powered by AFI
After singer Susan Caldwell, known to her fans as Estrellita, finishes one of her radio performances, she returns to her New York apartment, where she lives with her mentor, Marian Washburn. Susan and Marian immediately begin to quarrel when Susan declares that she is tired and wants to quit the business. A concerned Marian follows Susan upstairs, and a few moments later, a gunshot rings out and Marian is discovered by the maid, Mollie, bending over an unconscious Susan. Although Marian tells the police that she shot the singer, her admission of guilt is not believed by her longtime friend and sometime lover, Luke Jordan, a popular composer and pianist. Luke hires attorney Brook Matthews, Susan's ex-fiancé, to defend Marian. Flanked by Luke and Brook, Marian relates her version of events to Assistant District Attorney Roberts and police inspector Fowler: After following Susan into her room, Marian haranges her protegee about her career, demanding that she continue singing. When Susan states that she is returning to her former simple life, Marian shoots her with a gun that she later claims was a gift from an admiring soldier. Back in the police station, Marian concludes her story and is returned to her cell. Frustrated by Marian's passivity, Luke invites Fowler to lunch and tells him the story of how, years earlier, he and Marian met: In a New York café, Luke and Marian, a young, promising singer, perform together. Marian's career is about to take off when she develops a rare form of larnygitis. No longer able to sing at the level she is used to, Marian decides to give up performing. Later, Luke and Marian meet Susan when she faints from hunger after auditioning unsuccessfully for a Broadway show. Marian and Luke take Susan back to Marian's apartment and there learn that the pretty, unsophisticated girl from Azusa, California, has a voice "with hormones." Impressed by Susan's talent, Marian becomes her mentor and begins grooming her for a career in show business. After Luke concludes the first part of his story, he tries to see the heavily guarded Susan at the hospital. There he runs into Lee Crenshaw, a surly ex-soldier Susan met while performing in New Orleans, from whom Luke assumes Marian got her gun. Unable to talk with Susan, Luke goes to Fowler's home and, to the delight of Fowler's wife Mary, an amateur detective, continues his tale: Marian takes Susan to Paris, but as Luke later learns, Susan spurns her attempts at education and flees with a salesman to Algiers. Luke tracks the flighty, petulant Susan to an American nightclub in Algiers and there comes up with the idea of using the classic song "Estrellita" as her signature tune. Sometime later, while on board a luxury liner, Susan sings "Estrellita" to an appreciative crowd, which includes Brook Matthews and his mother. As Marian and Luke had hoped, Brook decides to use his money to promote Susan and soon falls in love with her. Back at the Fowlers', the detective remains unconvinced by Luke's testimonial, but Mary takes it upon herself to inspect Susan's apartment. While there, Mollie asks Mary to mail a Louisiana motel key that Susan had given to her just before she was shot. Later, while waiting at the hospital for Susan to recover from surgery, Lee reveals to Luke that he gave his gun to Susan, not Marian. When a groggy Susan confirms Marian's version of events, however, her mentor appears condemned until Mary shows her husband and Luke the motel key. Mary also points out that, shortly after Susan had left surgery, her nurse read aloud the newspaper account of the shooting, and thereby had influenced her memory. Confronted with the key, Susan admits that she married Lee in Louisiana, but quickly regretted her decision and fled to New York. Susan then recounts the moments leading up to the shooting: Upset about Lee, who has sent her a threatening telegram, Susan quarrels with Marian. When Marian reads the telegram and sees Lee's gun on Susan's vanity, she panics, believing that the singer intends to harm herself. Marian and Susan grab for the gun at the same time, and Marian accidentally shoots her protegee during the ensuing struggle. With the mystery finally unraveled, Fowler dismisses all charges against Marian. Susan then makes up with Brook, and Marian finally proposes to the faithful Luke.