May 1939: Hitler and Mussolini sign the “Pact of Steel,” an alliance that drives a stake through the heart of Europe, making war a certainty. At least, this is Hallam’s opinion. Other members of the British government see no cause for alarm.
Away from the diplomatic front, Hallam’s obsession with politics is driving a stake through his marriage, alienating him from Agnes, who gets the brush-off whenever she tries to lighten his mood. Persie notices the rift and aims to make it even wider, settling old sibling scores by seducing her brother-in-law.
Also with seduction on the brain is Landry, the suave American millionaire, who has expanded his business empire into nylon hosiery. When Agnes gets a run in her stockings at a party, he gallantly gives her a pair of his latest product. Agnes is delighted with this slightly scandalous gift. The American replies that she is “modeling the latest Landry brand.”
Later, while Agnes is visiting Landry at his East End factory, he convinces her to model for real when the publicity photo shoot has a no-show. Soon, Agnes’s provocative picture is plastered on busses all over London. Hallam knows nothing until one day he is stuck in traffic. The sight of his wife on a poster promoting Landry Nylons puts him in a combative mood. When he confronts Agnes, she is defiant, and the next day she accompanies Landry to the seaside for another photo session.
Meanwhile, two of the downstairs staff at 165 Eaton Place are also feeling combative. The Servants’ Boxing League has been recruiting contestants at the local pub. An old boxing champ himself, Harry is quick to sign up, especially since he thinks it will impress Beryl, who has been giving him the cold shoulder. However, a younger man floors Harry in the ring, and the chauffeur decides his time is better spent making a contender of the feisty footman Johnny.
Thanks to Harry’s coaching, Johnny wins the league’s welterweight championship. To top it off, the royal family’s most ardent boxing fan, the Duke of Kent, invites Johnny to enter the British Amateur Championships.
On the seduction front, Landry takes advantage of a thick fog to delay Agnes’s return to London from the seaside. They check into separate rooms at a hotel, and then he takes her out on a romantic stroll, where the sound of a risqué song gives him second thoughts. An honorable man at heart, Landry tells Agnes he is taking her home. She arrives after a dinner party, at which Persie insisted on substituting as the hostess in Agnes’s unexplained absence. Persie even wore one of Agnes’s gowns, playing the consort to Hallam.
Amid the smoldering jealousies and resentment, everyone goes to Johnny’s title match. As Hallam and Agnes sit at ringside, Landry shows up. The servants look on dumbfounded as Hallam takes a swing at the fit American and then gets toppled by a powerful right hook.
Before the real fight, Johnny is visited by Kent and his coterie of society reptiles, one of whom stays behind to make a pass at the footman. Johnny slugs the man. Realizing that he just struck a lord, Johnny flees, since he is on probation in his hometown. Harry takes Johnny’s place in the ring and wins the title—and Beryl.
After all the fisticuffs, Johnny is assured that the lord will never press charges, Landry and Agnes agree to part, and Hallam and Persie share their most passionate kiss yet.