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Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., the son of a prominent Chicago music professor, has been reared to culture and taste, but prefers working in show business to a music conservatory. After successfully promoting a strongman named Sandow on a national tour, Flo sails for Europe after a stunt to have Sandow fight a ferocious lion backfires when the lion falls asleep on stage. On the boat to Europe, Flo runs into his old friend and rival Jack Billings, who doesn't want Flo to know that he is going to London to sign a new star, French singer Anna Held. After having lost all his money in Monte Carlo, Flo decides to go to London himself and soon learns about Anna. With money that Billings gives him to leave for home, Flo buys orchids for Anna and charms her into signing a contract with him, even though he admits that he is broke. At first Anna, who has fallen in love with Flo, is not the sensation that he had predicted, but after a publicity stunt in which it is reported that Anna bathes everyday in milk to keep her complexion lovely, she becomes one of the biggest stars on Broadway. After Anna and Flo marry, he continues to look for new and bigger ideas for shows, hurting the high-strung Anna, who only needs him to make her happy. His next show is a smash hit, the first of the Ziegfeld Follies , featuring hundreds of beautiful women whom Flo, an admirer of female beauty, calls his "Glorified Girls." One of the girls, Audrey Dane, is an opportunistic young woman in whom Flo takes a personal interest. Her drinking keeps her from being a big success on Broadway and soon alienates Flo, but not before Anna sees Audrey kissing him. Though Flo loves Anna and tries to explain, she leaves him and files for divorce. Sobered after the breakup of his marriage, Flo loses interest in women until he sees Broadway star Billie Burke at a party and is immediately attracted to her. Her producer doesn't want her to see Flo, but they court secretly and are soon married. The day after they marry, a heart-broken and ill Anna telephones Flo to congratulate him. Though she feigns cheerfulness on the phone, later she admits to her maid that she only divorced Flo because she thought it would make him come back to her. Several years later, after repeated Broadway successes, Flo is very happy with Billie and their little daughter Patricia, but his extravagances, both on stage and in his personal life, bring him constant financial problems. Although he has been broke before, he begins to despair when he overhears some men in a barbershop say he will never have another hit. To prove them wrong, he vows to have four hits running simultaneously on Broadway, and with Billie's encouragement, and an advance from Billings, he is able to produce four successful shows in the same season. His financial worries appear to be over, until the stock market crashes in 1929. Although he had never invested in the market previously, concern for financial security made him buy stock on margin and he is wiped out, as is Billings. Now old and ill, Flo looks forward to starting new shows with his old stars, while Billie is forced to go back to the stage to support them. After a visit from Billings, who pretends to have money and encourages Flo to plan a new show, Flo dies, dreaming of bigger sets and higher stairs for production numbers in a new show.