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Tempermental theater impressario Oscar Jaffe changes the name of his newest discovery, former lingerie model Mildred Plotka, to Lily Garland, and begins rehearsing his latest play. Oscar drives Lily hard in rehearsal, bullying her and even stabbing her with a pin to induce her to scream properly. His harsh tactics pay off, however, and Lily is a smash. On her opening night, Oscar humbly bids her farewell, saying that a true star belongs to no man. The insecure Lily falls for his act and begs him to stay with her. Thus begins their professional partnership, which breeds three tremendously successful plays in as many years as well as a tempestuous personal relationship. Lily, driven to distraction by Oscar's egotism and jealous possessiveness, wants to end their relationship, but collapses in tears after a fight in which he fakes a suicide attempt. The next morning, the repentant Oscar swears to her that he trusts her completely, but after she leaves for rehearsal, he calls a detective, Oscar McGonigle, and orders him to put Lily under surveillance, including reading her mail and tapping her phone. Time passes until, one afternoon, Lily does not attend rehearsal. Oliver Webb, Oscar's business manager, reports this to Oscar and tells him that he has asked a friend to trace the interference on Lily's phone line. While Oscar reacts hysterically, a battered and bruised McGonigle rushes in to report that Lily attacked him after discovering the phone tap and that she has taken a train to Hollywood, leaving Oscar and New York for good. Oscar almost suffers a nervous breakdown but recovers and attempts to build another unknown actress the way he did Lily. She does not possess Lily's magic, however, and Oscar's productions flop one by one. After a devastating failure in Chicago, Oscar, Oliver and Owen O'Malley, Oscar's press agent, narrowly avoid the sheriff and board the Twentieth Century train bound for New York. Oliver warns Oscar that his creditors are going to take away the Jaffe Theatre. Soon after, Owen discovers that Lily, whose great Hollywood success has turned her into a tempermental eccentric of Oscar's caliber, is on the train with her young boyfriend, George Smith. Owen and Oliver discuss asking Lily to return to Oscar in order to save the theater, and despite Oliver's trepidations, they go to her and hand her a sob story about Oscar's woes. George becomes jealous and throws them out for upsetting Lily, who refuses to work with Oscar again. Oscar is pleased when told later that Lily is on the train but becomes dismayed when he sees George kissing her. While Oscar plots against George, the conductors apprehend Matthew J. Clark, an odd little man who has been placing "Repent Now" stickers on the train and its passengers. The conductors have received a wire from Clark's nephew stating that Clark, while harmless, is a lunatic who writes bad checks. Meanwhile, Oscar meets two European actors who are the stars of the Passion Play, and decides to produce the play in New York with Lily starring as Mary Magdalene. Oliver searches to find a backer for Oscar's Passion Play and comes up with Clark, who agrees to invest his pretended wealth. Meanwhile, Lily asks George to elope, but he rejects her and storms out after Oscar comes in and tells him that he was once Lily's lover. Contented that he has now gotten rid of George, Oscar proceeds to woo Lily by describing the role of Mary Magdalene. She is not taken in by his extravagant musings, however, and tells him that she is going to New York to sign with Max Jacobs, Oscar's former stage manager who is now a successful producer. Lily throws Oscar out, but he becomes optimistic again when Clark presents him with a check for $250,000. Soon after, everyone concerned finds out the truth about Clark, and Lily and Oscar try to outdo each other with their histrionic fits. Later that night, Oscar yet again plays at suicide in front of Oliver and Owen. They leave in disgust but rush back after hearing a gun shot, the result of a struggle between Clark and Oscar for the gun. Oscar receives only a slight flesh wound, but, with Owen and Oliver's help, uses it as a ploy to convince Lily that he is dying. Lily, who truly loves the rascal, agrees to sign Oscar's contract, with which he wishes to be buried. Oscar revives immediately and, at their first rehearsal of their new play, he treats her exactly as he had years earlier.