Monroe Stahr is the young production chief and the most creative executive of one of the biggest studios of the Golden Age of Hollywood. He is a tireless worker in a time of turmoil in the industry due to the creation of the Writers Guild of America; Monroe being accustomed to make his underlings, including screenwriters, do whatever he says.
Monroe's life flows between film shootings, industry bosses' machinations, discussions with writers and actors and a battle with a union organizer named Brimmer, whose intrusion he resents. In the meantime, Monroe becomes obsessed with a young woman with a troubled past, Kathleen Moore, who is engaged to be married to another man, while Cecilia Brady, the young daughter of a studio board member, tries in vain to make Monroe see how she truly feels about him.
Pat Brady and other studio executives resent Monroe's neglect and disrespect for their wishes. Seeing his treatment of the union organizer as the last straw, they insist that Monroe go away for a long rest. As his difficulties grow bigger and his health declines, Monroe's life runs to an uncertain but inevitable twilight that echoes a long gone era.