My Brilliant Career (1979) - Plot Summary Poster


Showing all 4 items
Jump to:


  • Sybylla Melvyn is an independent young woman who soon after arriving to live with her Grandmother Bossier and aunt Helen announces that she will never marry and plans on having a career instead. She does attracts the interest of several suitors. The bumbling Englishman Frank Hawdon has only been in Australia for three months and proposes that she return home with him as his wife. She rejects him out of hand telling her grandmother that she does not love him. Then there's her neighbor, the handsome young farmer Harry Beecham, who she is attracted to and eventually accepts his proposal. Time passes however and in the end refuses to marry him while she seeks to become a writer.

  • In 1897, Sybylla Melvyn has just entered young womanhood. She is still living at home with her poor farming parents in the Australian outback. She considers herself to be unattractive but clever. She dreams of a "brilliant" creative-oriented career, such as in the arts, but she is not yet ready to strike out on her own despite her spirited independent streak. She sees that independence as being incompatible with marriage which her elders seem to feel is the next logical step in her life. She welcomes her mother's decision for her to live with her wealthy maternal grandmother, especially considering the alternative which is to accept a job as a servant. That move is so that she can learn to be a proper young woman to attract that husband. Her Aunt Helen encourages her to marry a man she likes with prospects rather than marry a man she loves without prospects. In the former category is jackaroo Frank Hawdon, although Sybylla does not even seem to like him. In the latter category is Harry Beecham, an acquaintance from her childhood. He is a wealthy landowner, who has his pick of any woman he wants as his wife. Regardless of how she feels for Harry and how Harry may feel for her, she still may not see marriage as being part of her immediate future. But factors outside of her control may dictate what happens in Sybylla's life.

  • The heroine, Sybylla (Davis), a headstrong girl growing up in early 20th century Australia, has the opportunity of marriage to a wealthy young man (Harry played by Niel) whom she loves, but rejects it in order to maintain her independence, preferring to take a job as governess/housekeeper to the family of an illiterate neighbor to whom her father owes money.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The heroine, Sybylla Melvyn, is an imaginative, headstrong girl growing up in rural Australia in the 1890s. Drought and a series of poor business decisions reduce her family to subsistance level, her father begins to drink excessively, and Sybylla struggles to deal with the monotony of her life. To her relief, she is sent to live on her grandmother's property, where life is more comfortable. There she meets wealthy young Harry Beecham, who loves her and proposes marriage; convinced of her ugliness and aware of her tomboyish ways, Sybylla is unable to believe that he could really love her. By this time, her father's drinking has got the family into debt, and she is sent to work as governess/housekeeper for the family of an almost illiterate neighbour to whom her father owes money. She becomes acclaimated to this life to the point where it is almost bearable, but to her relief (again) is sent home (this time) to keep her away from her crass employer's son who has apparantely fallen for her (and, ironically, since she has no property, she is deemed unsuitable as the son's mate). When Harry Beecham returns to ask Sybylla to marry him, she concludes that she would only make him unhappy and sends him away, determined to pursue her career as a writer. The movie ending completes the suggestion, made at the begining, that this entire screenplay is based on her first book, as we see her putting the manuscript in a mailbox in front of her parent's ramshacle house. (A suggestion that this movie is the story of her Brilliant Career.....or how it got its start anyway).

See also

Taglines | Synopsis | Plot Keywords | Parents Guide

Contribute to This Page