Once Is Not Enough (1975) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • A young woman goes home to New York after a long stay in Europe. Her former schoolmate introduces her to the decadence of New York and she ultimately falls in love with an older man who's a stand-in for her father, before tragedy strikes.

  • January Wayne, the sheltered, much-loved daughter of a formerly successful Hollywood producer, goes home to New York after a lengthy stint in a Swiss hospital. Mike Wayne has fallen on hard times and decides to marry for money. January is an innocent young woman who searches for her place in the world. Pursued by her rich new stepmother's playboy of a cousin, she instead falls hard for a much older man, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who's a surrogate for her father, before tragedy strikes.

  • An over-the-hill movie producer marries a wealthy, spiteful woman and closeted lesbian just to please his spoiled daughter who then, in an attempt to spite him, seduces both a wealthy playboy and a local screenwriter.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • After former studio head Mike Wayne (Kirk Douglas) is told he is too old to be a producer, he receives word that his 20-year-old daughter, January (Deborah Raffin), is about to undergo her fifth surgery. Mike flies to Switzerland, but is told that he will be a distraction during her recovery and to go home.

    Meanwhile, as January is anesthetized, she remembers two years earlier when she suspected her father of having an affair with his leading lady. Hoping to catch Mike in the act, January and her date raced on a motorcycle toward the hotel, only to crash into a stone wall.

    In the present, Mike flies to Italy, where he woos a wealthy widow, Deidre Milford Granger (Alexis Smith).

    Months later, Mike welcomes a healed January to New York City with champagne and a personal message in lights on the side of the Goodyear blimp. That night, January is unable to sleep, and she awakes to find Mike sneaking Deidre into the suite. He informs January that Deidre and he are married, and explains he married her so he could keep January living in luxury style. When January asks what Deidre gets out of it, Mike claims he dresses up her table.

    The next day, Mike is playing backgammon with Deidre's younger cousin, David Milford (George Hamilton), when January returns from shopping. After introductions, Mike informs January that her old school friend, Linda Riggs (Brenda Vaccaro), called. January visits her friend and does not recognize her. Linda brags about how much plastic surgery she has undergone and how she slept her way to being the youngest editor of Gloss magazine.

    Later that night, after dancing and drinking, David propositions January, but she turns him down. The next day, Linda is flabbergasted to hear that her friend rejected David until January admits she is still a virgin. Insisting that January has "daddy issues", Linda convinces her to move out on her own and hires her to work at Gloss.

    A few days later, Deidre is outraged to learn that David is dating Karla (Melina Mercouri), an aging Greek actress, and that January is moving out. When Mike stands up for January, Deidre emasculates him by reminding him he is a kept man. Hoping to please Deidre, January goes to David's apartment and they make love. Later, David is disturbed to realize he took January's virginity.

    On the ride home, January tells him that although she likes David, she does not want a relationship. The next day, Deidre travels to another apartment building where it's revealed that she is having a lesbian tryst with Karla. After making love, Deidre tells Karla about the fight with Mike and mentions she put $3 million in a trust fund for January.

    Afterward, Deidre meets Mike, January and Linda for drinks. They are interrupted when Tom Colt (David Janssen), a middle-aged, alcoholic famous writer, staggers to the table and demands to fight Mike for making a lousy movie out of his book, but Mike declines the offer. Later, when Tom and his friend, Hugh Richardson (Gary Conway), offer to buy January and Linda a drink, Linda invites them to her apartment. Hugh leaves, but Tom is game.

    At the apartment, January excuses herself so Linda and Tom can be alone. As Linda slips into her lingerie, Tom sneaks out the fire escape and goes to Januarys, where he apologizes for treating Mike so rudely. January kisses him, and tells him to call her when he is sober. Hours later, he calls to say he is sober. January and Tom begin dating.

    One night, she goes to Tom's hotel and realizes it is the same suite her father always rented when she came home from boarding school. She tries to seduce Tom, but he wants to wait until they are not in the room that January was raised in. Later, when January tells Mike about Tom, he begs her not to date older men like himself and reminds her that Tom is married with a six-month old baby. January goes to Linda for advice, who theorizes that January's hang ups are due to her oedipal cravings and suggests she sleep with Mike to get it out of her system.

    That weekend, Tom and January visit the Hamptons and, after they make love, Tom confesses he has been impotent for years and his wife was impregnated by artificial insemination. Tom explains his wife and he have their freedom, as long as they are discrete. The next morning, Tom gets an offer to go to Hollywood, California to adapt one of his books into a screenplay. He asks January to accompany him, but she has promised Mike she would go with him to Palm Beach, Florida. Tom talks her into telling Mike she is writing a story on Tom, and has to go to the west coast.

    A few days later, Mike arrives in California to find Tom and January in bed. Mike beats up Tom, and gives January 30 minutes to pack; but Tom tells January that, if she goes, she can never come back. Mike returns to Palm Beach alone and asks Deidre for a divorce, explaining that when he married her, he lost his daughter. Deidre complains she will be all alone, but Mike notes that she has Karla and that he is returning January's trust fund money to her. The two decide to split on friendly terms and board a plane to New York, however, the plane crashes (off-camera) killing both of them.

    After the funeral, January learns Tom is in New York. She finds him in a bar, where he explains he is breaking up with January because he is old and regrets getting between her and her father. Tom acknowledges they had something special once, but January pleads that once is not enough. Tom asks her to leave. January returns to her apartment and finds Linda in hysterics because, after sleeping with her boss, he fired her. January calms her down and gets her to bed, then wanders the New York City streets all night, thinking of Tom and Mike. In the final shot, January sits down on a bench and watches the dawn as it slowly rises over the George Washington Bridge, aware that this will be a brand new and hope-full new day.

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