Sam Dodsworth is an American industrialist of 1929 who does nothing half-way. He retires from the company he created with the same commitment that made his Revelation Automobiles a household name: giving up his office; selling the company; turning over his home to his daughter and new son-in-law; and handing future plans to his spirited, younger wife. Fran Dodsworth picks up where her husband leaves off, not merely wanting a much needed vacation; rather: "What I want is to get us some new selves!"
Freed from the traces of the American dream, the Dodsworth's set off on an adult's grand tour of Europe, but the divergence of their respective paths their personal "second acts" begins with the voyage. She is bent on beginning anew among European aristocracy; he is set on enjoying a retirement from cares. Their predictable failings and surprising trajectories create a story full of incident, humor and pathos.