Bruno Everhard (Persoff) is the rigid and uncompromising owner of a German traveling circus. His four sons and daughter all work for the circus, including as performers. Three of the boys, in particular Klaus (Vaughn), resent the favoritism Bruno shows one son, Josef (Robertson).
To curry his father's favor, Klaus abandons his sweetheart, circus aerialist Carlotta Martinez (Dean), to instead marry Teresa Vizzini (Mannhardt), whose father operates an animal menagerie that Bruno would like to merge with as a result. Josef, meantime, has fallen in love with a wealthy American woman, Hillary Allen (Williams), who wants him to quit the circus and begin a new life.