A promoter is robbed by his partner but develops other schemes so that he can marry his sweetheart.
Lefty Merrill (James Cagney) and Mac made $6,000 on a marathon dance contest that lasted 1400 hours. Ruth Waters (Mary Brian) collapses but wins when the other remaining couple falls. Merrill discovers that Mac ran off with all the money, and so he can't pay the $1,000 prize or the employees. Ruth's mother Lil Waters (Ruth Donnelly) rouses the crowd, and Merrill runs away. Lil wants to leave California and sells her landlady's furniture to Goldstein for $268, while Ruth kisses Merrill and lets him in the window. Merrill wants to marry her and promotes a phony treasure hunt on a pier to make $500. Only $10 was hidden, and people tear up the pier.
In New York Merrill sees a photo of Ruth and finds her with photographer John Hayden (Gavin Gordon), from whom he steals a gold pencil. Merrill is broke and asks Lil and Ruth to put him up. Ruth gives him $20 and is going out with Hayden. Her cold cream won't rub in, and Merrill gets the idea to sell it for reducing by massage, making $20,000 from the manufacturer. He persuades a social matron to endorse it for $1750, and his business grows fast. Lil tells Ruth to marry Merrill; but she wants to wait and see what he is like as a "big shot." Lil tells Hayden to stay away.
Merrill offers to raise a million for a college for 10%. He promotes athletes and pretty co-eds and is given an honorary degree. Meeting Charles Reeves, Merrill promotes Grapefruit Acres in Florida, agreeing to marry Ruth when he returns. Reeves' daughter Marlene (Claire Dodd) likes Merrill and is waiting for him in his hotel room. Lil and Ruth surprise Merrill with her. Merrill runs after Ruth in his pajamas. He packs and flies back to New York. When Lil and Ruth get home, he is there. He offers Lil lots in Grapefruit Acres but is arrested for mail fraud. Charles and Marlene Reeves fled to Rio de Janeiro. Lil calls Hayden, but Ruth won't talk to him. In his jail cell Merrill meets Mac and socks him. Mac dieted on grapefruit. Merrill gets out on bail and promotes grapefruit for dieting, increasing demand with an 18-day diet. The charges are dropped. Lil tells Merrill that Ruth is going to marry Hayden; but Merrill hires actors and pretends he is going to jail to gain Ruth's sympathy. Merrill fires the actors, and Lil pushes Hayden out the door. Merrill and Ruth kiss.
This romantic comedy satirizes manipulative commercial promotions and how publicity campaigns gain money for their promoters.