Emily and Charlotte Bronte have an alcoholic brother. The sisters both love the new curate, who accepts the love of neither as they write famous novels.
Branwell Bronte (Arthur Kennedy) tells Charlotte Bronte (Olivia de Havilland) and Anne Bronte (Nancy Coleman) that he and Emily Bronte (Ida Lupino) have more talent. Charlotte says they are becoming governesses to learn about life. She and Emily fight over donated paper. Tipsy Branwell sketches men in a pub. The new curate, Arthur Nicolls (Paul Henreid), arrives and takes the drunk Branwell home to Emily, who assumes he is drunk too. Charlotte persuaded Emily to let Branwell go to London, and she says goodbye to him, Charlotte, and Anne. Nicolls reports to the vicar Bronte and gets to know Emily. She describes wuthering heights. Branwell castigates Emily for sending him to London. Nicolls drives the three sisters to town, but Branwell is drunk and falls off the horse. Nicolls leaves him behind over Charlotte's objection. At the ball Nicolls dances with Emily and Charlotte, who tells him she plans to take Emily to Brussels for education and not to dance with her; he kisses Charlotte roughly. Drunk Branwell is taken out by Nicolls, and they fight. Branwell tells his father not to dismiss Nicolls, who buys a picture from him. Emily tells Nicolls that Branwell gave them the money for Brussels. Emily wants Nicolls to ask her to stay, but he says no.
In Brussels, M. Heger (Victor Franken) praises Charlotte's writing. Charlotte teaches poetry, and Emily teaches music. Charlotte tells Emily that Nicolls kissed her, and she says Emily writes of tormented love. Emily dreams she sees a horseman on the moor. Charlotte objects to a kiss from Heger because he is married; but she kisses him goodnight. Emily wants to go home to care for Branwell. Charlotte tells Madame Heger that she loves Heger, who advises her to leave.
Emily reads from her novel to ill Branwell. Nicolls is reading Jane Eyre and implies he likes Charlotte. Nicolls visits cynical Branwell, but Emily refuses to let Nicolls read her novel. Branwell tells Charlotte that Nicolls paid for Brussels, and Emily wants to repay him. Nicolls tells Emily not to become a governess, and Emily says she tried to stop loving him. Charlotte says Branwell is gone, and Emily finds him in the rain; he dies in her arms. Nicolls says goodbye to Charlotte and Emily.
Charlotte's Jane Eyre is published under a pseudonym and is more popular than Emily's Wuthering Heights. Thackeray (Sydney Greenstreet) meets Charlotte, who says that Emily is not in good health. Thackeray escorts Charlotte in society and takes her to the east end. She gives Nicolls her novel and says she is not happy. He says he loves her and kisses her. He says he left because he could not return Emily's love.
Charlotte comes home and finds Emily is ill. Emily says that loving is most important, and Charlotte says she was inspired by Emily. Emily imagines the horseman on the moor taking her away. On the moor Charlotte says goodbye and walks with Nicolls.
This biographical drama is not precisely accurate, but
it portrays the personalities of these talented writers and suggests
the psychological experiences that inspired their work.