Harry Dawes is a veteran movie director-writer attending the funeral of the Contessa Torlato-Favrini. With him are two others, the Contessa's husband and Hollywood PR man, Oscor Muldoon. Each man has a part to tell about the Contessa and the movie fades to flashbacks with each man narrating his section.
Harry Dawes begins by admitting he was washed up until business tycoon Kirk Edwards hired him for a film. Looking for a new star for the female lead, Harry hears about a Spanish dancer named Maria Vargas and takes Edwards to Spain to check her out. She is earthy, exotic and wild, having been raised by gypsies. She has also come from a very poor background. She agrees to become their star--and the object of Edwards' attentions.
Muldoon narrates how he helped Maria Vargas becomes Maria D'Amati, a sensation in Hollywood. Men lust for her, among them the wealthy playboy Alberto Bravano. Tiring of Edward's possessiveness, Maria chooses Alberto as her new patron. But even with success, Maria is restless, like a hungry child, and she takes pleasure where she can find it, even with servants.
Her salvation comes in the person of Count Vincenzo Torlato-Favrini, who takes up the story next. Maria's affair with Alberto has palled on her and he humiliates her in public but gets a slap in the face himself from the Count. The Count offers his arm to Maria. She takes it and follows him into a new life, leaving Hollywood behind. Maria finds true love with the Count, but the tragedy is that there can be no children as he was injured in the war. He is the last of his line. Maria's solution is to give him a child by using another man. Harry tries to warn her, but it is too late. When the Count finds Maria with another man, he doesn't understand and there is bloodshed.