With music by Andre Previn and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, three soldiers meet ten years after the war and find that their separate lives have driven them apart.
Ted Riley (Gene Kelly), Doug Hallerton (Dan Dailey), and Angie Valentine (Michael Kidd) sing “March, March” and go to their favorite bar. Ted gets a letter that his girlfriend got married. He and his friends drink at various bars and dance drunk in the street. They return to the bar where Tim (David Burns) says it is closing time. Ted, Doug, and Angie sing “The Time for Parting.” Ted suggests they meet again in ten years, and they bet Tim that they will meet again on October 11, 1955.
In 1949 Doug and Angie get married, and by 1955 Angie has several kids. Ted is managing a boxer and realizes it is October 11. Doug comes into the bar and asks Tim for a glass of water, seeing the painting he gave him. Doug calls his wife in Chicago and sees a commercial on television. He tells her he does not want to divorce. Angie comes in, but Tim does not remember him either. Ted arrives, and the three meet. Tim recognizes them, and the three take a drink. Doug takes them out for lunch and says he has been creative in advertising. Angie says he has a hamburger joint. He talks to his wife Connie on the phone. Ted, Angie, and Doug think about their disappointment, singing “Once Upon a Time.” Jackie Leighton (Cyd Charisse) sits at the table next to Ted, who speaks to her. Angie complains about the hamburger, and they argue. Mr. Fielding comes in and says Jackie is good at advertising ideas. They make plans, and Ted gets in a cab with Jackie. She tries to scare off Ted by kissing him and then putting him off. She even knows his fighter’s measurements. Ted tells her about the war buddies meeting. He asks her to pick him up at four and leaves.
Madeline Bradville (Dolores Gray) rehearses “Music Is Better Than Words” for her television show, but she complains to Jackie and Fielding that she does not like the program. Jackie suggests they focus on the three war buddies. Fielding will bring Doug, and Jackie tells Madeline to bring Angie.
Jackie finds Ted at the boxing gym and says she is doing research. Lefty Louie and the men sing “Stillman’s Gym.” Jackie knows boxing and joins in the dancing. She tells Ted she will go to dinner and the fight with him. Jackie makes a call, and Rocky asks Ted about the fix. Ted pulls Jackie out and makes a call. He tells her his boxer is taking a dive. She asks if he called the boxing commission, but he says he got his bets switched.
Doug listens to advertising men talk shop and starts singing “March.” After rehearsal Madeline is going to dinner with Angie. Jackie sees the dancers’ hats and orders them changed. Ted is left alone on the stage and sings “Once Upon a Time” with Doug and Angie, and they tap dance. Jackie comes back, and Ted tries to excuse her. He feels ashamed about his helping the fix. She says she has done some fixing too. He calls her inhibited. She says he has been disappointed and is taking it out on others. He says she diagnosed him, and she admits he got her too.
Doug drinks at a party and talks about his bored wife. Fielding advises Doug not to drink so much before the show. Doug shaves off his moustache and gets another drink. He sings “Saturation-Wise” and dances before collapsing.
In the hall before the fight Ted talks to Charlie (Jay C. Flippen), the fix-it man. Ted tells his boxer that he met himself. Ted slugs his boxer, and Jackie knocks him out with a bottle. Ted and Jackie run out and take a cab. She says those men will kill him. He says he is in danger and kisses her.
Doug is getting a massage. At her apartment Jackie tells Ted she has to change for the broadcast. Ted sees men and escapes out a side door, chased by them. He goes into a roller rink and skates. The men give up, and he skates outside. Skating he sings “I Like Myself” and dances.
Doug, Angie, and Ted arrive at the television show. Madeline sings a commercial and then “Thanks a Lot, but No Thanks” to men with gifts. She announces that the surprise guests on television are Ted, Doug, and Angie, who are brought on stage; she tells their story. Angie tells his wife that nothing happened with Madeline. Doug admits to self-degradation. Madeline gives Angie a washing machine and shoes for his kids, but he says, “No thanks.” Ted says he is a bum involved with shady characters. Ted says the reunion was horrible because they have become strangers. He hopes to win their friendship back, and the three walk off the stage. Charlie and his men surround Ted. Jackie directs the cameras on them, and Ted gets him to talk about the fix. Ted says he prevented the fight from going on. Charlie says who else is involved in the fix. Ted tells him he is on television, and Charlie hits him. Doug and Angie fight on Ted’s side, and finally Madeline knocks out Charlie. Ted, Doug, and Angie run out, and Charlie is arrested.
Angie, Ted, and Doug return to the bar, and Tim gives them a drink. Doug calls his wife and says he loves her. They all toast Bootsy for having saved their lives at Angio. They pay with the money they stashed in the lamp. Jackie comes in and kisses Ted. Tim sings “The Time for Parting,” and they leave.
This musical has a dramatic edge and reflects the changes the men have experienced since their close friendship during the war. The differences help each of them to evaluate their lives and consider adjustments. The change in the entertainment world is satirized by showing a television program and commercials.