Young Laura Reynolds (Elizabeth Taylor) is a free spirit who questions social conventions, laws, and regulations. A struggling artist, she lives in a secluded beachside cabin in Big Sur with her 9-year-old illegitimate son Danny (Morgan Mason), in whom she instils her values.
Life has made her bitter and cynical, and she has decided to home-school her son.
Because of this questioning of the law, Danny runs into legal problems when he accidentally kills a deer in a local forest and is court-ordered to be sent to San Simeon, a distant Christian private school in Monterey, California.
The school’s headmaster is Episcopalian minister Dr Reverend Edward Hewitt (Richard Burton), who tries to convince Laura that San Simeon is not the prison she imagines.
Married for 21 years to faithful Claire (Eva Marie Saint), Edward has become more of a fund-raiser at all costs (for a new chapel) rather than an educator or Priest. Despite their differences, Laura and Edward begin to fall for each other, and both must reconcile their feelings for each other to their beliefs, which they learn are closer to each other than they thought.
Edward falls more deeply in love with Laura until the inevitable happens and he breaks the seventh commandment. He is tortured by guilt and self-castigation and by the fact that he has betrayed his wife.
Despite the movie being profitable at the box office (it cost ~$5 million and took ~$13.6 million), it was widely panned by most critics.
The then-unknown Raquel Welch doubled (uncredited) for Elizabeth Taylor in some of her beach scenes on-location at Big Sur, California.
Dr Edward Hewitt
Eva Marie Saint