His wife Ella, formerly his leading lady in his early comedies, is steeped in alcoholism and growing mental illness. His children are strangers to him. His pretty young costar, Lila Lenore, wants more than a working relationship with him. Producer Max Randolph, Harold's former boss and friend from his two-reeler days, seems to have it in for him, although Harold can't figure out why. And a girl from Harold's past, who died under mysterious circumstances keeps coming back to him in dreams that seem to be both a rebuke and a warning. The only way he can keep the demons at bay is by transforming his fears into laughter on film.
Harold's world is about to turn upside-down. Waiting in the wings are talking pictures—a crude, unperfected medium that Harold refuses to acknowledge. But before long, talkies begin to eclipse the silents—and Harold finds himself enmeshed in a struggle for survival in a suddenly alien world. Slapstick digs beneath the sunny optimism of the movies' Golden Age to examine how myths are made, both on and offscreen. It's a story of both the shipwrecked and the survivors of the film world's first big shakeup, and how they cope with one of man's most primal needs—the drive to create.