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In 1936, British columnist Sheilah Graham sails from South Hampton, England to New York to apply for a job with the North American newspaper alliance. Sheilah tells John Wheeler, an editor at the alliance, that she has impeccable connections because she comes from royal lineage and is engaged to Lord Donegall. John hires her, and when the town starts buzzing about a column she writes describing marriage as obsolete, offers her a year contract to write a column from Hollywood. In Hollywood, Sheilah exercises her tart tongue against star Janet Pierce. Soon after, John asks Sheilah to tone down her personal attacks in return for a chance to broadcast a weekly radio show. One night, humorist Bob Carter invites Sheilah to a party at his house, and there she meets renowned novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, who is working as a screenwriter at the studio. After exchanging intense glances over dinner, the two begin a torrid affair. Bob, an old friend of Scott, reminisces to Sheilah about the glamorous escapades of the Fitzgeralds and explains how Scott has been forced to turn to screenwriting in order to support his wife Zelda, who has been institutionalized in a sanitarium. Excited about winning an assignment, Scott invites Sheilah to spend a weekend with him in Tijuana, Mexico. As their relationship deepens, Scott muses that the public has lost interest in his novels. One day, Scott sees an advertisement for one of his plays that is to be performed at the Pasadena Playhouse, and invites Sheilah to join him for opening night. Dressed in evening clothes, they arrive at the playhouse in a hired limousine then discover that the play is being staged by high school students. Scott is chagrined and humiliated when he overhears one of the students exclaim that she thought he was dead. While they are at the beach one day, Scott questions Sheilah about her past, and she becomes defensive and breaks down in tears. Sheilah then confesses that she fabricated her background, and that she really is a poor, uneducated girl from the slums who was reared in a London orphanage. When Sheilah confides that she feels inferior to Scott and his educated friends, he offers to tutor her in literature and history. The day arrives for Sheilah to give her first radio broadcast, but after she stiffly delivers her address, the network, headquartered in Chicago, decides to hire a professional actress to read her columns. Scott encourages Sheilah to go to Chicago and do the show herself, and offers to accompany her there. On the day before they are to leave, Stan Harris, the producer of the film that Scott is writing, informs him that he is being fired because his work is unacceptable. Stunned and defeated, Scott begins to drink heavily. When Scott behaves obnoxiously during their flight, Sheilah, unaware that he has been fired, asks him to leave when the plane lands in New Mexico. Scott insists on continuing to Chicago, however, and in Sheilah's hotel room, he insults network executive Ted Robinson. John then defends Sheilah's right to deliver her own words and persuades Robinson to allow her to present a run-through of the program. As Sheilah is about to begin her audition, Scott comes to the studio and starts to heckle her. After escorting the drunken Scott back to the hotel, John tells Sheilah that Scott has been fired. Now understanding Scott's aberrant behavior, Sheilah returns with him to Hollywood, where he is put under a doctor's care. When Sheilah voices her fears about his incipient alcoholism, Scott promises to stop drinking. Sheilah then pleads with him to write another novel, and when he responds that he does not have the luxury of time to write, she arranges to rent a house for them in the solitude of Malibu. There, Scott completes the first four chapters of his new novel and mails them to his literary agent, hoping to have them accepted by a magazine. Some time later, Scott receives a rejection letter and begins to drink in despair. When Sheilah returns home from work to find him drunk and joking with two besotted bums, she becomes furious. Suddenly turning abusive, Scott threatens to kill her and pulls a gun from his dresser drawer. They wrestle for the weapon and when it goes off, Sheilah calls him a worthless drunk and runs out of the house. Bob summons the doctor to treat the now incapacitated Scott, and the physician cautions that he must stop drinking or face dire health consequences. Sheilah moves back to her house in Los Angeles and when Scott calls her, she hangs up on him. He continues to hound her, but she refuses to accept his letters or calls. One day, upon returning home from work, Sheilah finds a goodbye note from Scott, apologizing for the grief he has caused her. Moved by Scott's contrition, Sheilah answers his next call and agrees to see him. After he promises to stop drinking and tells her he has started a new novel, they reconcile. In the following weeks, Scott tenderly writes of meeting Sheilah and their enduring love. To celebrate his progress, they attend a preview at the studio. There, Scott falls ill and fears that people will think he is drinking once again. Sheilah covers for him, but he nevertheless refuses to see a doctor. The next day, Scott, optimistic about his book being accepted by a publisher, tells Sheilah how much he loves her and then collapses. Panicked, Sheilah calls for a doctor, but she is too late, for Scott is pronounced dead. Some time later, Sheilah walks the beach in Malibu, recalling happy times with Scott.