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Sweet old Samson Morgenstern visits his nephew Arnold Morgenstern, a businessman whose success has allowed him to move his family out of the Bronx into a lovely new West Side apartment. The Morgensterns are celebrating the bar mitzvah of young Seth, who happily accepts when Samson gives him a tallis, the prayer shawl that is worn by adult Jewish men. Seth's beautiful older sister Marjorie is uncertain of her love for wealthy Sandy Lamm, even though her mother Rose is thrilled to learn that he has proposed to her daughter. Marjorie, a drama student at Hunter College, finally persuades her mother to let her think things over while working at a girls' summer camp with her college friend, Marsha Zelenko. Across the lake from the camp is South Wind, a brilliantly lit resort. One night, Marsha and an unwilling Marjorie sneak into the resort, and while her more worldly friend pursues a musician, Marjorie meets and quietly falls for social director Noel Airman, a performer whose talent and looks deeply impress the young women. Noel's assistant, a writer named Wally Wronken, is smitten with Marjorie, but she is too entranced with Noel's singing to notice him. She is about to be thrown out by the resort's owner when Noel, whose real name is Noel Ehrman, saves her from humiliation by offering her a job. Noel calls her "Marjorie Morningstar" as he says good night, and she is so taken with the name that she adopts it. Soon Uncle Samson, who has been sent by the Morgensterns to keep an eye on Marjorie, takes a job in the resort's kitchen, and his arrival comes none too soon, as Noel has invited Marjorie to his cabin for an intimate supper. Samson's concern for Marjorie's welfare touches Noel, and he tries to drive her away, but fails. He is so deeply in love that even the disapproval of her visiting parents hardly phases him. Samson then suffers a fatal heart attack while clowning for the guests during a skit. Afterward, Marjorie returns to college and begins to date Dr. David Harris. Months after Marjorie's graduation, Noel reveals that he now has a respectable job in an advertising firm. The two begin to discuss marriage, and one night, after the Morgenstern family Seder, Noel remarks that he now values family, faith and tradition, all the things he once ridiculed. When Wally becomes an admired Broadway playwright, however, Noel becomes jealous of his former protégé's success and disappears from sight. Marjorie soon finds that he has left his job, begun to drink, and become intimate with a blonde named Imogene Norman. Shocked, she leaves Noel again, but some time later, when a teary Marsha, who is about to marry a wealthy, cigar-chomping older man, calls her a fool for abandoning such an intense love, Marjorie becomes confused. At the wedding, Noel appears and announces to Marjorie that the musical he has worked on for years is nearly complete, and begs her to return to him. This time, Marjorie gives herself to Noel completely. At Marjorie's urging, Marsha's husband finances a Broadway production of Noel's play, Princess Jones , even after Noel insults him. The play is a disaster, and once again, Noel disappears. Ignoring his written request to be left alone, Marjorie searches for her lover all over Europe. Wally eventually informs her that Noel has returned to South Wind, where he finally has found happiness. Despite Wally's warning, Marjorie immediately returns to the resort. Through the window, she sees Noel contentedly performing his song, "A Very Precious Love," for a group of ardent young admirers. Realizing at last that their love is not good for either of them, Marjorie quietly boards a departing bus and is surprised to see that Wally, whom her mother has long admired, is waiting for her.