Rich and Famous (1981) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Liz and Merry Noel become friends as college roommates and their friendship endures over the years. Liz becomes a respected "serious" novelist. Merry Noel marries, has a daughter and writes, too: "trash" fiction which becomes enormously successful. Their story begins in college and jumps ahead some years at a time to show their relationship with each other and those in their orbits as they grow and mature.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In the opening scene, we are introduced to two best friends and Smith College roommates, Liz Hamilton (Jacqueline Bissett) and Merry Noel Blake (Candice Bergman). Liz helps Merry pack her things and sneak away in the middle of the night where Merry decides to marry her boyfriend Doug Blake (David Shelby) and leaves the school permanently, even though Doug dated Liz in the past.

    Ten years later.

    Liz is a famous writer and Merry and her eight-year-old daughter, Debby (Nicole Eggert), listen to a talk Liz gives at a Southern California college campus. Afterward, Liz attends a party thrown in her honor at Merry and Doug's beach house in Malibu. Soon, Doug and Liz walk on the beach and she admits to a failed love affair with a Frenchman and a bout of writer's block. When they return, Merry is jealous of her best friend leaving the party with her husband but it doesn't last long.

    Later, Merry says she admires Liz's success, while Liz envies Merry's marriage and family, her money and the nice things that she can afford. Soon, Merry shows Liz a novel she has written called 'The House by the Sea' about all the people she knows in the beach colony. When Merry reads the manuscript out loud to her, Liz tells her the book is terrific. Merry is doubtful, but then asks Liz to give the manuscript to her editor Jules Levi (Steven Hill). Merry's request triggers Liz's sense of competition; she tells Merry that Jules is only interested in publishing serious literature, and Merry hasn't suffered enough for her art.

    Meanwhile, Liz admits to Merry that writer's block prevents her from finishing her second book. Nevertheless, Liz convinces Jules to buy Merry's book.

    Seven years later.

    Dick Cavett interviews Merry about her books on his talk show in New York City. While Merry's career gains momentum, Doug's is stalled and in the middle of their love making, she jots down notes for her next novel. When Merry returns to bed, Doug's passion is long gone. Later, in the middle of Merry's television interview with Merv Griffin, Doug walks over to Liz's apartment and tells her he wants to relocate to New York and rekindle their relationship. Merry shows up at Liz's and fights with Doug about his failing career and their marriage. He calls her "books trash" and storms off.

    At Central Park, Doug tells Liz he did not get a job offer in New York but he has a job interview in Houston, Texas, and they could have a future together. When Merry meets them at a park, Doug walks off and leaves it to Liz to tell Merry that her marriage is over.

    Six years later.

    Liz is one of the judges of the National Writer's Award and Merry lobbies to get her new book, 'Home Cooking,' nominated to win an award. Chris Adams (Hart Bochner), a 22-year-old reporter from Rolling Stone magazine, meets Liz at the Algonquin Hotel to do a story on her. Before the interview begins, Merry's troubled and estranged daughter, Debby (now played by Meg Ryan), pays a short visit with her trouble-seeking Puerto Rican poet boyfriend, Ginger Trinidad (Daniel Faraldo). When Merry arrives, she wants Liz to tell her if her book has been nominated. When Liz remains silent, Merry invites Liz to a literary party. Liz notices an attraction to Chris as she sits down for her Rolling Stone interview.

    In the morning, Liz leaves for her country cottage in Connecticut, where Chris joins her and they consummate their relationship. Liz brings Chris to Merry's party and Merry congratulates Liz for falling in love, but Liz is jealous when she sees Chris talking to Debby. Later, Liz and Chris talk about being in love but she is too scared to accept his marriage proposal.

    When Liz visits Merry at her suite at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Merry tells her Doug is in town and her instincts tell her that they will get back together. Merry also envisions winning the National Writer's Award. When she senses that Liz has doubts about Chris, Merry gives Liz her blessing. She tells her friend there are no guarantees when it comes to relationships. Back at her hotel, Liz worries when she is unable to reach Chris.

    On the way to lunch with Doug, Merry wants Liz to tell her if she's won the award. Liz reveals the judges have awarded the top prize to two writers: Merry and Sharon Gay. Later, Liz meets Chris at a coffee shop and finds out that he has saved Debby's boyfriend, Ginger, from going to jail. After the ordeal, Chris invites Debby to be his assistant on his next writing assignment and Liz realizes that her relationship with Chris is over. She asks him not to publish her interview.

    Meanwhile, Merry visits Liz at her hotel and accuses Liz of being in love with Doug and the one he is going to marry although Doug has told Merry he plans to marry a woman from Texas. The friends fight, ripping apart a treasured childhood teddy bear that Merry gave to Liz when she left college. Later, Merry watches the Awards party at her hotel suite apart from the revelers. She grabs a bottle of champagne and takes a taxi to Liz's cottage.

    In the final scene at the cottage, as Liz and Merry sit beside a lit fireplace, Merry apologizes for their fight, and Liz responds that no matter what has happened between them, they've always been great friends and that despite their complicated lives, they will always have each other. Liz suggests that they take a year off and travel together. While it's a scary thought for Merry, Liz tells her to be spontaneous and see what happens. The clock chimes midnight and Liz wants Merry to give her a kiss. Merry asks Liz if, after all these years, she is gay. "No", says Liz, she just wants a New Year's kiss. They hug and Liz gives Merry a peck on the cheek. Afterward, the two friends smile and toast each other by the light of the fire.

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