One night during World War II, Jewish radio show director Katie Morosky recognizes the handsome naval officer asleep at a Manhattan bar as Hubbell Gardiner, with whom she attended college in the mid-1930s. Touching his face, Katie remembers their first attraction: A determined political activist and president of the Young Communist League, Katie gives a moving speech at a peace rally, but the rally turns sour when several students mock her sincerity with a sign reading “Any Peace but Katie’s Piece.” Angered and unable to formulate a humorous retort, Katie calls the onlookers fascists. Weeks later, Katie is surprised when her literature professor chooses to read the short story of star athlete Hubbell instead of her own. Although Katie had dismissed Hubbell as a spoiled, white Anglo-Saxon protestant, she is so discouraged by his writing talent that she throws her own story away, while secretly pining for him. Weeks later, Katie spots Hubbell at an outdoor café and crosses the street to avoid him, but affable Hubbell insists that the “puritan” celebrate the sale of his story with a beer. Unable to make small talk, Katie asks Hubbell who he really is under the nonchalant reserve. Despite their differences, Katie toasts to Hubbell’s yet-to-be-written first novel. Later in the year, Katie is working at the school dance with fellow activist Frankie McVeigh when Hubbell leaves his girl friend Carol Ann to dance a slow song with Katie, their first and only romantic encounter before graduating in 1937. Back in the present, Hubbell is startled to see Katie and, in his drunkenness, follows her home, where he collapses. Hoping for a romantic turn of events, Katie undresses and climbs into bed with Hubbell, who has sex with her without really being conscious of the act, then leaves abruptly the next morning. A week later, Hubbell, unable to find a hotel room, accepts Katie’s offer to stay at her apartment, where she reveals she has a copy of his first novel. Although embarrassed at its lack of success, Hubbell is eager to hear Katie’s opinion. Katie suggests that while the writing is good, his characters are too distant and, remembering a line from his college short story, asks Hubbell if life continues to be as easy as “ice cream” for him. Charmed by her frankness, Hubbell kisses Katie and a romantic love affair ensues. The couple is at ease alone, but at a party hosted by Hubbell’s college friend J. J., Katie is aggravated by the uptown crowd’s vacuous humor and jealous of Carol Ann, who is now J. J.’s girl friend. Months later, Hubbell shows the first eight chapters of his novel to Katie, who is overjoyed by his work. Knowing that Katie has little respect for Hollywood, Hubbell tells Carol Ann his plan to sell the book’s movie rights, knowing that she will respond with enthusiasm. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt suddenly dies in 1945, Katie, an ardent fan of his liberal policies, is overwrought with grief and seeks solace with Hubbell. Taking her to J. J.’s, Hubbell is humiliated when Katie refuses to tolerate the crowd’s insulting jokes about Eleanor Roosevelt. After vehemently castigating the crowd, Katie storms out, despite Hubbell’s decision to remain. She apologizes to Hubbell later for her tantrum and jokes that she will become more tolerant after taking classes in protestant cooking, but Hubbell decides they cannot reconcile their differences and leaves her. Days later, when a sleepless Katie begs Hubbell speak with her as a friend, he goes to her apartment and gives her sleeping pills and alcohol. Katie then forces Hubbell to admit that she is not the right “style” for him nor does she belong to his class. Enticed by Katie’s ferocious drive for both of them to achieve their best, Hubbell reunites with her. The couple marries and moves to Hollywood to make a film adaptation of Hubbell’s novel, financed in part by J. J., who is the film’s producer. While Katie works as a script reader and maintains their home, Hubbell and J. J. secure well-known director George Bissinger to make the picture. Hubbell and Katie easily fit into the social scene, including parties at Bissinger’s mansion attended by J. J., Carol Ann, George’s wife Vicki, agent Rhea Edwards and Paula Reisner, a political émigré who is disturbed by the growing anti-Communist sentiment in Hollywood. Tensions are rising in the film community as more people testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which are heard on regular radio broadcasts. Hubbell selfishly resists taking a stand on the issue for fear that any political alliance will hurt his career, while Katie grows more upset by the discrimination. When the now pregnant Katie and others discover a government surveillance microphone hidden in Bissinger’s home, she quickly organizes a group to go to Washington D.C. to challenge the committee on the basis of First Amendment rights. Unable to convince his wife to remain in Hollywood, Hubbell accompanies her to Washington D.C. Outside the hearings, Katie loudly defends the Hollywood Ten, ten Hollywood writers and directors who, after refusing to name friends as Communist sympathizers, were blacklisted from work. When someone in the crowd calls her a “commie bitch,” Hubbell starts a fistfight, prompting the surrounding police to usher them away from the throngs of reporters and protestors. Once alone, Hubbell vehemently argues that Katie’s protests are pointless. Days later, desperate to keep some control of his novel, Hubbell agrees to make any cuts Bissinger requires to the screenplay. Defeated by his own compromise and feeling ostracized by his wife’s actions, Hubbell has an affair with Carol Ann, who is leaving J. J. and returning to New York. After a screening of the latest cut of Hubbell’s film, Katie confronts Hubbell about compromising the novel’s integrity and his affair with Carol Ann. Hubbell can only reply that their problems are deeper than the affair. Although J. J. suggests that, unlike the loss of Carol Ann, losing Katie would be something of consequence, Hubbell is unmoved. Returning home one evening, Hubbell claims that he had no ambition to finish his first novel or write another, and tells Katie that those were her dreams, not his. Finally realizing their differences are irreconcilable, Katie asks that Hubbell to remain with her only until the baby is born. Years later in Manhattan, the now remarried Katie is protesting the nuclear bomb, when she sees Hubbell with his new, ashe blonde wife. After cordial introductions are made, Katie learns that Hubbell is now an uninspired television writer. Katie invites Hubbell to her home to meet her new husband and see their daughter Rachel, but, knowing that a reunion is impossible, they sadly embrace and depart.