Plot[ edit ] In the Midwestern town of Zenith, Samuel "Sam" Dodsworth Walter Huston is a successful, self-made man : the president of Dodsworth Motors, which he founded 20 years before. Then he sells the company to retire. Meanwhile, Fran indulges in a light flirtation with a handsome Englishman David Niven ; but when he suggests it become more serious, she hastily retreats and asks Sam not to spend time in England as planned, but go on directly to Paris. Once there, Fran begins to view herself as a sophisticated world traveler and tries to develop a high-class social life, also pretending to be much younger than she is. Sam says that people who would socialize with hicks like either of them are not really high-class, but she sees him as increasingly boring and unimaginative; he only wants to see the usual tourist sights and visit car factories. She becomes infatuated with cultured playboy Arnold Iselin Paul Lukas , who invites her to Montreux and later Biarritz.
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Plot summary[ edit ] The novel is set in the period between late and late While the novel provides the courtship as a backstory, the real story begins upon his retirement. Retiring at the age of fifty as a result of his selling of his successful automobile company The Revelation Motor Company to a far larger competitor, he sets out to do what he had always wanted to experience: a leisurely trip to Europe with his wife, with aspirations to visit some manufacturing plants looking for his next challenge.
His forty-one-year-old wife, however, motivated by her own vanity and fear of lost youth, is dissatisfied with married life and small town Zenith, and wants to live in Europe permanently as an expatriate, not just visit for a few months.
Passing up advancement in his recently sold company, Dodsworth leaves for Europe with Fran. Her motivations upon visiting Europe become quickly known. In their extensive travels across Europe, they are soon caught up in vastly different lifestyles.
Fran falls in with a crowd of frivolous socialites, while Sam plays more of an independent tourist. As Sam and Fran follow their own pursuits, their marriage is strained to the breaking point. Both are forced to choose between marriage and the new lifestyles they have pursued. In the beginning, they leave their mid-Western hometown of Zenith, board a steam liner in New York and cross the Atlantic Ocean.
Their first stop is England. They visit the sights in London and are invited by Major Clyde Lockert to join a weekend trip to the countryside. Later, after Lockert has made an indecent proposal to Fran, they depart for Paris, where she soon engages in a busy social life and he takes up sightseeing. When Sam decides to go back to America for his college reunion in New Haven, Fran spends the summer months on the lakes near Montreux and Stresa, where she has a romance with Arnold Israel.
Their marriage comes to an end when she falls in love with Kurt von Obersdorf in Berlin. Whereas she stays on with her new love, he criss-crosses Europe in an attempt to cope with his new situation.
When Sam happens to run into Edith in Venice, she persuades him to accompany her on a visit to a village in the vicinity of Naples. Three days later, he is back on the next ship to meet Edith in Paris.