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At Globe Studios, motion picture director Joe Brewster and publicist Clover Doyle bid a sad farewell to their top cowboy star, Rex Randall. At a party later that night at a nightclub, Clover commiserates with Allie, the actress wife of cameraman Frank Hanneman, about the loss of authentic Western heroes such as Clover's father, Zach Doyle. When Clover then notices phony Western singer Hughie Mack entrancing the teenage crowd, she forms a plan to develop him into a legendary idol. To that end, Clover returns to the club later and asks to see Hughie. Assuming that she is just another smitten female, Hughie attempts to seduce her, scoffing at her "story" about making him into a star. He agrees to meet her at a stable the next day, but arrives in a gold-lamé cowboy jacket and spends more time making passes at Clover than riding a horse. She finally gives up in disgust, after which the studio stuntman, Montana Burriss, informs Hughie that he just lost his chance at making millions. Intrigued, Hughie apologizes to Clover and promises to work hard over the next six weeks to prepare for a screen test. Weeks later, his test is a success, and although studio boss Richard L. Howard sees through Hughie's slick patter, he hires him for one movie, informing Clover that she will be fully responsible for shaping Hughie's image. By the end of his first picture, Hughie, now called Slim Carter, already acts like an arrogant star. Due to Hughie's secret fear of heights, they must conduct his press tour via train, and as they travel Clover continually interrupts his dalliances with women. Soon, Hughie is a Western idol, and Clover helps him negotiate a contract that includes a ranch home. There, he conducts an affair with grasping starlet Charlene Carroll, whom Clover despises. One day, Clover informs Hughie that eight-year-old orphan Leo Gallaher, the winner of the "Visit Slim Carter Contest," is coming to stay for a month. Hughie agrees to Clover's demand that Charlene stay away from the ranch during that time, and later suggests that, as a publicity stunt, he announce that he will adopt Leo, but then "discover" that a single man cannot do so. Disgusted by his thoughtlessness, Clover slaps him. Leo arrives the next day and immediately charms Clover with his naiveté and encyclopedic knowledge of Old West lore. She brings him to the ranch, where she is to stay with him in the guest house, and there discovers Charlene. After Clover sends Leo to meet Hughie and orders Charlene out, Charlene attacks her, forcing Clover to punch the ingénue. In the barn, Hughie struggles to answer Leo's hundreds of in-depth questions, and that night, secretly studies an Indian sign-language book supposedly written by Slim Carter. Over the next few weeks, Leo's sweetness wins everyone over, and he is soon invited to work on the Slim Carter film set. One night, Joe asks Leo to present an anniversary gift to Frank and Allie, and the boy asks Hughie to do it, believing that this would thrill the Hannemans. Touched by Leo's faith in him, Hughie makes a moving speech about the importance of love, and Clover views him with wonder. The day before the world premiere party of Hughie's new movie, Joe marvels to Clover that the whole crew has kept up the pretense that "Slim" is authentic, in order to protect Leo's feelings. After Hughie hears Leo attribute Montana's rope tricks to Hughie's guidance, however, a shamed Hughie asks Montana to tutor him. On the way home from the successful premiere, Joe asks Clover to marry him and adopt Leo, and after she turns him down, he accuses her of carrying a torch for the legend of Slim Carter. When Clover goes to the ranch, Leo receives news that one of the orphanage babies has been adopted and sadly explains that he is too old to find new parents. Hughie advises Leo on how to deal with loneliness, and after the boy goes to sleep, confesses his love to Clover, who wants to respond in kind but does not. The next day on the set, Clover tries to hide from Leo that it is Montana, not Hughie, who is performing the dangerous jump being filmed. Leo has binoculars, however, and shows Clover that it is actually Hughie who jumps from the waterfall. Realizing that Hughie has conquered his fear in order to live up to Leo's image of Slim, both Clover and Joe congratulate the actor. The next morning marks both Clover's birthday and Leo's last day at the ranch. While Hughie is on the set, Clover opens his gift, an Indian marriage necklace, and rushes to see him, but there sees Charlene leave Hughie's trailer. Not realizing that Hughie has just broken off his affair, Clover stalks off in anger. That night, they hold a party for Leo with Joe, Frank and Allie, at which Leo announces to Clover that Hughie is going to adopt him. Clover believes that this is part of Hughie's cruel publicity stunt, until Leo confesses that Hughie revealed to him secrets about his difficult childhood without a father, and vowed his love for Clover. Clover rushes into the back room, where a crushed Hughie is on the phone learning that a single man cannot adopt a child. As Clover kisses Hughie, Leo announces into the phone that his father is making plans to marry his mother.