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Eminent playwright John Forrester departs for London to work on his new play, The Sun Rises , while Margaret, his wife, stays behind with their young son Jackie. John's passenger liner hits a floating wreck and sinks. As the lifeboats are lowered, women and children board first, and John gives his life preserver to a woman named Henrietta Crosland. The shock of the disaster causes John to lose consciousness and later he is found dressed in women's clothes when the lifeboats are rescued by Newfoundland fisherman. Because John thinks he is a coward, he says he is fellow passenger Peter Korotoff before lapsing into a long illness. Meanwhile Henrietta tells the newspapers how John saved her, and he is assumed to have died a heroic death. Another pasenger, Alec Klein, learns John's real identity and, when John has recovered, sends him back to New York. Alec urges John to reveal himself, but John imagines that the fishermen would expose his cowardice if he admitted his identity, and so he adopts the alias of Eric Jann, and watches his son from a distance. John works for years as a dishwasher and waiter. Meanwhile, Jack attends Eastmore University, where he produces a successful play. Jack believes he has inherited his father's talent and quits school to take his play to Broadway, where it flops. John, who avidly follows Jack's career in the newspapers, loses his job when he attends the play's opening night. Afterward, John introduces himself to Jack as an old friend of his father, and convinces him to collaborate on a new play. When the play is a success, Jack tries to introduce John to his friends, but fearing recognition, John flees the theater. Jack brings Margaret to John's apartment. When Margaret recognizes John, they decide to reunite somewhere far away, and to never reveal the truth to Jack.