Based on the play by Dorothy and Herbert Fields, Annie Oakley joins Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and falls in love with sharpshooter Frank Butler.
Performers get off a train and sing “Col. Buffalo Bill.” Charlie Davenport (Keenan Wynn) puts up posters, but Foster Wilson (Clinton Sundberg) won’t let them stay in his hotel. Annie Oakley (Betty Hutton) and four children sing “Doin’ What Comes Naturally.” Annie is smitten by Frank Butler (Howard Keel), who sings “The Girl That I Marry.” Frustrated Annie sings “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun.”
Buffalo Bill Cody (Louis Calhern) referees a shooting contest between Frank and Annie. Finally Frank misses trying to shoot five clay pigeons. Buffalo Bill wants to hire Annie, and Frank agrees to work with her. Charlie, Buffalo Bill, and Frank sing “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” and Annie joins in.
They travel from Ohio west. Annie’s nephew Jake teaches her to read. Frank makes her his partner, and she sings “Falling in Love Is Wonderful” with him. Buffalo Bill and Charlie tell Annie to do her new trick to draw people away from Pawnee Bill (Edward Arnold) and Chief Sitting Bull (J. Carrol Naish). Frank kisses Annie and sings “My Defenses Are Down.” Annie stands on a running horse and shoots. Frank gets upset and hits Charlie for criticizing his conceit. Sitting Bull wants to adopt Annie and will invest in the show. He makes her a member of the Sioux nation, and she dances with them. Annie sings “I’m an Indian Too.” She gets a letter from Frank that he is leaving the show to join Pawnee Bill.
At the dock Annie says goodbye to the children. The Wild West Show tours Europe. Queen Victoria watches Indians attack a stage coach that is rescued by Annie. Charlie tells Buffalo Bill that they need to make money. Buffalo Bill tells Annie they could go back. On the boat Annie learns they are broke. She thinks Frank is coming to meet them and shows how she will treat him. Buffalo Bill hopes to merge with Pawnee Bill’s show. Annie sings “The Girl That I Marry.”
At a party Pawnee Bill tells Frank about the deal. Buffalo Bill and Charlie come in and drink with Pawnee Bill, but both shows are in debt. Annie enters wearing medals, and Sitting Bull says they could sell them. Annie sings “I Got the Sun in the Morning.” She sees Frank, and they kiss. He gives her his medals, and they start arguing and plan a contest. They sing “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better.”
Sitting Bull tampers with Annie’s rifles so that she will lose. She misses until Frank lets her use his rifle. Sitting Bull tells her to be second best, and she concedes to Frank, who says they will be partners. They sing “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”
Great songs by Irving Berlin highlight this musical comedy about western legends in their own time who used their fame to succeed as entertainers. Ironically Annie’s skill breaks through the male chauvinism, but she has to take second place to win a husband.