Plain, poor and likeable library worker and former serviceman Neil Klugman (Richard Benjamin) from the Bronx meets up with well-to-do Jewish princess Brenda Patimkin (Ali MacGraw in her first feature role) – who lives in a white clapboard colonial mansion in Westchester – on the one day each summer that his nouveau riche cousin Doris (Kay Cummings) invites him to her country club outside New York City.
Though both are Jewish, Brenda is doing her best to deny it, including getting a nose job. Her family – except her successful, hard-working dad (Jack Klugman) – are also quite eager to bury their roots.
In addition to the crime of not having money, Neil is far too close to those Jewish roots for them, especially the family’s socially pushy matriarch (Nan Martin).
Described at the time as “a Jewish Graduate” and filmed entirely in New York, Goodbye Columbus deals frankly with the sexual situation in which the two youngsters find themselves. Brenda is the aggressor in this case, and it is her aggressiveness and refusal to take the usual precautions that lead to the unhappy finale.