powered by AFI
Mark Gordon, the unscrupulous husband and manager of ballerina Nina Petrova Gordon, arranges for her to leave her current ballet company to become the prima ballerina in the famed Covent Garden Ballet. Although Nina is excited and grateful, she fears that their marriage is turning into a business relationship. Mark, meanwhile, is having an affair with another dancer, Adele. When Adele complains that he is not securing opportunities for her, Mark points out that he has spent eight years building up Nina's career and regards her as an investment. Jill, Nina's and Mark's young daughter, attends her mother's opening night in Giselle with her nanny, Mary. After Nina's well-received performance, Jill and Mary join others, including Madame Tamara Bayanova, Nina's teacher, in congratulating her, then return home while Mark and Nina go to a party. When Nina catches sight of Mark and Adele kissing passionately, she leaves the party but Mark catches up with her in his car and they head home together. Driving recklessly, Mark collides with a truck, causing the car to overturn. At a hospital, Dr. John Ransome tells Mark that Nina's left leg is broken and although it will heal in time, she also has major internal injuries, which will probably put an end to her dancing career. With Nina hospitalized for some time, Mark has no income, forcing him to sell the family's house, let Mary go and send Jill to live with Madame Tamara. Mark, ever the opportunist, tells Adele that he now intends to promote her career and writes a letter to Nina informing her that he is taking Adele on a dancing tour on the continent. Madame meanwhile, has been coaching Jill and realizes that the child is a natural-born dancer. After four months in the hospital, Nina is despondent about her future until John takes her to a ward filled with children with disabilities and persuades her to begin physical therapy. Soon, Nina is walking again and, during a visit from Madame and Jill, Madame convinces her that she can become a teacher at her school. Nina leaves the hospital, but enlists John's help in attempting to adapt dance into a form of therapy for the disabled children. Nina, with Jill's help, is particularly successful with a young boy named Peter, who initially refuses to participate, but is soon performing with Jill in a recital. Although John falls in love with Nina, she is uncertain of her situation with Mark, who she has heard is now in America. Toward the end of a public performance by Madame's school, Mark arrives at the theatre in the company of American film producer and director Joseph Miller, just in time to see Jill perform. Miller decides that Jill would be perfect for his next film and wants to sign her to a contract. Mark, who has become Miller's personal assistant, tells him that he will first have to find the best way to present this offer to Nina. When Mark goes backstage alone, he is greeted happily by Jill and invites her and Nina to dinner at his plush hotel. Later, Mark visits their simple, top floor flat where he tells Nina that he wants to give Jill a screen test and probably take her to Hollywood, then suggests that he and Nina divorce. Nina, however, tells him that she will never permit him to exploit their daughter. Later, after Miller threatens to fire Mark unless he gets Jill under contract, Mark runs into Adele and asks her to help him to discredit Nina as an appropriate guardian for Jill, thereby enabling him to gain custody of the child. Mark phones Nina and tells her that Miller is insisting she come to dinner with him, so she reluctantly engages a baby-sitter for Jill and goes to the hotel. Later, Mark, posing as John, phones the sitter and tells her she can leave as he and Nina will be home soon. Meanwhile, Mark traps Nina in his hotel room where he tells her he knows that John wants to marry her and offers her letters from Adele for use in a divorce suit in exchange for her approving Jill's contract. After the sitter has left, one of her un-extinguished cigarettes starts a fire and when Adele arrives to cause a commotion about Nina's whereabouts, she finds smoke billowing from under the door and raises the alarm. As the fire brigade arrives, Adele phones Mark and tells him about the situation and he and Nina race to the flat. Meanwhile, Jill wakes up and tries to escape the flames by going out onto the roof. When they arrive, Mark rushes into the building and is able to throw Jill to safety, but dies in the fire as the roof collapses. At the hospital, John tells Nina that Jill is not badly hurt and should recover quickly. Safe in her bed, Jill, unaware of her father's sacrifice, dreams of her life as a ballet dancer.