Based on Fannie Hurst's Sister Act, a musician raises four daughters on music, and three find husbands.
Adam Lemp (Claude Rains) teaches his four daughters music. Neighbor Ernest Talbot (Dick Foran) delivers orchids to Thea Lemp (Lola Lane) from Ben Crowley (Frank McHugh), and he gives flowers to Emma Lemp (Gale Page). Thea goes out with Ben, and the family prepares dinner for Ben. Ann Lemp (Priscilla Lane) tells Ben that Thea cooked dinner, but Aunt Etta (May Robson) says Ann forgot to light the oven. Ann tells Emma that they should not get married.
Ann sees Felix Deitz (Jeffrey Lynn) swinging on the gate. Felix gets Adam to invite him to dinner and give him a job. Felix meets all, flatters Etta, and tells everyone where to sit. On a picnic Thea delays marrying Ben. Emma sews for Felix, who plays with Ann and gives her a bracelet. Adam criticizes Felix's jazz. Mickey Borden (John Garfield) comes in to help Felix with the piano arrangement, and Felix leaves for work. Cynical Mickey is frank to Etta and sees people as types. Ann comes home, and Mickey tells her that the fates have deprived him. Ann dislikes his attitude, but Mickey rooms there too. While Ann bakes, Mickey kisses her. Felix tells Ann that he loves her and asks her to marry. At Adam's birthday party Ann got a present for Mickey. Felix gives Ann a ring, and she says they are engaged. Thea says she will marry Ben in June. Emma cries, because she loves Felix. Ann thinks Emma doesn't like Felix. On her wedding day Mickey tells Ann that he loves her and that Emma loves Felix. Ann sees Emma tying Felix's cravat. At Felix's wedding Emma gets a telegram from Ann that she married Mickey.
In New York Ann gets a letter from Aunt Etta and tells Mickey that she will sell something so they can eat out. Musicians ask Mickey to go to South America. At Christmas Ernest and Emma bring in Ann and Mickey. Felix won the music prize and greets Ann. They hear Kay Lemp (Rosemary Lane) sing on radio. Felix leaves for his train, and Mickey drives him in Ben's car. Mickey apologizes for breaking up things. Felix offers Mickey a loan and hands him an envelope for Ann. In the snow Mickey drives fast. Ann asks Emma if she loves Felix, and Emma says how Ernest took control after Ann's telegram. Thea screams that Ben had an accident. At the hospital they learn it was Mickey. Ann cries as Mickey dies. In the final scene Adam plays music with his four daughters while Ernest and Ben play chess. Ann finds Felix swinging on the gate, and they swing together.
The bitter poverty of Mickey in John Garfield's screen debut brings a dramatic contrast to the cheery world of the Lemps, providing a dose of reality to the veneer that has been adopted to cover the Depression's pain.