A man adores an actress. When her co-star starts seeing another woman, she becomes jealous and marries her admirer.
Lionel Benmore (Edward Earle) introduces his leading lady, Trilby Drew (Dorothy Sebastian). Elmer (Buster Keaton) arranges to see her wherever he can. Backstage she sees Lionel with blonde Ethyl Norcrosse (Leila Hyams) and is jealous. Trilby plays a southern belle, who loves wounded Lionel. Union troops capture him, and one kisses her. After the play Lionel goes out with Ethyl, and Trilby smiles at Elmer.
The next day Elmer takes roses backstage. An actor is fleeing from the police, and Elmer tells him he can play his part. Trilby tells Lionel that she has a millionaire who gives her flowers. Elmer puts on a beard. He looks ridiculous and messes up the backdrop. Elmer makes mistakes, and the audience laughs. Elmer's role is to seize Trilby and kiss her. He flees from the angry stage manager and changes clothes. Ethyl tells Trilby that she and Lionel are engaged. Trilby asks Elmer to marry her that night.
In a hotel room Trilby scares Elmer. At a restaurant Ethyl tells Lionel that Trilby is unhappily married. Trilby gets drunk, and Elmer tries to control her jealousy. In their room she passes out on the floor. Elmer tries to get her on a chair and on the bed.
Trilby's manager tells her that Elmer is a pants presser. He tells Elmer that his wife left him and wants a divorce. Lionel says Trilby loves him, and Elmer knocks him down. Elmer runs into a taxi with the criminal Scarzi (John Byron). Elmer drives off a pier, and the criminals capture him on their boat.
Elmer goes overboard and is rescued by a private yacht. He works as a sailor painting, and he sees Trilby and Lionel on board. Elmer goes below and sees a fire. He tries to report it. While others abandon ship, Elmer puts out the fire with water coming in the port hole. He finds Trilby asleep and bails out the water. Trilby wakes up and sees that Elmer is the captain. During wind they try to trim the sails.
The boat with the criminals approaches, and Scarzi takes over. Elmer hides Trilby and gives her food secretly. Scarzi finds her and tries to kiss her. Elmer knocks him out and then knocks out the other six. Scarzi comes to and grabs Trilby. Elmer fights him and is thrown overboard, but he finally knocks him out. He has saved Trilby.
This farce is filled with Keaton's genius for slapstick,
showing a common man bumbling but at times acting heroically.
The overall premise suggests that when a person marries someone
else to spite the one they really love, that marriage is not likely
to be very stable.