Businessman Clemson Reade (Cary Grant) breaks his engagement with workaholic U.S. diplomat girlfriend Effie (Deborah Kerr) for an adoring "old-fashioned" girl from the fictional country of Bukistan, Princess Tarji (Betta St. John). Reade wants a wife who can "just find having babies and taking care of a man" pleasurable. While Reade tries to get closer to his bride-to-be, Effie, who has been assigned by the State Department to see that the marriage does not disturb a major oil deal with Bukistan, ends up educating the Princess about such Western ideas of the role of a wife and women's emancipation, while, simultaneously moderating some of her own ideas about making the happiness of her "man" (i.e. Grant) a primary concern. Grant's courtship of the Princess, which he attempts to conduct by "American" customs, must be adjusted to Bukistanian tradition, to protect the proposed oil deal.