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Rick Rias, the former star of the Flying Fontaines aerial troupe, returns to the circus after serving two years in the army. After he is welcomed by Victor, the patriarch of the Fontaine family, Victor's daughter Suzanne and son Paul, Rick takes to the ropes, much to the consternation of his father, Roberto Rias, the famed aerialist who taught Rick to fly. Roberto has always been highly critical of his son, and regards him as overly cocky and lacking discipline. In addition to incurring his father's displeasure, Rick is further chagrinned to learn that Jan, his former sweetheart and a fellow aerialist, has married Paul, the troupe's catcher. The next day, Rick begins to flirt with the much younger Suzanne, who once had a schoolgirl crush on him. Roberto insists that Rick wear a safety belt known as a "mechanic" until he gets back in shape, and two weeks later, a restless Rick, now freed from the mechanic, executes a daredevil double twist. Afterward, Rick coaxes Suzanne to go out with him, but over coffee, she tells him that she is engaged to Bill Rand, the troupe's featured performer. Later, after Roberto refuses to recommend Rick for a position in the Ringling Bros. Circus, Rick storms off and gets drunk. Paul tries to restrain the inebriated Rick from climbing the ropes onto the trapeze platform, but Rick wrestles him to the floor, then takes off for the platform. Roberto sends Bill to stop Rick from performing a leap without a catcher, but Rick resists him; as a result, they both lose their balance and fall into the net. Bill's shoulder and elbow are fractured in the accident, ending his career as an aerialist. Although Roberto blames his son for the accident, Victor asks Rick to take over as the new featured flyer. After Roberto quits in disgust, the Flying Fontaines join the other acts of the Al Bartlett Circus on the road. After their performance one day, the Fontaines go to dinner while Jan stays behind to be with Rick. Rick rebuffs her advances, however, and sends her back to her husband. Soon after, Bill, who has just been released from the hospital, comes to the circus to work as a clown. Having lost his prestige as an aerialist, Bill feels insecure and pushes Suzanne to marry him, but she demurs and asks for time to consider his proposal. Later Rick, remorseful over ending Bill's career, asks Al to plant a feature story in the paper about the circus' new clown. Suzanne comes to Rick's trailer to thank him for his generosity, and when Bill sees her leave, he jealousy confronts her and demands that she give him her answer. When Suzanne rejects his proposal, Bill suspects that she is in love with Rick. That night, before the performance, a vengeful Bill sneaks into the big top and slashes the rope on the trapeze swing. Rick discovers the sabotage before the show, however, and warns Bill never to try it again. During the show, Rick performs a triple somersault while blindfolded, which is met by cheers from the crowd. To celebrate Rick's success, the troupe throws a party at a hotel ballroom. As Rick flirts with all the women at the party, Suzanne slips out onto the balcony. Rick follows, and when he kisses her, she accuses him of being conceited and tells him never to touch her again. When Rick leaves the party feeling disheartened, Jan follows him out and cajoles him into having a drink with her at a bar in the countryside. After Jan makes romantic advances to him at the bar, Rick rejects her and reminds her that Paul is his friend. Scorned, Jan returns home and lies to Paul that Rick tried to rape her. A furious Paul then attacks Rick, and Victor is forced to break up the fight. Al has asked Roberto to come and see his son perform, and as Rick climbs the ropes, Roberto senses that there is something wrong with his arm. Rick successfully executes his triple somersault, but when Paul catches him, his grip slips and Rick falls to the ground. Rick's mishap makes Suzanne realize that she has fallen in love with him. While the troupe waits for news of Rick's condition, Jan admits to Paul that she lied. Believing that Jan wanted Paul to drop Rick to get even with him, Paul informs her that he would never deliberately hurt Rick. Upon regaining consciousness, Rick clasps his father's hand and tells Paul that he slipped because he injured his arm in the fight. As Rick's stretcher is loaded onto the ambulance, Suzanne follows and kisses him.