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Tom Duncan, who hails from Sunville, Tennessee, wins an art scholarship in Paris with his naturalistic painting "The Thorn." He rents a flat in the Montparnasse district at the insistence of Kay Loring, a tenant of an apartment building who immediately recognizes his complete naiveté and timidity. She commandeers his funds to pay for her rent and a veritable feast for all the resident starving artists. Fellow artist Vergil Crock convinces Tom that his painting style is outdated and that he must adopt a more abstract manner. Crock also introduces gold digging seductress Nada, the daughter of a Russian family living in the same building, and leads Nada to believe that Tom is wealthy. Although Kay and Tom fall in love, she stands him up to join her former boyfriend, amiable alcoholic Arthur Copeland, for his birthday dinner. Tom is hurt, and that night, Nada takes him to a nightclub, where they watch a painted lady dance and Nada plies Tom with champagne. The drunken Tom is seduced by Nada, who convinces him that Kay is a tramp. While Kay is out with Copeland, he proposes to her, but she rejects his offer because she loves Tom, although she wishes to remain friends with Copeland. Tom's disillusionment and Nada's influence compel him to completely alter his lifestyle. He ignores Kay and drinks champagne continuously as inspiration for his abstract painting, "The Wheel of Life," while Nada fritters away his funds. Crock attempts to correct the situation by telling Kay that Tom is heartbroken, but when they walk into Tom's apartment, he is wrestling with Nada. Kay leaves, unaware that Nada has been mercilessly tickling a resistant Tom in order to get money out of his pocket. When Tom tells Crock about Nada's lies about Kay, Crock angrily drags her out of the room. His manhandling of the unmanageable Nada infuriates her father, who challenges him to a duel. Later, Crock brings Kay to a party where Tom's painting is unveiled. Tom receives admiration from all but Kay, who tells him that his new pals are phonies and chiselers, and that the painting is trash. Tom slaps her, and Kay returns to Copeland and accepts his proposal. On Bastille Day, Crock manages to survive the duel with Nada's father, although the Russians believe he is dead. He later tells Copeland that his engagement to Kay is a mismatch. Tom becomes the laughing stock of Paris when he wins an art contest, but then loses after informing the judges that they judged his painting while it was upside down. Nada's shock upon finding out that Tom is broke finally exposes her greed, and Tom and Kay renew their friendship. Copeland understands the wisdom of Crock's advice and, on his wedding day, pretends to be drunk and tells Tom and Kay to marry before he sobers up. The marriage starts off well after Tom gets a contract with a puzzle manufacturer that wants to market his paintings. As Crock and Copeland console each other, Copeland is forced to carry Crock out of the apartment building so the watchful Russians will continue to believe he is dead.