Richard Babson and Paula McCullen are a couple of Hollywood screenwriters who have lived and worked together for a number of years. Richard would like to get married, but Paula does not feel the need.
Having just written a film script for producer Larry Weissman, the couple decides to get married without letting anyone else know. Paula can tell it is important to Richard, so she reluctantly agrees.
They are wed in a downtown Los Angeles marriage bureau by a man named Jorge Medina in barely understandable English. For a honeymoon trip, they travel cross-country by train to inform their parents back East about what they have just done.
The first stop is Buffalo, New York, where they are met in a winter snowstorm by Paula's parents. Eleanor and Tim McCullen are old-fashioned, so Paula informs Richard that they will need to sleep in separate beds. Richard isn't happy about being treated like a child, or about the frigid climate and the constantly open window.
From there they go to Virginia to visit Richard's parents, who reside in a giant high-rise condominium. No window is ever opened there, and Paula, feeling increasing panic attacks, is in dire need of some fresh air. She also accidentally overdoses on Valium and goes face-first into a salad at lunch.
The Babsons excitedly believe that Paula and Richard are engaged but devastated to learn that they are already married. They throw a party at a restaurant, where Paula is upset by the comments of guests.
She and Richard are barely on speaking terms when Larry Weissman shows up, desperate for pages of a script rewrite. Paula insists that they return home to California immediately, but once there, their personal and professional relationship has soured.
Larry locks them in a room, where the writers bicker and get no work done. Paula again demands fresh air until Richard breaks a window. When they finally talk it through, they are in agreement that getting married might not have been the best idea. They finish the rewrite and then walk off into the sunset, which turns out to be a Hollywood prop.
The film's theme song, "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?", was composed by Michel Legrand with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. In the film, the song (performed by Patti Austin and James Ingram) is first heard as Richard and Paula return to Los Angeles after their honeymoon and then subsequently heard during the closing credits. How Do You Keep the Music Playing? was nominated for an Academy Award and has enjoyed a life of its own beyond the film, becoming a popular standard and recorded by such luminaries and Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Céline Dion and Shirley Bassey. Another song by the same songwriters and performers, "Think About Love," is played during a montage of the train journey.
Aside from the song's Oscar nomination, a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress Comedy or Musical went to Goldie Hawn.
2004: AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs:
"How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" – Nominated
Burt Reynolds as Richard Babson
Goldie Hawn as Paula McCullen
Ron Silver as Larry Weisman
Jessica Tandy as Ellie McCullen
Barnard Hughes as Tim McCullen
Audra Lindley as Ann Babson
Keenan Wynn as Tom Babson
Carol Locatell as Nellie Ballou
Noah Hathaway as Lyle Ballou
Richard Libertini as Jorge Medina
Valerie Curtin as Friend in Playpen (uncredited)
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists: