At a summer camp, college student Marjorie Morgenstern (Natalie Wood) sees Noel Airman (Gene Kelly) for the first time rehearsing and dancing at a theater. It is love at first sight for her and her adoring hero worship of Noel proves to be irresistible. Against the much older (32) Noel's better judgment and the objections of Marjorie's parents, he and Marjorie become a couple.
Marjorie finishes college and pursues an acting career, promising always to support and help Noel accomplish his dream of becoming a great playwright. In order to maintain his self-respect and not have to be supported by Marjorie, Noel has to compromise by taking on an advertising job which he hates. With the pressures of job, Marjorie's conviction that he's a genius, her comparative youth and success versus his age and diminishing future prospects, Noel begins to unravel and his ability to produce anything becomes doubtful.
In the end, Noel does complete a musical play, but it turns out to be a big flop and he subsequently disappears. Is it be the end of Noel, his dreams and his relationship with Marjorie? What will become of her now that Noel has gone to pieces? Is there any hope for their future? Watch this engrossing film to find out! (or read the Herman Wouk novel which was the basis for it)