As a play, Zaza had been around for some 30 years and had already been filmed once before when Allan Dwan updated it and made it into a star vehicle for Gloria Swanson. His direction brought out Swanson's spontaneous side and although her performance was a bit uneven, she liked working with him so much that they went on to make several more films together. Zaza (Swanson) is an actress and the favorite at an open-air theater in a small French town. When diplomat Bernard Dufresne (H.B. Warner) comes to the village, he stays away for fear he will fall for her. But during one performance, while Zaza is singing on a swing, her rival (Mary Thurmon) cuts the rope and she falls. Zaza is badly injured and she makes Dufresne's acquaintance. A romance quickly springs up and he installs her in a villa. Their happiness is marred, however, when his wife appears and begs him to give Zaza up so he can take a high diplomatic assignment. Zaza thinks Dufresne has left her for another woman, and only after she travels to Paris does she realize he was already married and had a family. Broken-hearted, she turns her back on the affair. The years pass, World War I comes and goes, and the former lovers meet up once again. Dufresne's wife has died, so they are able to reunite.