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Because his son Charles has not responded to any of his letters, Patrick Murphy, an Irish boatswain and pub owner, leaves his Kerry County home to find Charles in America. When Patrick arrives at his son's lavish house, he discovers that, at the insistence of Charles' ambitious, social-climbing wife Margaret, Charles has changed his name to Murfree and is running for mayor against the incumbent, John J. "Jolly John" Holtsapple. To protect Charles' campaign, only Margaret, his daughter Elinor and his campaign managers, Mike Donovan and Stonehill, are told of Patrick's presence. Soon after, however, Holtsapple's managers spread a rumor that Charles is not the descendent of the aristocratic Tennessee Murfree family, but is a common Irish immigrant named Murphy. These rumors cause widow Nellie Oulihan, the political leader of the Irish fourth precinct, to withdraw her support of Charles and to hold an "indignation meeting" above the Gilligan brothers' bar. The fun-loving Patrick, however, turns the meeting into a dance and, in front of Elinor and her fiancé, the snobbish Dudley Weatherby, convinces Nellie and her followers that Charles really is a Murfree. After Holtsapple's supporters send a spy to Tennessee to "dig dirt" on Murfree, Patrick sprays the portly candidate with a fire extinguisher as he concludes a particularly insipid radio speech. Disgusted by Patrick's display, Dudley ridicules him in front of Elinor, who in anger rejects him and reveals her grandfather's identity. Margaret then insults Nellie, who has fallen in love with widower Patrick, and causes Charles to lose the fourth precinct once again. Discouraged, Patrick gets drunk one evening and, as Holtsapple discloses in a rally that Charles' real name is Murphy, defiantly reveals his relationship to Charles. The news of Charles' deception sends his campaign into a tailspin, and desperate to prevent his defeat, Donovan and Elinor talk Patrick into campaigning. Aided by a plaster pig named "Johnny John," Patrick begins to turn the townspeople against Holtsapple. At the start of a crucial radio debate, however, the vengeful Dudley connives to have Patrick abducted and held prisoner in an apartment building so that Holtsapple can accuse Charles of turning out his own father. Using his boatswain's whistle, the bound and gagged Patrick alerts the Gilligan brothers to his whereabouts and is rescued in time to prevent Holtsapple from defaming Charles. After Charles wins the election as a Murphy, Elinor and Donovan, and Patrick and Nellie vote for marriage.