Julia Lambert is the best actress in England. She is forty-six years old; she is beautiful, rich, famous; busy with the favorite thing in the most favorable conditions for this, that is, playing in your own theater; her marriage is considered ideal; she has an adult son…
Thomas Fennel is a young accountant hired by her husband to clean up the counting books of the theater. In gratitude for the fact that Tom taught him to reduce the income tax, without violating the law, Michael, Julia’s husband, presents him to his famous wife. The poor accountant is incredibly embarrassed, blushing, turning pale, and Julia is pleased – she lives with the delight of the public; to finally make the boy happy, she gives him her photo. Looking through the old pictures, Julia recalls her life…
She was born on the island of Jersey in the family of a veterinarian. Auntie, a former actress, gave her first lessons in acting. At the age of sixteen she entered the Royal Academy
of Dramatic Art, but the real actress was made from it by the director from Middlepool Jimmy Langton.
Playing in the company of Jimmy, she met Michael. He was divinely beautiful. Julia fell in love with him at first sight, but could not achieve reciprocal love – perhaps because Michael was completely devoid of temperament both on stage and in life; but he admired her playing. Michael was the son of a colonel, graduated from Cambridge, and his family did not approve of his chosen theatrical career. Julia sensitively caught all this and contrived to create and play the role of a girl who might like his parents. She reached the goal – Michael made her an offer. But even after the engagement, nothing has changed in their relations; it seemed that Michael was not in love with her at all. When Michael was offered a lucrative contract in America, Julia was beside herself – how could he leave, leaving her? However, Michael left. He returned with money and no illusions about his acting abilities.
The first year of their life together would be very stormy, if not for the even character of Michael.
Unable to turn his practical mind to love, Julia was madly jealous, arranged scenes…
When the First World War began, Michael went to the front. The military uniform was very good for him. Julia tore after him, but he did not allow – you can not let the public forget yourself. She continued to play and was recognized as the best actress of the younger generation. Her fame became so strong that you could afford to leave the stage for several months and have a baby.
Shortly before the end of the war, she suddenly stopped loving Michael and felt a triumph along with her anguish, as if avenging him for her past torments-now she is free, now they will be on equal terms!
After the war, having received a small inheritance from the parents of Michael, they opened their own theater – with the financial support of “the rich old woman” Dolly de Vries, who had been in love with Julia since the days of Jimmy Aetton. Michael began to engage in administrative activities and directing, and it turns out he is much better than playing on stage. Remembering the past, Julia is sad: life deceived her, her love died. But she still has her art – every night she goes on stage, from the world of pretense to the world of reality.
In the evening in the theater flowers are brought to her from Thomas Fennel. Having mechanically written a thank-you note, for “it is impossible to offend the public”, she immediately forgets about it. But the next morning Thomas Fennell calls her and invites her to tea. Julia agrees to make the poor clerk happy with her visit.
His poor apartment reminded Julia of the time when she was an aspiring actress, the time of her youth… Suddenly a young man begins to kiss her fervently, and Julia, surprised at herself, yields.
Inwardly laughing at the fact that she did an utter foolishness, Julia nevertheless feels rejuvenated for twenty years.
And suddenly she realizes with horror that she is in love.
Without opening her feelings to Tom, she tries to tie him to herself with all means. Tom is a snob, and she introduces him into the Upper Light. Tom is poor – she showered him with expensive gifts and pays his debts.
Julia forgets about age – but, alas! On vacation, Tom so obviously and naturally prefers her society to the company of her son Roger, his peer… Revenge is sophisticated: knowing how painfully to prick his pride, she reminds with a note about the need to leave the servants of the tip and puts the money in an envelope.
The next day he returns all her gifts – she managed to offend him. But she did not calculate the strength of the blow – the thought of a final break with Tom plunges her into horror. The scene of explanation she conducts brilliantly – Tom remains with her.
She relocated Tom closer to him and arranged his apartment – he did not resist; they appear three times a week in restaurants and nightclubs; It seems to her that she completely subdued Tom to herself, and she is happy. It does not occur to her that bad rumors can go about her.
Julia discovers this from Michael, who opened her eyes to the jealousy of Dolly de Vries. Julia, turning to the original source, tries to find out from Dolly who and how she talks about it, and during the conversation finds out that Tom promised some kind of Evis Crichton role in their theater, for Julia, according to him, dances to his tune. Julia can barely contain her emotions. So Tom does not like her. Worse – he considers a rich old woman, from which it is possible to twist ropes. And the most vile – he preferred her third-rate actress!
Indeed, Tom soon invites Julia to see the young actress Evis Crichton, who, in his opinion, is very talented and could play at the Siddons Theater. Julie is sick to see how much Tom is in love with Evis. She promises Tom to give Evis a role – it will be her revenge; You can compete with her anywhere, except on the stage…
But, realizing that Tom and this novel are unworthy of her and insulting, Julia still can not get rid of his love for him. To get rid of this obsession, she leaves London for her mother, to stay and rest, habitually thinking that she will make the old woman happy and decorate her hopelessly dull life with herself. To her surprise, the old lady does not feel happy – she is completely uninteresting the glory of her daughter and very like the hopelessly boring life.
Returning to London, Julia wants to make her long-time admirer Lord Charles Temerli happy, she was associated with her so long ago that she became quite respectable for the world. But Charles does not want her body.
Her faith in herself was shaken. Has she lost the attraction? Julia comes to the fact that she walks in the “dangerous” quarter, stronger than usual with her makeup, but the only man who has paid attention to her, asks for an autograph.
Roger’s son also makes Julia think. He says that he does not know what his mother really is, for she plays always and everywhere, she is her countless roles; and sometimes he is afraid to look into the empty room where she just entered – and suddenly there is no one there… Julia does not quite understand what he means, but it becomes scary: it seems that Roger is close to the truth.
On the day of the premiere of the play, in which she received the role of Evis Crichton, Julia accidentally encounters Tom and enjoys the fact that Tom no longer causes her any feelings. But Evis will be destroyed.
And then comes the finest hour of Julia. Played at rehearsals half-heartedly, at the premiere she unfolds in the full power of her talent and skill, and the only great mise en scene of Evis turns into a triumphant performance of the great Julia Lambert. She was summoned ten times; at the service exit a crowd of three hundred people is raging; Dolly arranges a magnificent reception in her honor; Tom, forgetting about Evis, again at her feet; Michael is genuinely delighted – Julia is pleased with herself. “I will not have such a minute in my life, I’m not going to share it with anyone,” she says, and slipping away from everyone, goes to a restaurant and orders a beer, steak with onions and fried potatoes that she has not eaten in ten years. What is love compared to steak? How wonderful that her heart belongs to her alone! Unrecognized, from under the fields hiding the face of the hat Julia looks at the visitors of the restaurant and thinks that Roger is wrong, for the actors and their roles are symbols of that erratic, aimless struggle that is called life, but only a symbol is real. Her “pretense” is the only reality…
She is happy. She found herself and gained freedom.