Daisy Clover (Natalie Wood) is a beach-loving 15-year-old living in Santa Monica with her loving but obssessively card-playing mother. Daisy likes to sing and has big dreams, so her mother enters her voice in a talent-search contest. When Daisy wins, it's her big break and she meets Raymond Swan (Christopher Plummer), who becomes her manager.
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Daisy lands a movie role, gets a lot of publicity and becomes a sensation. But her mother is pushed out of the way by the movie studio, which actually has her committed to an asylum without permission. Missing her mother and growing wary of Swan's proprietariness, Daisy meets and falls for the handsome Wade Lewis, the reigning Hollywood heartthrob. He seems to understand what she is going through. He sweeps Daisy off her feet and they marry. But after the wedding night, Daisy wakes up alone. Wade has disappeared completely, without explanation, so the marriage is annulled.
After her mother dies, Daisy has only her work, but it's empty. While in a sound room to dub a film segment, Daisy stares at her larger-than-life image repeating motions over and over and she suffers a nervous breakdown. As she convalesces, she is visited by both Wade Lewis and Swan. Lewis' brief and quiet visit cheers Daisy a little. He does seem to understand her because his real self has been trapped inside the Hollywood image too. Daisy tries to tell Swan when he visits that she doesn't want to go back, but he shows his true colors by threatening to strip her of everything if she doesn't do what he says. He even makes a pass at her and slaps her around to show he's the boss.
Daisy goes back to her old house on the beach in Santa Monica and attempts to commit suicide by gassing herself, but in a genuinely funny scene, is thwarted by various factors. As the film concludes with a bang, viewers will get to see just what is "inside Daisy Clover" when she declares war on the Hollywood establishment.