Sarah Storm (Ruth Chatterton) has ambitions to go on the stage and with hard work and determination she succeeds - and even drags her lazy, shiftless boyfriend, Jim (Fuller Mellish Jnr.), along with her. Just as things are looking brighter she gets word that her little sister has died and in a weak moment she agrees to marry Jim. With a little baby to feed, Jim has reverted to his lazy ways and is forever telling her to put the baby into a home - until Sarah is pushed to breaking point!!! When Jim goes to a family acquaintance to borrow money, the man expresses envy that Jim has a child - he and his wife have never been able to have children. A plan then hatches in Jim's drunken brain - he joins the Marines, but before he sails he sells the baby to the childless couple.
Four years later Sarah is entertaining wounded soldiers in a hospital when she finds Jim dying, but before he does he repents and tells her the name of the family - Ashmore - where he left the baby. When the family is traced they are adamant that the baby is theirs - Frederic March plays Howard Vanning, their lawyer, who over the years becomes suspicious that, maybe, Bobby isn't their son. Bobby (Phillipe De Lacy) is growing up extremely unhappy - his parents are over protective and have wrapped him in cotton wool. Sarah, meanwhile, has studied music and become a world class opera singer but she has never given up on her quest to find her son. Howard organises for Sarah to meet Bobby but the Ashmores, who know all too well that Bobby is not their son, substitute the maid's son, who is the same age, for the inspection. The real Bobby has run away and "thumbs" his way to his Uncle Howard's, who has just turned up with Sarah. The stage is set for a very teary ending, involving a speedboat accident and a near drowning.
Ruth Chatterton seemed a bit "all at sea" in the first half of the movie as the gauche immigrant girl, "Dutchy", who wants to better herself. She laid the accent on rather thick. The last half was better, when she was a world famous diva and a bit more refined, she seemed more at ease.She definitely did not play Sarah in a sentimental manner and the film was all the better for that. Fuller Mellish Jnr. , who died before this film was released, seemed to be typecast as playing detestable villains - in "Sarah and Son" and "Applause", 2 of his 3 films he played low lifes.