Adapted from Crosbie Garstin's novel, a captain makes his girl-friend jealous when he decides to marry an old friend while contending with a typhoon and Malay pirates.
In Hong Kong harbor Captain Alan Gaskell (Clark Gable) signs a receipt for gold hidden aboard his ship and finds Dolly Portland (Jean Harlow) in his cabin. She kisses him and persuades him to let her go to Singapore. Davids (Lewis Stone) reports as third mate and asks for another chance. Jamesey MacArdle (Wallace Beery) is glad to see Dolly and is shipping animals. Gaskell catches men disguised as women. Sybil Barclay (Rosalind Russell) comes aboard, and Dolly sees Gaskell's reaction. Gaskell tells Dolly that he knew Sybil's late husband. Gaskell comes to dinner with Sybil. Dolly erupts in jealousy, and Gaskell spurns her. Sybil tells Gaskell that she is in love with him, and he kisses her. Gaskell tells ship-owner Sir Guy (C. Aubrey Smith) that he plans to retire. Dolly drinks with Jamesey. Charlie (Robert Benchley) is drunk most of the time.
In a storm Gaskell barks orders. Dolly wins the drinking game and finds Jamesey's torn 100-pound note that is used in smuggling. Jamesey tells her that she is now in with him or else. A steam-roller rolls back and forth on deck until Gaskell is able to tie it down. Gaskell orders Jamesey arrested and has Davids put under arrest for neglect of duty. Jealous Dolly threatens Gaskell and gives Jamesey the key to the arsenal. Malay pirates take over the ship. Jamesey tells Gaskell to say where the gold is. Wounded Davids goes to get bombs. Gaskell's feet are tortured, and he passes out. Jamesey concludes that there is no gold aboard. Davids gives jailed Gaskell a hand grenade, and Gaskell blows open his cell. Davids then blows himself up with the Malay's boat. Gaskell questions Dolly and Jamesey. Gaskell found the torn money in Dolly's cigarettes. He accuses her of taking the arsenal key, and she admits it, saying her love turned to hate. Jamesey dies from a pill he took.
They arrive at Singapore. Gaskell tells Sybil to avoid the scandal of the trial, and he doesn't want to give up his ship. Sybil says good-bye. Gaskell tells the first mate that the gold is in the tool-box of the steam-roller. Gaskell tells Dolly that he will testify that she tried to warn him, and he plans to slow her down with marriage. Sir Guy says that Gaskell gets things done.
This romantic adventure story was intended by its producer Irving Thalberg to entertain and make money. The charisma of its stars Gable, Harlow, and Beery with a fine supporting cast accomplished that objective.