Luther Heggs aspires to being a reporter for his small town newspaper. He gets his big break when the editor asks him to spend the night at the Simmons mansion that, 20 years before, was the site of a now famous murder-suicide. Luther’s account of his wild, ghost-ridden night in the house leads Simmons to sue for libel, but with the aid of his friend Kelsey they determines what exactly happened.
Toward the end of his life F. Scott Fitzgerald is writing for Hollywood studios to be able to afford the cost of an asylum for his wife. He is also struggling against alcoholism. Into his life comes the famous gossip columnist.
When hedonistic but charming con man Elmer Gantry (Burt Lancaster) meets the beautiful Sister Sharon Falconer (Jean Simmons), a roadside revivalist, he feigns piousness to join her act as a passionate preacher. The two make a successful onstage pair, and their chemistry extends to romance. Both the show and their relationship are threatened, however, when one of Gantry’s ex-lovers (Shirley Jones) decides that she has a score to settle with the charismatic performer.
Cattle baron Matt Devereaux raids a copper smelter that is polluting his water, then divides his property among his sons. Son Joe takes responsibility for the raid and gets three years in prison. Matt dies from a stroke partly caused by his rebellious sons and when Joe gets out he plans revenge.