Based on the play by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber that satirizes the theatrical Barrymore family, this story explores the conflict between actors' life-style and a "normal marriage."
Tony Cavendish (AA-nominated Fredric March), who is modeled after John Barrymore, has assaulted a movie director and is being sued for breach of promise by a Polish actress. He is avoiding them and the press and wants to sail for Europe right away but needs a passport. His sister Julie (Ina Claire) is yearning for a happy marriage in spite of her Broadway success, and her daughter Gwen (Mary Brian) quarrels with her boyfriend Perry over the different schedules required by Broadway and Wall Street. Her mother and grandmother Fanny (Henrietta Crosman) advise her not to give up the theater. Julie meets her old flame Gil, who has made a fortune from platinum in South America. He quickly arranges for Tony's passport and boat ticket, and he offers Julie the chance to live anywhere in the world she wants.
A year later Gwen has married Perry. Julie is planing to marry Gil and is not in a play, and her mother Fanny must retire. This would mean no one in the Cavendish family would be on Broadway. Julie's manager tells her that she has become too independent to be happy with a husband who will "organize" her, and Gil describes how quiet their life would be in South America. However, Gwen is thinking of taking a part while her husband is on a business trip. Tony barges in with an entourage that includes a Hindu and two dogs, saying how he bought a play. Amid these Cavendish histrionics, Fanny collapses and dramatically dies. Finally Gil decides to leave Julie to her career, and she says to bring the curtain down.
This portrait of a family with theater in their blood shows how this special dramatic magic can make actors different than others used to a more hum-drum life. The enrichment they receive from theatrical experience seems to compensate them for its difficulties of travel and the psychological confusion that can result from taking on dramatic emotions and motivations.