An ingénue insinuates herself into the lives of an established but aging stage actress and her circle of theater friends.
The only son of wealthy widow Violet Venable dies while on vacation with his cousin Catherine. What the girl saw was so horrible that she went insane; now Mrs. Venable wants Catherine lobotomized to cover up the truth.
This film begins at the funeral of Ava Gardner, a former Spanish peasant, cabaret dancer, and movie star, who at the time of her death was a full-fledged contessa. Her life-story unfolds in flashback recollections from her mourners.