It is the second film adaptation of the popular Broadway play Burlesque by George Manker Watters and Arthur Hopkins (after The Dance of Life (1929) and before When My Baby Smiles at Me (1948)).
Working her way as a hairdresser on board a liner traveling through the Panama Canal Zone, Maggie King brushes off a brash young soldier, “Skid” Johnson, on his last day in the Army. However, he is persistent, and the next day she and her friend Ella reluctantly go on a double date with him and his piano player friend Harry in Balboa. In a nightclub, she expresses her distaste of trumpet music, whereupon he impresses her with his amazing prowess with the instrument. When a man tries to pick her up at the bar, he and Skid end up brawling, which lands Skid and Maggie in jail. As a result, Maggie misses her ship back to the States.
With no money left after helping pay the fine, she is forced to move in with Skid and Harry. She talks a skeptical Murphy (a woman) into hiring the unambitious Skid and her as a trumpet player and showgirl, respectively, at “Murphy’s Cafe y Bar” by telling Murphy that they are married. She clashes with fellow showgirl Anita Alvarez, Skid’s former girlfriend, but Anita soon leaves for a better job. Maggie and Skid eventually fall in love and do marry.
She prods the reluctant Skid into going to New York City to play in a major nightclub, leaving her behind. She finds out afterward that Anita works there. He is a big success, teamed with songstress Anita. Fame and fortune go to his head. He neglects to send Maggie the fare to join him and does not answer her letters. Finally Maggie borrows the money from Murphy. Anita intercepts her telegram to Skid, telling him where to meet her boat. After waiting at the pier for a long time, Maggie calls Anita’s hotel room on a hunch, and a drunk Skid answers (Anita invited him in for a nightcap after a night on the town together). Maggie divorces him. Ella finds out and tells her old boyfriend, wealthy rancher Harvey Howell. Mary plans to sail to France to obtain a divorce and marry Harvey.
Skid is so devastated, he starts drinking and missing performances, costing him his job and his career. Finally, he tries to reenlist, but fails the physical exam. Then, he runs into Harry, who has been searching for him. Harry has gotten a band together for a live radio performance to audition for an important sponsor and (to help his old friend out) wants Skid to play with them. Skid’s old agent Georgie tries to get Maggie, just returned from France, to pull Skid into shape. She rushes over and does her best. During the broadcast, Skid is terrible at first, but after Maggie tells him that she is sticking to him “til death do us part”, he recaptures his old brilliance.
Mitchell Leisen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons