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In 1925, playboy Jonas Cord, Jr., inherits the Cord Chemical factory after his father dies from a stroke in the midst of their quarrel. Jonas immediately buys out all shares of Cord Chemical; the transactions include making a financial settlement with his stepmother, Rina, who jilted him to marry the senior Cord for his money, and liquidating the stock belonging to Nevada Smith, a cowhand who acted as father to him during his childhood. Later, Rina becomes a top fashion model in Paris, and Nevada becomes a popular silent screen cowboy star, while Jonas enlists the aid of McAllister, his father's attorney, and engineer Buzz Dalton to build the business into a multimillion dollar empire pioneering in plastics and aeronautics. On a whim, Jonas marries, then neglects, Monica Winthrop, after ruining her father's business. With the coming of talking pictures, Nevada's career at Bernard B. Norman's Film Studios is threatened until Jonas offers financial backing for a film to star both the aging star and Rina, who has returned to the United States; in addition, Jonas decides to direct the film himself and hires Nevada's agent, Dan Pierce, as his public relations man. Jonas' behavior forces Monica to leave him, while the nymphomaniacal Rina, now married to Nevada, becomes an alcoholic and dies in a car accident; Norman and Pierce, however, arrange to withhold the news from Jonas long enough to sell him the studio, which is virtually worthless now that its biggest star is dead. Jonas goes on a binge but recovers when he meets call girl Jennie Denton, who resembles Rina; Jonas turns her into a star and proposes marriage, but she is horrified to learn that Jonas relishes her degraded past. His treatment of Jennie so disgusts his associates that Dalton quits, and even Nevada is appalled to the point of provoking a bloody fistfight, which Nevada wins. Jonas, who has lived for years in fear of hereditary insanity because of his twin brother who died, insane, in infancy, then learns from Nevada that the infant was not a full brother; he then returns to Monica, who learned the truth years before, to begin a new life with their daughter.