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After driving his ostentatiously dressed daughter Peggy in a battered model T from Georgia to Hollywood, Colonel Marmaduke Oldfish Pepper announces at a film studio gate that he will let the president of the company put her in the movies. At the casting office, where father and daughter tramp past a waiting crowd to speak to the clerk, Peggy, who is asked for her photographs, offers her baby and childhood portraits and then demonstrates her acting skills by making facial expressions she uses to portray various moods. Amused, the clerk signs her up, but, while waiting for her to be cast, the Peppers' money dwindles down to forty cents. At the studio's commissary, after the colonel charms a server into giving him extra crackers, a slapstick comedy artist, Billy Boone, sits down with them at the table. Despite Peggy's pretenses that she is looking over several offers, Billy realizes their desperate situation and offers to get her a job at Comet Studios where he works. On the way to her first assignment, Peggy wanders through several films in progress and disrupts the scenes before finding Billy and his colleagues. Believing that she has been cast in a dramatic role, she is wearing her prettiest party dress and does not realize she is filming a slapstick comedy, until she is thoroughly spritzed with seltzer water as the camera rolls. Although the cast and crew are impressed by her natural, surprised reaction, the horrified Peggy flees the set. Billy consoles her and convinces her to "take it on the chin." Later, during the film's preview at a movie house, Peggy becomes a hit with the audience. She still longs to play dramatic roles, which she considers "real art," but Billy explains that their kind of movie is better, because they keep the audience laughing and happy. Afterward Billy and Peggy go to a restaurant, where a casting director, impressed that Peggy's "real personality" came across onscreen, invites them to High Arts Studio. There, when Peggy and Billy discover that the studio is only interested in hiring only her, Peggy tells Billy she will not sign with the studio unless they are both hired, but Billy says he can "take it on the chin." Back at Comet Studios, where Peggy returns briefly to say goodbye to her friends, she tells Billy they will still see each other, but he predicts it will not be the same, adding philosophically that they are at a "crossroads" where their two paths lead in different directions, and encourages her to seek her dream. Later, at High Arts Studio, Peggy undergoes a screen test. While the camera rolls she is told to pretend that her lover is dying, but despite the valiant efforts of the crew, who play sad music and cut up onions, she cannot call forth tears. Only when the director suggests that Peggy pretend to be in love with someone and at the "crossroads of life," is she able to cry freely. After the crew packs up and leaves, Peggy is still crying when André Telfair, her self-centered leading man, tries to comfort her. After pointing out that she has graduated from "cheap comedy," he suggests that she must now acquire a new personality, a superior manner and new friends, and offers to introduce her to "the elite of Hollywood." Confidentially, he tells her that he is really Andre d'Bergerac, le Comte d'Avignon. Taking his suggestion to heart, Peggy changes her name to Patricia Pepoire and develops affected mannerisms, which she believes evoke refinement. During an interview, when a reporter asks Peggy to talk about her life, André, interrupting before she tells the truth, claims that she is a descendant of Robert E. Lee and "has chosen film as her medium of self-expression." Over time, while Peggy becomes spoiled and self-centered living in a mansion and served by a maid, Billy's life remains the same, except that when he invites her to dinner, he is refused, as she is now dating André. One day Billy discovers that he and his Comet Studio friends are shooting on location near the site where Peggy and André are filming. Billy, who is still in love with Peggy, approaches her, but she is too ashamed to let her colleagues see them together. When she introduces André, Billy recognizes him as Andy, a former waiter who served him spaghetti at an inexpensive restaurant. Offended, Peggy calls Billy a "cheap clown" and returns to shoot her scene, as Billy sadly watches. Later, while having lunch at the stars' table in the studio commissary, Peggy is ordered to the producer's office. Showing her the many telegrams from theater owners across the country who are complaining about her new image and canceling their bookings, he demands that she again become the "real Peggy Pepper." Afterward, the sympathetic André says that no one understands a "great artist" and soon the newspapers announce their upcoming marriage, which will be held at her mansion. On her wedding day, the uninvited Billy sneaks into her house and meets with her in the dining room, which is set for a feast. Billy pleads for her to reconsider, and accuses her of ruining her career and marrying for a phony title. To help her remember the good old days, he impulsively spritzes her with seltzer water. Angrily, she throws food at him, and when he prepares to throw the wedding cake, she ducks, and consequently, when André enters the room, he is hit in the face with the cake. When Peggy cries, the sorrowful Billy admits he is a clumsy fool and does not hear her calling for him as he leaves. Alone with André, Peggy claims that they are both fakes and that Billy was the only real person, and cancels the wedding. Peggy's next picture is set in a European village during World War I. At her suggestion, the director, King Vidor, hires a new leading man, who is unaware that Peggy is his leading lady. When the camera starts rolling, Billy, who plays a soldier reuniting with his sweetheart, is at first stunned to discover that the sweetheart is played by Peggy, who advises him to "take it on the chin." Remembering that the script calls for him to kiss the girl, the overjoyed Billy kisses Peggy passionately, and they are still kissing when the crew picks up their equipment and leaves for the day.