The movie is set in London in 1914, on the eve of World War I (and the year Chaplin made his first film). Calvero, once a famous stage clown but now a washed-up drunk, saves a young dancer, Thereza “Terry” Ambrose, from suicide. Nursing her back to health, Calvero helps Terry regain her self-esteem and resume her dancing career. In doing so he regains his own self-confidence, but his attempts to make a comeback meet with failure. Terry says she wants to marry Calvero despite their age difference, although she has befriended Neville, a young composer Calvero believes would be better suited to her. In order to give them a chance, Calvero leaves home and becomes a street entertainer. Terry, now starring in her own show, eventually finds Calvero and persuades him to return to the stage for a benefit concert. Reunited with an old partner, Calvero gives a triumphant comeback performance. He suffers a heart attack during a routine, however, and dies in the wings while watching Terry, the second act on the bill, dance on stage.