Calvero, a one-time comedy star of the music halls, now fallen on hard times, returns home to his lodgings in his habitual state of inebriation. He is sobered up by the discovery that his neighbour, the young dancer Terry, has attempted suicide by gassing herself. Taking her into his own room to care for her, he learns that a psychosomatic condition has convinced Terry that she can no longer dance or even walk. Calvero determines to give her new hope; and in restoring her confidence begins to experience renewed optimism in himself. While his own attempts at a come-back are dispiriting, Terry’s career flourishes and she becomes a star of the ballet of the Empire music hall. Calvero realises that Terry’s romantic devotion to him is illusory, and stands in the way of her real love for a young composer, Neville. He walks out of her life.
Later Neville and Terry discover him again, and arrange for him to star in a benefit show at the Empire. He recaptures his old success with the audience, but it is destined to be his final performance. From the wings he watches Terry’s triumph – exemplifying the film’s opening title, “The glamour of Limelight, from which age must fade as youth enters”.