Based on the novel A Man of Property by John Galsworthy, a beautiful and sensitive woman becomes entangled with a wealthy Victorian family.
Irene Forsyte (Greer Garson) goes to a hospital to see Philip Bosinney and wants to explain to young Jolyon Forsyte (Walter Pidgeon); she asks him to talk to June Forsyte (Janet Leigh), who runs out. He recalls the past.
Soames Forsyte (Errol Flynn) tells the Forsyte gathering that Irene has rejected his proposals. Irene gives music lessons and rejects Soames again. In an art gallery the artist Jolyon meets Irene. Jolyon talks with Soames and has been rejected because he ran off with a governess soon after his wife died. Soames tells Jolyon that his daughter June is well. Jolyon goes to Soames and wants to give his watercolor to Irene. Soames says he is going to marry her. After Jolyon leaves, Soames rips up the painting.
Soames persists, and Irene marries him. June tells her she is in love with the architect Philip Bosinney (Robert Young), and they meet in the park. Irene loans him money for lunch. On their second anniversary Soames believes that Irene does not love him. The Forsyte clan meets Philip, who has no money. Irene helps him, and he is grateful. Old Jolyon Forsyte (Harry Davenport) likes Irene. Soames asks Philip to design them a house.
Jolyon sees Irene and learns that she did not get his painting. Jolyon has painted Irene from memory. Philip finds Irene playing piano, and he shows her his sketches. Philip tells her he loves her and kisses her. Irene says she will not hurt June. Soames warns Philip not to spend beyond the contract. Irene asks Soames if they can go away together soon, but he puts it off.
Soames won't let Irene avoid going to a Forsyte dance, and they are late. June complains that she has not seen Philip much lately. June asks Irene to talk to Philip; if he leaves her, June says she will kill herself. Philip warns Irene he will tell June unless Irene agrees to visit him. In her carriage Irene talks with Jolyon, who asks if Philip loves June. Irene wants June to go to her father.
June goes to Philip's studio and sees that he is meeting with Irene. Philip asks that they be frank with each other. Irene says she will not betray June and will not see him again. Philip says he wants her for life, but she says goodbye. June goes to her father. Soames reads June's note that Irene is at Philip's. Irene asks Soames for her freedom, but he won't give her a divorce. She asks to go away alone. Soames shows her the note and berates her. Irene decides that now she can go to Philip.
Soames sent for Philip and says he will sue him for breach of contract. They learn that Irene went to Philip's studio and follow her. In the fog a carriage runs over Philip. Jolyon finds Irene in Philip's studio, and they wait. Irene says she left Soames. Jolyon thanks Irene for helping June and him. Soames arrives and says Philip is dead. Irene goes with Jolyon. Old Jolyon tells Soames he will suffer for accusing Jolyon of adultery.
Five years later in the art museum Irene sees Soames and has the painting of her sent to him. Irene is married to Jolyon and says Soames is so poor.
This drama contrasts the selfishness of a man who seeks
profit and getting what he wants with those who value art, music,
and kindness in relationships.