Based on the memoirs of Leslie Carter, a divorced woman loses custody of her son but goes to New York to become an actress and succeeds.
In 1889 Chicago Mrs. Leslie Carter (Miriam Hopkins) speaks out during her divorce trial but loses custody of her son. She visits Dudley Carter (John Russell) at his school. Leslie finds mothers complaining about her and reprimands them for discriminating against her son. For his sake she agrees not to visit. Leslie tells her mother (Laura Hope Crews) she is going to New York to act even though she has no training. They rent two rooms in a theatrical boardinghouse from Mrs. Frazier (Helen Westley), who moves unpaying Lou Payne (Richard Ainley) to a smaller room. Leslie goes to see David Belasco (Claude Rains) with a letter from the theater owner and expects to be in a play. At the boardinghouse Chapman (Cecil Kellaway) celebrates getting a part. George Clifton (Victor Jory) is bitter and critical, and Leslie realizes that Belasco may not write a play for her. Leslie goes to his cottage and waits. Belasco has her read lines, and he directs her in a play.
On opening night Clifton tells Lou that Leslie was no good. Leslie apologizes to Belasco. Lou tells Leslie he loves her and asks her to marry. Belasco tells Leslie he has a new play for her; but she says she is getting married. Belasco asks her to be dedicated, and she agrees. Lou says good-bye. Leslie rehearses; Belasco complains as he directs her. Leslie performs well, and the audience applauds. The play runs a year and then goes to Chicago, where they boo her. Leslie speaks to the audience of her right to work for her son and wins them over with a story. Leslie finds that Dudley has changed in military school and says she lost him. Leslie plays Europe with Belasco. At a dinner she smokes and gets up to leave.
Lou is playing stock in Scranton, and the manager urges him to meet a woman. Lou finds Leslie in the park, and they marry. Belasco calls Leslie and angrily says he won't talk to her anymore. Leslie and Lou go to New York; but Belasco won't see her; she barges in, and both say they won't go to the other. Leslie's plays flop. Lou gets Belasco's assistant Charles Bryant (John Litel) to produce a play with Leslie. She argues with Charles and tells Lou to cancel it. Lou asks Belasco to help Leslie. Belasco starts coaching her; but she learns that Lou went to him, and they argue. However, the play succeeds, and she thanks Belasco.
Glimpses of the dramatic wizardry of David Belasco are
seen in this drama of a woman of powerful emotions who loses her
son but with uncanny determination succeeds in becoming a leading
actress with Belasco's brilliant direction.