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Leaving behind his luxurious Los Angeles estate, successful advertising executive Eddie Anderson (a second-generation immigrant) on his way to his agency is triggered into a suicide attempt by the noise and rush of the Los Angeles freeway: he folds his arms and smiles maniacally as his imported sports car rams into a truck. He is not killed, but convalescing at home he refuses to speak except to inform his boss, Finnegan, that he will not return. He daydreams about his stormy relationship with Gwen, a voluptuous research assistant at the agency who has fascinated him by her sneering disdain of his tyrannical success as the idea-man at the agency (selling "clean" Zephyr cigarettes). Psychiatrist Dr. Leibman, engaged to treat him, is told briefly of his history by Eddie's wife, Florence, who knows about Gwen and reveals that Eddie's interest in sex ended when he broke off the affair. That night a horrendous nightmare brings Eddie out of his self-imposed silence, and as he tells Florence of his loathing for his life of perpetual "arrangements," she tries to listen sympathetically, hoping to spur his self-confidence, but periodically lapses into a bitter riposte because of his adultery. She persuades him to return to work, but cries herself bitterly to sleep when they cannot make love or achieve any satisfaction from their new understanding. Eddie's return is dramatic, but he insults an important client, upsets a number of office applecarts, and departs in a small plane with which he crazily buzzes the city. His lawyer, Arthur, prevents his arrest and induces Eddie to give Florence his power of attorney before he departs for New York to visit his ailing, senile father, Sam. In New York he finds Gwen, who has had a child whose father she will not name; she is now living platonically with Charles, an admirer. When Eddie's brother Michael, sister-in-law Gloria, and Florence arrive and threaten the hospitalized old man with institutionalization, Eddie "kidnaps" and takes him to their old family estate on Long Island, where he induces Gwen to come and resume their affair. They are in bed--Eddie pleading with Gwen to marry him and she furiously recounting with great detail all of the affairs she has had since they parted--when Gloria and Florence burst in. They manage to get old Sam into an ambulance, and Eddie is once again reassured and seduced into accepting "arrangements" by Arthur, Florence, and his daughter, Ellen. Gwen soon leaves with Charles, and after Eddie and Florence have another violent confrontation, he goes to Gwen only to be shot by Charles. He then angrily sets the house on fire and is himself sent to a mental hospital. Gwen induces him to leave the institution and escorts him to his father's funeral. He stares vacantly at the grave, surrounded by wife, mistress, lawyer, and family.