New York City newspaper editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant
) tries to convince his ex-wife Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell
) to come back to work for him -- she used to be his best reporter. But she's about to marry Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy
) and move to Albany. Walter thinks Bruce and the life they're planning in Albany will be too boring for Hildy, but she says she'll be happy to live a life where she will be treated like a real woman, not a newsman.
Walter spends the rest of the movie, which all takes place in one day, trying to lure Hildy back into the life they shared. Much of the movie takes place in the press room of the courts building; Hildy is covering the run-up to the execution of Earl Williams (John Qualen
), who's been convicted of murder. The reporters constantly play tricks on each other, and it's a fast-paced, smooth-talking script, as they race to out-do each other. When Earl escapes they hide him in a roll-top desk. Everybody we see here has some personal motive for doing what they do. Along the way, we meet witnesses to the crime, the Mayor, reporters, and even Bruce's mother (Alma Kruger
). Bruce heads off to the train for Albany, thinking Hildy will meet him there, but she seems to have trouble making it down to the train station.