Based on the Rogers and Hart musical play by George Abbott, a Vaudeville dancer composes a jazz ballet for a broke Russian ballet company.
In 1920 the Dolan family performs Vaudeville, and Junior (Donald O'Connor) does a curtain call without his pants. Lil Dolan (Queenie Smith) tells Phil Dolan (James Gleason) that Junior should go to school and be a musician. Young Vera and Junior say they love each other before they part.
By 1939 Vaudeville is dying, and Junior (Eddie Albert) tells his parents he is quitting. In a bar Junior meets broke Russian composer Ivan Boutonoff (Leonid Kinskey). Hotel manager Henderson (Berton Churchill) complains that Ivan built a fire in his room with chairs. Sergei Alexandrovitch (Alan Hale) intervenes but owes $8200. Sergei says his ballet company is leaving and gives Henderson a Russian check. Junior plays a song for Ivan and composes the ballet Slaughter on 10th Avenue. Ivan shows it to Sergei as his own. Junior meets Vera Barnova (Vera Zorina) again. Wealthy Peggy Porterfield (Gloria Dickson) calls Sergei, enabling Vera to go out with waiting Junior. Two gangsters tell Sergei that Boris Markoff must be killed. At rehearsal Sergei announces that Peggy is backing the ballet. Sergei tells Junior to get out, but Vera and Ivan say they will go too. Peggy says that Junior can stay. Stage manager Paddy Reilly (Frank McHugh) says a dancer is missing, and Vera suggests Junior play the black slave.
In Sergei's ballet Princess Zenobia Vera dances; but only Junior's head is black, and his improvised dancing makes the ballet a travesty. A review calls it a comedy, and Peggy likes it better than Sergei's usual work. Ivan says they should do Slaughter; but Sergei refuses until Henderson says they must leave the hotel, and Peggy pays the bill. At rehearsal Junior says good-bye to Vera and says he wrote the ballet. Vera tells Sergei. Junior says that Konstantine Morrisine (Erik Rhodes) is missing the off-beat. They argue, and Morrisine chases Junior with a hammer until a sand-bag knocks him out. They explain to a cop it is the ballet plot, and Morrisine resigns. Sergei gives Junior the name Boris Markoff. Vera tells Junior he is too modest, and they kiss. Sergei gives the two gangsters tickets and tells them to kill Markoff at the end. Ivan tells Reilly the two men are assassins. Vera dances in Slaughter on 10th Avenue. Ivan accuses Sergei and has Reilly call the police. Ivan tells Junior to keep dancing, and he does until the police arrive and arrest the men. A cop arrests Sergei; but he takes a bow with the cop and runs out. Junior takes a bow without his pants, and his father says he is stealing the act.
This film emphasizes the comedy and ballet as it satirizes
the pretensions of the refugee Russians and their artistic ballet.