Down and out coloratura singer Victoria (Julie Andrews
) is rejected at yet another audition in 1930's Paris. The owner of Che Lui, Labisse (Peter Arne
) thinks that she is too 'pure' for his gay clientele. Leaving in bitter disappointment, she belts out a high B-flat which shatters his wine glass.
Returning to her hotel, the landlord has taken her things and locked her out until she pays the rent. Swooning from hunger, she promises to sleep with him for a meatball. She returns to consciousness in her room with the landlord bending over her, but he flees when she begins screaming upon seeing a cockroach.
Later, in a restaurant she ravenously orders nearly everything on the menu. She invites Toddy (Robert Preston
) to join her, explaining that she intends to eat for free by putting the bug in her food. Although the manager and waiter are sure it's a scam, the bug moves on to other patrons, creating a riot, which allows Victoria and Toddy to flee in the rain. Warming up at Toddy's apartment, we learn that Toddy is homosexual and that cheap coats shrink when they get wet. Victoria's virtue is safe, so she stays the night.
The next morning Toddy has a cold, so Victoria dresses in a suit and hat left by his former boyfriend Richard (Malcolm Jamieson
) suit to get some medicine. Richard suddenly returns to get his things, but when he insults Toddy, Victoria springs from her hiding place in the wardrobe and punches him. He leaves, and Toddy is inspired - instead of marketing Victoria as a female singer, why not get her a job as a female impersonator, a man pretending to be a woman?
She says that, "A woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman" will never work, but Toddy brings "Victor" to Andre Cassell (John Rhys-Davies
) who hires "him" to star in a show at his own restaurant. Rehearsals ensue, and Victoria acquires more appropriate mannerisms ("Make your gestures broad! You're a drag queen!")
When the show opens, King Marchand (James Garner
) is in attendance. His girlfriend, Norma Cassady (Lesley Ann Warren
), is annoyed that King is obviously attracted to the "woman" on stage, but when Victoria is revealed to be Victor, she is delighted. Attending the backstage party, King challenges "Victor", stating that he couldn't be attracted to a man so Victor must be a woman. Victoria admits to Toddy that she is attracted to King. That night, Toddy takes her to their new residence in a posh hotel due to her success.
King becomes determined to find out that Victor is a woman, and some comical sequences ensue as he sneaks into her room, watches her bathe (and learns the truth), then sneaks out, stranding his faithful bodyguard 'Squash' Bernstein (Alex Karras
) outside on a snowy balcony.
Norma becomes more annoying and tawdry, in contrast to the classy Victoria, and King finally has Squash send her home to the states so that he is free to pursue Victoria.
After visiting a gay nightclub (Che Lui, where she auditioned at the beginning of the film) and starting a riot with Toddy's ex-boyfriend, Victoria again sings a penetrating B-flat and shatters a glass to escape the fight. King and Victoria flee, and he says, "I don't care if you ARE a man," and kisses her. She says, "I am NOT a man." When Squash finds the two of them in bed together, he is shocked ... and then confesses that he, too, is gay, which stuns King.
In the meantime, the owner of the trashed nightclub Che Lui has gotten suspicious about Victor, and hires a private investigator (Herb Tanney
) to find out the truth.
The relationship becomes awkward, because Victoria must continue to masquerade as a man in public in order to keep her job. After telling Squash the truth, King is still aggrieved that people are thinking HE'S gay because he's with "Victor." Going dancing at a gay club full of men, seeing the opera Madame Butterfly which brings her to tears, attending a bloody boxing match which makes her ill, they go everywhere as two men. He wants her to quit. She refuses, then asks if he'd quit his job - of course he wouldn't.
Back in the USA, the jealous Norma is telling King's business partner Sal (Norman Chancer
) the shocking news about King and Victor. Sal and Norma appear in Paris to force King to sign over his business interests. He is about to reluctantly comply when Victor enters. Victor takes Norma into the next room and begins to undress ... at which point an intrigued Norma whispers that Victor should lock the door. Next we hear her screams of furious outrage as she learns that Victor is actually a woman.
In a series of bumbling Clouseau-like scenes, the investigator eventually determines that Victor is a woman. A policeman appears at Victor's dressing room door demanding to see Victor unclothed or fraud charges will be pressed. He exists the dressing room reporting that Victor is definitely a man, having seen him naked from the waist down. Next we see a glowing Victoria, in a frothy black dress and wearing a feminine curled hairstyle. She joins a very surprised King at his usual table, where they watch Toddy in drag, comically sing through one of Victor's signature numbers.