Kirk Douglas has an extreme case of mid-life crisis in Elia Kazan's turgid melodrama (adapted from his best-selling novel). Douglas plays successful advertising executive Eddie Anderson, who cracks under the strain of the morning rush hour in Los Angeles and plows his sports car into a truck. Landing in a convalescent home, Eddie remains mute to everyone except his boss Finnegan (Charles Drake). In his recovery room, Eddie dreams about co-worker Gwen (Faye Dunaway), a sexy research assistant at his agency. Meanwhile, the psychiatrist Dr. Liebman (Harold Gould) talks to Eddie's wife, Florence (Deborah Kerr), who reveals that at one time Eddie and Gwen had an affair, but they broke it off. Unfortunately, after that escapade, Eddie's interest in sex vanished completely.
Then after the interview with Dr. Liebman, following a terrible nightmare, Eddie breaks out of his self-imposed silence and declares to Florence that he is tired of his unfulfilling life of "arrangements." Eddie returns to work, but the return is marked by Eddie insulting a major client, alienating his co-workers, and then taking off in a private plane in which he flies madly over the skies of L.A. His lawyer Arthur (Hume Cronyn) keeps Eddie from being thrown in jail and also talks Eddie into giving Florence the power of attorney. Eddie proceeds to travel to New York, where he runs into Gwen, who now has a child. Eddie is in New York to visit his senile father, Sam (Richard Boone), but when his family attempts to put Sam in a nursing home, Eddie takes him away with him to their old family estate on Long Island. Eddie calls up Gwen, and she travels to Long Island to resume their affair. Meanwhile, Eddie's loved ones search for Sam, and they are closing in on Eddie's Long Island sanctuary.