powered by AFI
Judy Blair supports her sculptor husband Alex by posing for art classes at the Academy of Applied Arts, where Alex is a student. Teacher Paul Vadja notices Alex's roving eye and his lack of commitment to his art, and advises Judy to give Alex only her love, and nothing else. Judy, however, sees Alex as her "work of art," and intends to invest her all in him. When Judy discovers she is pregnant, she keeps the information from Alex, but asks him to start working as a model to bring in more money. Inspired by Judy's ambitions for Alex, Paul sculpts a statue called "Ambition," and at Judy's urging, both she and Alex pose for it. Alex quickly becomes bored and tells his wife that he has found someone else to help him become a great artist--another woman who will not make him work. He leaves Judy, but sometime later discovers that the other woman has no money, so he joins the armed forces. After a year and a half, Alex returns to find that Judy and Paul have fallen in love and are raising a son named Paul Jr. Alex thinks that Judy was having an affair with Paul when they were still married and that Paul Jr. is the product of that affair. He tries to destroy the statue "Ambition," which has brought Paul recognition, and Judy accidentally kills him when she tries to stop him. Judy is sentenced to life imprisonment, and makes Paul promise that he will tell her son that she is dead. Ten years later, Judy is released from prison and Paul brings her home to meet Paul, Jr. When Junior finds out that Paul and Judy are to be married, he protests violently and tries to run away. Judy stops him, but realizes that he could never accept her as his mother, and so she leaves. After nine years, Junior has gone to Paris with Paul, Paul's best friend Pogey, and Junior's fiancée, Lorna March. When he sees a worn and haggard woman selling cigarettes, he is inspired to paint a picture entitled "Defeat," and asks her to pose for him. Unknown to Junior, the woman is Judy, who has taken to drink and goes by the name of Mary Brown. One day while she is posing for Junior, Paul comes home and recognizes her. She tries to escape but, having searched for her for years, Paul refuses to let her go and introduces his son to his true mother, who has sacrificed her life for him. Junior retitles his painting "Sacrifice: A Portrait of My Mother," and the family is happily reunited.