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An emotionally remote recovering alcoholic and his dowdy, unambitious wife face a personal crisis when they take in an attractive lodger. Doc Delaney (Burt Lancaster) and wife Lola (Shirley Booth) had an indiscreet affair, she became pregnant and, compelled to marry her, he gave up his medical studies, forfeited his future and settled down to a life of quiet desperation with the simple, frumpy Lola, who lost the child but has remained Doc's steadfast if slatternly wife. Now a chiropractor, recovering alcoholic, and active member of his town's AA chapter, Doc's sobriety is severely tested when Marie (Terry Moore), a young college student becomes their boarder, bringing new life and long-dormant hostilities to the surface of Doc and Lola's troubled marriage.