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The movie is based on the real life story of Eddy Duchin, the great piano showman of the 30's and 40's. The story opens in 1928, when Eddy, a recent pharmacy-degree graduate from Boston shows up in New York, hopeful of becoming a pianist. He goes to see Leo Reisman, who had an orchestra at New York's Central Park Casino. He is under the impression that Reisman had offered him a job, after having seen him play the summer before. Reisman tells him that he was impressed with his piano, but he hadn't offered him a job. He suggests that Eddy return to Boston to work in pharmacy. Eddy leaves the office, disheartened.

An attractive socialite, Marjorie Oelrichs (played by Kim Novak), happens to be in the casino, setting up for a private dinner party she's planned, at the time he has left Reisman's office. He sits down to play a few bars at the piano. She hears his playing, notices him, and walks over to ask what music he's playing. He tells her it's "Chopin's Nocturn in E Flat". She says that she likes it and asks him to play it again. Instead, he plays another tune, and she is chagrined, saying she didn't realize Mr. Reisman hired rude pianists. He tells her that he's not hired at all, and she becomes interested in hearing his story. Shortly after, she asks Mr. Reisman to do her a favor and hire and extra pianist for the evening so that the piano could be played throughout the entire evening. With her help, he has gotten a job with Reisman's orchestra.

Eddy begins a courtship with Marjorie, and they fall in love, almost from the beginning. She is always there to encourage him, support him, and pick up his spirits when he's feeling down. They soon marry, and, by 1931, he had taken over as leader of the orchestra at the Casino. His unique style wins him many fans, and he has become a celebrated musician in New York.

His happiness doesn't last long, however, as she dies in childbirth on Christmas Eve of 1937, he is heartbroken. As he tries to come to grips with his sorrow, he enlists the help of Marjorie's aunt and uncle to care for son, Peter, while he takes off on a world concert tour. He is gone for years, unable to return to New York and face his grief and the responsibility of raising his son. He finally makes a brief visit to New York, but the meeting with his son turns out to be very awkward.

When World War II breaks out, he signs up immediately and serves as a Navy combat officer. While serving, he begins to long for a reconciliation with his son. When he returns to try to become a part of his son's life, he is soundly rebuffed by Peter. Peter is now ten and deeply resents his father's lack of attention for so many years.

Over time, though, the boy's pretty nanny, Chiquita (played by Victoria Shaw) helps him repair the relationship with Peter. Eddy's career is, once again, in full swing, and he has, at last, formed a bond with his son. He also has become romantically involved with Chiquita. Life is really quite full again for Eddy, when he begins suffering pain, which he later finds out is caused by leukemia. He and Chiquita do marry, but their time together will be short.

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