Duddy Kravitz (Dreyfuss) is a young Canadian Jew growing up poor in Montreal. He is full of ambition, always hustling to make something of himself, to prove himself to his father Max (Warden), his older brother Lenny (in medical school) and most of all to his beloved grandfather.
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While working the summer at a resort, Duddy is taken on a picnic beside a beautiful lake by his girlfriend Yvette (Lanctot). Over and over again, his grandfather had told him, "A man without land is nobody." Duddy's ambition is set: to buy all the land around the lake and develop it into his own resort. He works and schemes, doing anything it takes to make money, even inadvertently smuggling drugs across the border. He buys pinball machines from an easygoing Virgil (Quaid), and when he can't pay, he puts Virgil to work on some of his other ventures. Virgil crashes a truck he is driving for Duddy, and is paralyzed from the waist down. When the insurance money comes, Duddy "borrows" it in order to buy the last piece of land he needs. Even though he offers to pay it back with interest, it is the last straw for Yvette and Virgil.
No matter. He finally has his land. He proudly shows it off to Max and his grandfather. The latter, however, is strangely unmoved. He reveals that Yvette told him what Duddy did to acquire it.
Best part of story, including ending:
Dreyfuss is perfectly cast as the fast talking hustler.
Best scene in story:
When Duddy first sees the lake, he is overwhelmed by the beauty of it all ... for about ten seconds. Then, he's thinking about how to take advantage of it. Pure Duddy.
Opinion about the main character:
He's always active, full of energy.