|Directed by||Joel Oliansky|
|Produced by||William Sackheim|
|Written by||Joel Oliansky|
Joel Oliansky & William Sackheim (story)
|Music by||Lalo Schifrin|
|Cinematography||Richard H. Kline|
|Edited by||David Blewitt|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$14.3 million|
Paul Dietrich is an extremely gifted but disillusioned classical pianist who is nearly 30 and running out of time to prove himself. He logically knows it is time to give up his attempts to enter piano competitions and instead accept a salaried position as a music teacher. Paul also needs to help his mother and his seriously ill father, but he decides to travel to San Francisco for an international piano competition. Doing so could cost him his job waiting for him in Chicago; nevertheless, he wants to try his luck for the last time before passing the age limit to compete.
The competition for a financial grant and two years of concert engagements pits the intense and arrogant Paul against a select group of talented artists. He advances to the final round of six, which includes a brash New Yorker named Jerry DiSalvo, who only knows how to play one concerto, Michael Humphries, who rehearses in the nude, Canadian pianist, Mark Landau, who is note-perfect but emotionally moribund, and a meek Kazakh girl, Tatiana Baronova.
Another contestant, Heidi Joan Schoonover, is a rich and confident 23 year old from Massachusetts who developed a romantic inclination toward Paul after meeting him at an earlier music festival. Heidi's esteemed music teacher, Greta Vandemann, advises her to avoid letting personal matters interfere with her concentration. Heidi is also rudely rebuffed by Paul, who also wants to avoid any distraction.
Before the finals, Tatiana's music teacher defects, causing the emotionally fragile Tatiana to have a nervous breakdown. This leads to the competition being postponed for at least a week. Paul's mother tells him he should withdraw from the competition and focus on getting the teaching job, as his father is very ill and should no longer be working to support him. Paul stays in the competition but feels very guilty about this decision, lashing out at Heidi at a meeting with the other contestants and the arrogant conductor.
Later that evening , Paul apologizes to Heidi and asks for a coffee date. Afterwards at his hotel room, he pours his heart out to her about his family situation and they make love. Greta is disturbed by Heidi and Paul's relationship as she feels it may cost Heidi her competitive edge.
The dates for the competition are finalized, and as a reception is held for the contestants that unexpectedly turns out to be a press conference for Tatiana, who is able to return to the competition after a meeting with her teacher. This infuriates Paul who believes that the competition is being fixed in favor of Tatiana. He fights with Heidi when she defends Tatiana and accuses her of not taking the competition seriously. This makes Heidi realize how much winning means to Paul, and she wants to drop out. Greta, angry, later chastises Paul, blaming him for hurting Heidi's chances by exploiting her guilt over competing against him.
Paul finds Heidi and says that he loves her, and persuades her to stay in the competition. Partway through her performance, Heidi's piano develops a technical problem, forcing her to stop. Rather than folding under pressure, Heidi angrily demands to play a different concerto and performs it magnificently. Heidi wins the competition, and Paul finishes in second place.
Immediately after winning, Heidi is ecstatic because she and Paul had agreed to form a partnership, combining their talents and resources to help one another, no matter who won. To her surprise, Paul is upset to realize that she is a more proficient player, and tells her he is unable to accept the partnership and leaves. However, Paul eventually arrives at the celebration party after the competition, ready to take part in Heidi's victory and to be in her life.