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In 1889, in Chicago, Mrs. Caroline Carter is victimized by her socialite husband's sensational divorce proceedings, and as a result, loses custody of her young son Dudley. Determined to acquire wealth and fame so that she can finance a legal battle to win back her son, Caroline goes to New York to become an actress. After renting a room in a theatrical boardinghouse owned by Mrs. Frazier, Caroline takes a letter of introduction to theatrical producer David Belasco who promises to write her a play in order to get rid of her. As the months pass, however, Caroline becomes impatient and stalks Belasco, impressing him with her fiery determination. Belasco works hard to make her an actress, but when the show flops, Caroline decides to marry Lou Payne, an actor from the boardinghouse who has fallen in love with her, and work in stock. The egostical Belasco, loath to admit failure, convinces her to postpone her marriage and rehearse for another play, which scores a year's run on Broadway. Returning to Chicago for a performance, Caroline realizes that her son is lost to her forever. After her European and American triumphs, Caroline tires of a life consumed by the theater and leaves Belasco to seek out and marry Payne. Infuriated, Belasco refuses to work with Caroline, who then determines to become a success on her own. After spending her fortune on a series of failed productions, Caroline loses her confidence and becomes convinced that she cannot act without Belasco. Payne persuades the producer to return to direct his former star,and when the play becomes a success, producer and actress are reunited.