Set in an island paradise during World War II, two parallel love stories are threatened by the dangers of prejudice and war. Nellie (Mitzi Gaynor), a nurse from Arkansas, falls in love with a French planter, Emile (Rossano Brazzi). Nellie learns that the mother of his children was an island native and, unable to turn her back on the prejudices with which she was raised, refuses Emile's proposal of marriage. Meanwhile, the strapping Lt. Joe Cable (John Kerr) denies himself the fulfilment of a future with a Tonkinese girl out of the same fears that haunt Nellie. When Emile is recruited to accompany Joe on a dangerous mission that claims Joe's life, Nellie realises that life is too short not to seize her own chance for happiness, thus confronting and conquering her prejudices.