Based on Rudyard Kipling's novel, a successful artist is going blind from a war wound but paints one more picture.
In 1865 England youngsters Dick and Maisie play with guns and decide to be artists. Years later in the Sudan as British soldiers kill attacking natives with guns, Dick Heldar (Ronald Coleman) saves the life of his friend Torpenhow (Walter Huston) but is slashed in the head. In Cairo Dick learns that his paintings are selling in England, and he celebrates.
Dick returns to London and is given a studio next door to Torpenhow. Dick finds Maisie (Muriel Angelus), who is an artist too. Dick tells Torpenhow how he glamorizes his paintings for money. Maisie asks Dick to help her with her work, and he says he loves her. War correspondent Nilghai (Dudley Digges) criticizes Dick. Maisie paints, and Dick gives her flowers and art supplies, coaching her about drawing. Torpenhow says that Dick doesn't work anymore and asks who the girl is. Dick asks Maisie to travel with him; she says he is her best friend, but she is selfish. Torpenhow shows Dick the cockney girl Bessie (Ida Lupino), and Dick hires her as a model. Bessie says that Torpenhow is most kind, and Dick sees him kissing her. Nilghai looks over Bessie and disapproves. Torpenhow tells Bessie that he doesn't want her to stay with him. Bessie gets angry at Dick, and his vision blurs.
Dick goes to a doctor (Halliwell Hobbes), who says his optic nerve will degenerate in a year or less. Dick drinks and decides to paint Bessie again, ordering her to laugh. Bessie runs out to Torpenhow, who reprimands Dick for being drunk. Dick says he is going blind and goes to bed. Torpenhow pays Bessie and says good-bye. Bessie ruins the painting and leaves. Torpenhow sees it and tells Nilghai he wants to kill Bessie. Dick wakes and tells Torpenhow that he can't see. Torpenhow tells Gardner (Colin Tapley) he is not going on the campaign. Dick agrees with Gardner that Torpenhow is a fool. Maisie comes in and finds Dick blind. She cries, and Dick shows her the painting, not knowing it is ruined. Maisie kisses Dick good-bye. Torpenhow asks Dick about Maisie and assumes they are marrying. At the boat Torpenhow says good-bye to Dick. Beeton (Ernest Cossart) learns from Dick there will be no wedding. Beeton sees Bessie, and Dick invites her to visit. Bessie asks Dick when he became blind and kisses him. Dick asks her to keep house for him and says he will sell the painting. Bessie tells him she spoiled the painting and apologizes. Dick decides to travel to the war and puts on a uniform. Dick rides to Torpenhow, joins the cavalry charge, and is killed.
This drama symbolizes how unforeseen consequences of
war can ruin an artist's ability to function. The tragic ending
of Kipling's early novel portends the destruction of British imperial
militarism, which preoccupies men so much they have little time
for a relationship with a female.