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In New Jersey at the turn of the century, aspiring songwriter Joseph E. Howard demonstrates pipe organs and lives with his guardian, John McCullem, and McCullem's young niece Katie, whom he regards as a sister. One day, Joe takes Katie to a musical show in New York to hear vaudeville star Lulu Madison perform a song he has just sold to her. Backstage, Joe introduces himself to Lulu and she flirtatiously invites him to bring his next song to her personally. Afterward, Joe discovers that Lulu has received sole credit for his composition and angrily goes to confront her. After placating Joe, Lulu invites him to her hotel suite. Sensing that Joe has a fount of songs in him, Lulu asks him to join her on the road as her piano player. When Joe returns home at dawn and tells Katie that he is leaving with Lulu, Katie cautions him to be wary and begs to go along. Refusing her request, Joe asks her to say goodbye to Uncle John, packs his bags and departs. As Joe tours with Lulu, he steadily gains popularity and soon Lulu grants him his own specialty within her act. Katie follows Joe to Philadelphia, and when he insists that she return home, she melodramatically lies that Uncle John has died, and hence, she is now homeless. Jealous of Katie, Lulu objects to her traveling with the show, but Joe persuades her to reconsider. On the road, Katie deliberately antagonizes Lulu about her age, her weight, and encourages Joe to write ballads against Lulu's wishes. In Cleveland, Lulu's manager, Jim Mason, learns that well-known Chicago theater managers Karl and Kassel have come to see Joe. Katie then overhears Jim warn Lulu that Joe is in danger of eclipsing her act. When Lulu instructs Joe to eliminate his specialty, Katie retaliates by sabotaging Lulu's costume, thus allowing Joe time to perform his song for the theater owners. Joe's composition is greeted by wild applause, and Lulu, furious, fires him. Upon learning of Lulu's chicanery, Joe demands the royalties from all his songs and then meets with Karl and Kassel. When the producers advise Joe to find another partner and build a reputation, Katie teams with Joe and they work their way up the vaudeville circuit to the Karl and Kassel theater in Chicago. There, Joe meets headliner Fritzi Barrington, an admirer of his songs. Joe is smitten by the glamorous Fritzi, who promises to promote his compositions. Consequently, when playwright Will Hough approaches Fritzi with an offer from her former suitor, Martin Webb, to star in a new show he is producing, Fritzi agrees on the condition that Joe write the songs. Hough, who has actually never met Webb, then introduces himself to Webb and informs him that he has engaged Fritzi to star in a musical, and Webb, who is still in love with Fritzi, agrees to finance it. As the show goes into rehearsal, however, Webb finds Fritzi and Joe embracing in her dressing room and withdraws his financial support. Joe then sells all the rights to his songs in exchange for the funds to finance the show. As Fritzi performs on opening night, Katie imagines herself as the star. The show is a hit, and Joe goes to New York to sign a lease on a Broadway theater. There, he meets an old friend, who tells him that Uncle John is still alive. When Joe visits his guardian, Uncle John shows him letters Katie has written, describing her success on stage. Upon returning to Chicago, Joe finds Katie preparing to step into Fritzi's part and learns that Fritzi has left the show to marry Webb. Feeling betrayed, Joe accuses Katie of antagonizing Fritzi into leaving and cancels the show. Joe then abruptly departs to tour the country, playing at honky-tonks along the way. Some time later, Joe arrives at the San Francisco train station to find the town whistling one of his melodies, which had remained unpublished because the lyrics had always eluded him. After booking passage to Alaska, Joe tracks the tune to the Pat O'Dare show, on stage at a local theater. There, Joe is surprised to find Hough, who informs him that he is getting married and has reopened the show after making Joe a full partner. Hough reveals that he and his friend, Frank Adams, have written the lyrics to Joe's elusive tune, "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now," which Katie, using the name Pat O'Dare, is performing. Spotting Joe in the wings, Katie rushes off stage to greet him. In her dressing room, Joe informs Katie that he is sailing for Alaska that night. Katie replies that she is planning to marry Hough, but passionately kisses Joe. As Joe and Katie emerge from the dressing room, Joe tells Hough that he is in love with Katie. When Hough's true fiancée appears, Joe realizes that Katie has deceived him once again.