eight-year-old son, Jackie. At breakfast Mrs. Van Cleve says how wonderful it would be if Henry's father had lived long enough to see Henry settle down. Henry says it's all Martha's influence. About that time a telegram comes from Martha saying she's left him. The Strabel home in Kansas. The Strabels are at breakfast when Albert Van Cleve arrives and says he ran into Martha on the train and she's right outside in a carriage. The Strabels are cool to Martha at first but finally they give in and tearfully welcome her home. That evening Henry and Grandfather are secreted in Martha's room when she retires. She says she knows Henry has continued his philandering; what she can't take is his constant maneuvering to cover it up - like on the present occasion, when he gives her a bracelet for an anniversary gift and at home she has seen a jeweler's bill for two bracelets. Finally she wavers and the three of them creep out downstairs past Albert, reading at a desk, and Mr. Strabel, snoring loudly in his chair. New York, 1922. On his fiftieth birthday Henry pays a visit to Peggy Nash, a beautiful Ziegfeld Follies girl. He tries to turn on the charm, but has the wind taken out of his sails when she calls him a retired Casanova with a tummy. He pays her off to get her to stop seeing his son, Jack. He is crestfallen when she correctly guesses his age. Martha sees through him too and guesses what he's been up to. Jack comes in to say he's already given Peggy Nash up for another showgirl. Martha tells Henry not to worry - Jack is just a chip off the old block.