On Oscar night, nominee Frank Fane anticipates he will be the winner of the award for best actor. His longtime friend, Hymie Kelly, reflects on Fane's rise to fame. In flashback, Fane's career unrolls from its tawdry beginnings: Small-time cabaret performers Frank Fane, Hymie Kelly, and Laurel Scott run afoul of the law and are falsely arrested. They drift to New York, where the ruthlessly ambitious Frank rejects Laurel for a beautiful dress designer, Kay Bergdahl, unaware that Laurel is pregnant by him. Frank's good looks and fast temper arouse the interest of drama coach Sophie Cantaro, who gets him a small acting part and offers to help launch his career. Persuading her agent, Kappy Kapstetter, to take Frank as a client, she manages to get Frank a Hollywood contract with producer Kenneth H. Regan. Frank plunges into a life of extravagance and publicity seeking. He sends for his old friend Hymie to serve as companion and public relations man and asks him about Laurel. Hymie tells him that he married her and she died. During his drive for fame, Frank pauses long enough to arrange for Kay's promotion to studio designer and then to marry her in Tijuana. Before long, Frank's behavior has made him countless enemies and has caused him to become a boxoffice failure despite the critical acclaim given his most recent picture. Dropped by Regan, Frank is promoted by Kapstetter for a TV pilot but walks out on the project when he learns that he has been nominated for an Oscar. Determined to win the award, Frank hires a private detective, Barney Yale, to leak the story of his past arrest to the press, in hopes of turning Academy voter sympathy to himself; but his scheme backfires as Yale tries to blackmail him. Abandoned by everyone, Frank attends the ceremonies alone. Emcee Bob Hope calls Merle Oberon to present the best actor award. Shattered, Frank rises from his seat when the actress reads the name of Frank Sinatra as the winner.