Based on a novel by Lloyd C. Douglas and the 1935 film Magnificient Obsession, a rich playboy learns he contributed to a doctor’s death and tries to help his widow with a theory of secret serving.
Rich Bob Merrick (Rock Hudson) drives a speed boat very fast on a lake and overturns. He is revived, and police take the resuscitator to Dr. Phillips. In a car Helen Phillips (Jane Wyman) is driving, and Joyce Phillips (Barbara Rush) says she is her only mother. A doctor tells Joyce that her father died because the resuscitator was not there. Joyce learns that Bob Merrick was using it; she blames him and cries.
In his hospital room Bob gives orders on the phone. He tells the doctor he does not have a subdural clot. Bob says he was in med school but quit to enjoy life. Nurse Nancy Ashford (Agnes Moorehead) takes Bob’s temperature. He asks for Dr. Phillips, and Nancy says he died. Bob wants to go home.
Joyce brings letters of condolence to Helen. Mrs. Eden (Helen Kleeb) tells Helen that she wants to pay her for what Dr. Phillips did for her. She says he refused to take it because he “used it all up.” Helen refuses the money too.
Bob escapes from the hospital. Tom Masterson comes to see Joyce and Helen about the estate. He says Dr. Phillips borrowed on his insurance, and they will not inherit anything except the house. On her way home Helen picks up Bob, who collapsed on the road. He asks to take her to lunch. He learns about the resuscitator, asks to get out, and collapses again. Helen takes him back to the hospital, and she learns he is Bob Merrick.
Eight days later Bob writes a check for $25,000. Edward Randolph (Otto Kruger) has come back to console Helen. Bob asks to see Helen and gives her the check, but she hands it back.
In a bar Valerie Daniels (Sara Shane) wants to take care of Bob, but he leaves alone. He is drunk and drives off the road. He knocks on a door, and Edward lets him in. Bob asks to use the telephone but forgets to dial. Bob sees a portrait of Dr. Phillips and feels he is being haunted. Bob sleeps on the couch, and Edward wakes him in the morning. At breakfast Edward says Dr. Phillips showed him how to contact a source of infinite power. Bob asks how, and Edward says to be of service to people and keep it secret.
Dan (Joseph Mell) tells Bob that his wife lost the baby. Bob gives him $300 for the expenses and tells him not to tell anyone. Bob sees Helen and asks to talk with her. He says he wants to talk about the theory of Dr. Phillips. She tries to avoid his persistence and is hit by a car.
In the hospital Dr. Giraud (Paul Cavanagh) tells Nancy that Helen is lucky to be alive. Nancy tells Joyce, Tom, Edward, and Bob that Helen will be blind. Joyce blames Bob.
At home in bed Helen tells Nancy that she does not blame Bob but will not see him. In the yard Edward says goodbye to Helen, who shows she can walk to the cove on her own. Judy (Judy Nugent) helps her to the beach. Judy tells her the news and asks Bob to help her launch her boat. Helen talks to him, and he says his name is Robinson. She asks if he is a doctor.
Edward tells Bob that it will be a magnificent obsession. Tom tells Bob it is a lot of money. Bob says some specialists in Europe could help Helen. Bob says someone will buy her house at a good price.
Bob asks Dr. Giraud if he graduates from med school, could he intern there? At the beach Bob and Judy read a comic paper to Helen. She says she is going to Europe for a consultation. Bob sees Joyce coming, and she asks Bob why he is lying to her. She asks him to get out of Helen’s life.
Helen, Nancy, and Joyce board a plane for Europe. Bob studies medical books and gets a postcard from Helen. She is examined and admits she has headaches. Helen asks Joyce to help her write to Robby Robinson. Bob shows the letter to Dr. Giraud. Doctors tell Helen that they must face the facts that they can do nothing at that time. She thanks them for trying.
Helen tells Joyce the night time is hard, especially waking up without a dawn. Helen walks on her own and knocks a plant off the balcony. Bob knocks and comes in. She is glad to embrace him. Joyce comes in. Bob says he will be her eyes and show her the town. Helen asks Joyce to help her dress. Joyce apologizes to Bob.
Bob drives Helen and gives her flowers. He describes a festival for her. They dance. He asks if she could forgive, even Bob Merrick. She says yes and knows he is Bob. He wants to marry her and says he needs her. He takes her home, and Helen tells Nancy that Bob wants to marry her. Helen asks Nancy to help her.
The next day Joyce finds a letter. Bob comes in, and Joyce says Helen left with Nancy. Bob reads the note to him; Helen wrote she would only be a burden to him. For weeks Bob and Joyce try to get authorities to locate Helen without success. They fly back home, and Tom greets them. Bob drives to the beach and remembers Helen. He learns that Edward is out of town.
Dr. Bob Merrick joins the staff of a New York hospital. Mrs. Miller thanks him for helping her son, and he tells her never to tell him because in a few years it will be used up anyway. Dr. Giraud asks Bob about Helen, but he has heard nothing. Bob looks in on Joyce, who had a baby. At home Bob finds Edward, who says Nancy told him that Helen is very ill.
They fly to New Mexico, and Nancy says Helen is in a coma. Dr. Allan (Alexander Campbell) says she was admitted a month ago. Bob discusses her history with Dr. Allan. They decide an operation is needed, but Dr. Allan cannot do it. Edward urges Bob to do it. Bob asks Nancy to help scrub. Bob asks Dr. Allan to begin and sees Edward watching. Bob decides to start and operates for a long time. Bob sits by her bed until morning. Helen wakes and asks who is there. She asks Bob to hold her. She says she sees some light, and he assures her she is going to see.
This emotional soap opera has a powerful spiritual theme of loving and helping others without expecting anything in return. A spoiled and selfish rich person is transformed into a humanitarian when he learns how to practice this spiritual method.