Luchio Visconti's masterful Italian comic drama questions the nature of fame and the exhausting quest after it. Famous film director Blasetti, is auditioning at Cinecittá studios to cast a child part in his upcoming movie. Pushy showbiz mothers from the length and breadth of Rome and beyond converge on the place with their respective prodigies in tow, certain fame and fortune are firmly within their grasp. Among them is Maddalena Cecconi (Anna Magnani) - a woman of meagre means, blinded by pride and ego, who has sacrificed everything to further the chances of her rather homely daughter Maria (Tina Apicella) and a career on the silver screen. In the process of the screen testing, she chances to overhear a conversation between production staff in which they are ridiculing not only Maddalena's performance but her very appearance to boot. Enraged, she tears into everyone and everything connected with the film industry and, in the process, realizes the hollow, fickle nature of the very thing she's been chasing after.