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Polish immigrant Polly Adler is taken to a dancehall by Bernie, the foreman of the sweatshop where she works. There, she meets Lorraine and Madge, two "fast" girls who give her tips on makeup and man-baiting. Later that evening Bernie rapes her, but her uncle, with whom she lives, refuses to believe it wasn't her fault and throws her out of his home. She moves into an apartment used as a front by racketeer Frank Costigan and innocently starts her career as a madam when Frank pays her for inviting her attractive girl friends to parties. As Polly becomes more successful, she moves into a plush apartment, which serves as both a bordello and an undercover meeting place for corrupt politicians, racketeers, and businessmen. Polly falls in love with Casey Booth, a musician whose career she boosts, but resolves not to see him because of her own career, of which he knows nothing. Polly is soon moved into an even plusher penthouse apartment on Park Avenue. When Casey forces Polly to see him and proposes marriage, Polly confesses her occupation. Casey walks out but later returns to say that her past is unimportant to him. Nevertheless, Polly sends him away. Meanwhile, Frank, who has become Lucky Luciano's triggerman, discovers that a shakedown of prostitutes is being conducted in Luciano's name and that a special state investigator is determined to prosecute Luciano for this. Investigating, Frank finds Luciano is innocent, and the responsible man is killed by his own brother. Later, while a party is in progress at Polly's, Casey calls Polly, making one more plea, but Polly, realizing that they could never live with her reputation, sends him out of her life forever. Sadly, she returns to the festivities, accepting her role as New York's most notorious procuress.