"Terry Rooney" (James Cagney) is the stage name of Thaddeus McGillicuddy, a popular New York band leader and hoofer with a radio show, who gets an offer to go to Hollywood to make movies. He leaves behind his fiancee, the band's singer, Rita Wyatt (Evelyn Daw), and finds himself in the hands of studio boss B.O. Regan (Gene Lockhart), who sets a team of studio professionals to mold Rooney into a star. Regan, after struggling with another new talent who quickly developed an uncontrollable ego, also secretly insists that no one praise Rooney's work, on pain of being fired.While shooting a bar fight for his first film, a stunt man who is supposed to throw a fake punch at Rooney hits him deliberately instead. Rooney retaliates, and a full-out fist fight breaks out. Disgusted with Hollywood, Rooney leaves to marry Wyatt, and for a honeymoon takes her on a tramp steamer for a cruise to the South Seas, ending up in San Francisco.