Based on stories and advice from Irene Castle, this biographical musical portrays the influential and romantic dancers.
In 1911 struggling actor Vernon Castle (Fred Astaire) swims after a dog and meets Irene Foote (Ginger Rogers) and Walter Ash (Walter Brennan) and her parents. As a clown Irene sings "Yama Yama Man" and dances. Vernon says she is a ham. At the station Vernon tap dances. In a theater Irene sees Vernon do a comedy skit and learns it is ham. She tells Vernon he was terrible and should dance. Vernon in an automobile calls on Irene to see the dog. Vernon and Irene practice dancing. Vernon sings "Only When You're in My Arms" and asks her to marry. Vernon and Irene dance for comedian Lew Fields (himself), who tells Vernon to do comedy; but Papa Aubel (Etienne Girardot) and Emile Aubel (Rolfe Sedan) hire them for Paris. Walter goes too, but the show is delayed. Vernon and Irene owe eight weeks rent, and Vernon learns he was hired for comedy. Maggie Sutton (Edna May Oliver) discovers Vernon and Irene, buys them dinner, and they dance at the restaurant. Vernon and Irene dance the tango, write a book, and set fashions. They fox trot, polka, and tour the United States. Vernon tells Maggie they are moving to the country. They learn that war with Germany started.
Maggie visits their country house and finds Vernon in a uniform. He says it is for a benefit and dances in the military show. Vernon tells Irene he enlisted as a flyer. Vernon flies and is shot at but returns. Walter tells Vernon that Irene is in Paris. Vernon has to go up again to take a photo. At a nightclub Irene, Maggie, and Walter wait anxiously for Vernon, who comes in and dances with Irene. Vernon tells Irene that he will be all right. As people celebrate, they learn that the Americans have entered the war. In Hollywood Irene makes silent movies. Vernon calls her from Canada and says he is going to Texas as a flight instructor. Maggie travels with Irene. Vernon and Walter reserve a hotel and an orchestra. Vernon is ordered to fly with a student and takes the dangerous front seat. Vernon's plane avoids another and crashes. Irene waits in the hotel, and Walter tells her that Vernon died a hero. Irene cries and recalls their dancing.
Dancing of the World War I era is depicted as the Castles
popularize romantic dancing until he is lost in the war. Once
again the innovative artists have to struggle financially before
their work becomes accepted.