The screenplay was adapted by Helen Deutsch and Jay Richard Kennedy from the 1954 autobiography by Lillian Roth, Mike Connolly and Gerold Frank. It was directed by Daniel Mann.
The film won the Academy Award for Costume Design for Helen Rose, and was entered into the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.
Eight-year-old Lillian Roth (Carole Ann Campbell) is constantly pushed by her domineering stage mom, Katie (Jo Van Fleet), to audition and act even though she is merely a child. One day, Katie finally secures an opportunity in Chicago, which leads to Lillian, now older (Susan Hayward), to having a successful musical career. Even though 20 years have passed, Katie is still managing Lillian as well as running her life and career choices.
Though her mother does not tell her, Lillian finds out that her childhood friend, David (Ray Danton), tried to get in contact with her. She visits him in the hospital and they soon fall in love. Because David is an entertainment company lawyer, he is able to secure Lillian shows at some big venues, including at the Palace Theatre. However, there is latent tension between David and Katie, because he feels that Katie is projecting her own ambitions onto Lillian and overworking her, while Katie feels a new man in Lillian's life only serves to distract from her high-profile career. When Lillian informs her mother she intends to marry David, Katie is disappointed and sees a repeat of her own life happening—giving up a career to have a husband and children. Suddenly, David falls ill and dies during the opening night of her show, and she is despondent having lost the love of her life.
Rebelling against her mother's domineering ways, Lillian turns to drinking. One night, in a drunken stupor, she goes out with a sailor, Wallie (Don Taylor), and ends up marrying him that night but not remembering it. They remain married, but the marriage is loveless from the beginning. The only thing the two have in common is drinking, and both drink to forget the present. Lillian's career suffers as a result of her persistent alcoholism, and she spends all her money without booking new shows. The two divorce after Wallie says he is "sick of being Mr. Lillian Roth."
Two years later, Lillian meets fellow alcoholic Tony Bardeman (Richard Conte) at a dinner party, and she falls for him. However, Lillian goes through alcohol withdrawal when she stops drinking to please her mother, and instead she turns to being a secret drinker. Her drinking gets worse when Tony goes home to California, but when he returns, Lillian begs him to stay with her. They decide to stop drinking together, but once they are married, Tony starts to drink and Lillian is outraged. When she tries to stop him from drinking and leave, he beats her.
She escapes Tony's clutches and goes to New York City to live with her mother, but contemplates suicide after a fight with her mother. Lillian goes to an Alcoholics Anonymous shelter, and suffers bouts of delirium tremens as she goes through withdrawals. She begins to fall for her sponsor, Burt McGuire (Eddie Albert), but the crippling effects of childhood polio make him wary of pursuing anything romantic. As she continues her recovery, she is ultimately invited to appear on the This Is Your Life television program to share her story of alcoholism and recovery.
According to MGM records the film made $5,873,000 in the US and Canada and $1,854,000 elsewhere, resulting in a profit of $2,933,000.
"Susan Hayward sings for the first time on the screen, and will win much applause for her throaty voice in such songs as Sing, You Sinners, When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along), and I'm Sitting on Top of the World. She is supported by Ray Danton as the man whose death first upsets her; by Jo Van Fleet as her domineering mother who realises what she has done too late; Richard Conte, Eddie Albert and Don Taylor."Wins
Best Costume Design: Helen Rose
Best Actress: Susan Hayward
Best Art Direction (Black-and-White): Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Malcolm Brown; Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis, Hugh B. Hunt
Best Cinematography (Black-and-White): Arthur E. Arling