Jenny Stewart (Joan Crawford) is a Broadway musical star of renowned drive and perfectionism. In her relentless determination to give her audiences her best ("No Jenny Stewart show is going to be a flop."), she orders everybody around with incessant demands. When her rehearsal pianist suddenly quits, he is replaced by blind pianist Tye Graham (Michael Wilding). Though Graham knows all her arrangements backwards and forwards, he offers one innocent suggestion that Stewart alter a tempo -- and she demands he be fired (while his seeing-eye dog, Duchess, growls menacingly).
She soon recants, however, because she realizes he was right. As rehearsals continue, she grows to respect his musicianship and his opinion, because he's the one person she realizes is always honest with her.
It soon becomes clear that Jenny is isolated and lonely in her hard-earned stardom. Her boyfriend, Cliff Willard (Gig Young), is a handsome but alcoholic hanger-on who cheats on her. Her mother (Marjorie Rambeau) and sister (Nancy Gates) depend on Jenny's financial support.
We learn that Tye lost his sight in the war -- and also that he paid Jenny's original rehearsal pianist to quit so that Tye could take his place. We learn that Tye is in love with his remembered vision of Jenny when he saw her in a show before he lost his sight. Tye is a man of independent means who lives well, to Jenny's surprise when she visits him to demand that he come back to rehearsals.
Jenny does all she can to disguise her growing feelings for Tye. When he resists her subtle manipulations and finally refuses to accompany the cast to the out-of-town tryouts at the end of rehearsals, Jenny and Tye have an explosive argument during which he mentions her "gypsy madonna" hair.
Later, at her mother's, Jenny confesses her love for Tye and mentions his comment. Her mother seems to remember the comment from somewhere and asks Jenny to get out one of the the scrapbooks her mother's kept throughout Jenny's career. There it is: the "gypsy madonna" comment made in a review Tye Graham wrote just before he left for the war.
Now that she realizes how Tye really feels about her, Jenny returns to his apartment and silently takes her place near him while he plays a furiously angry version of "Tenderly" -- one of Jenny's early hits. He's incensed when he discovers her presence, but the two finally confess their love and their need for each other.