Paul Newman plays Ben Quick, the mysterious drifter who stirs up a town and its women when he hitches up in Frenchman s Bend, Mississippi, where life is dominated by elderly patriarch Will Varner (Orson Welles). Will’s daughter Clara (Joanne Woodward) and son Jody (Anthony Franciosa) are a disappointment to him. While Jody spends his time fooling around with his alluring wife, Eula (Lee Remick), the strong-willed Clara is courted by Alan Stewart (Richard Anderson), a milquetoast mama’s boy. Will himself is resisting being pressured into marriage by his long-term mistress Minnie (Angela Lansbury), but he sees in Ben the passion and drive that Jody lacks. He invites Ben to live with the family, and Ben launches a relentless campaign to break Clara’s will and win her heart. This proves the final straw for Jody, who is driven to desperate measures to prove his manhood a situation that sparks both deadly danger and shocking revelations over the course of one long, hot summer.