Based on the novel by James Warner Bellah, a burlesque dancer attracts the interest of a rich man and stars in a Broadway show, eventually preferring its director.
Tod Newton (Franchot Tone) attends a burlesque theater; the police haul the strippers into night court, where Janie Barlow (Joan Crawford) tells the judge she needed the job. He fines her $30 and gives her 30 days when she can't pay. Tod pays her fine, buys her dinner, and sends her a note of advice with $50. She goes uptown where "burlesque is art." She follows Patch Gallagher (Clark Gable) around to no avail until Tod offers to send his boss Bradley a letter. Patch is asking Bradley for money for costumes when Bradley gets the letter. Patch is told by his assistant Steve that Janie has talent, and he puts her in the chorus. Tod backs Bradley's show and makes sure that only Janie is paid for rehearsing. He gives a party for the cast, dances with Janie, and kisses her. Patch finds Janie at the gym, and they petulantly give each other a work out. Tod takes Janie home to meet his grandmother and sister, while she is paying him back the money. They go swimming, and he offers her marriage as a career; but Janie wants to dance, agreeing to marry if that is not successful.
Patch tells the writers to update the show, and he gives Janie the top spot as the "Dancing Lady." Janie dances with Fred Astaire but gets a leg cramp. Patch gives it a massage and tells Janie not to marry for dough. She says she is determined and won't quit. Then Patch gets a telegram from Bradley canceling the show. Tod invites Janie on a cruise to Cuba. Janie thanks Patch and says good-bye. Patch and Steve decide to produce the show. While Janie is in Cuba, Patch is arguing with his top dancer. A journalist (Robert Benchley) tells Patch that Tod paid Bradley money to close the show. Janie and Tod run into a drunk Patch at a nightclub. Patch gets angry at Tod for closing the show, and he admits it. Janie calls on Patch, pleading she did not know and goading him to put her back in the show. The show opens with Janie dancing with Fred Astaire and concludes with Nelson Eddy singing "Rhythm of the Dance" in the final extravaganza. Tod asks Janie to marry, saying she could still dance; but she says no. Patch tells Steve to put spotlights on Janie. When Janie tells Patch Tod is gone, he finally kisses her.
This story explores a struggling young dancer being romanced by a rich playboy. She ends up preferring Broadway and a serious director to the idle life of Park Avenue when his attempt to manipulate her with his money fails to achieve his desired end.