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Longtime vaudevillians Sam and Susie Parker retire from performing so that their two children, Marjorie and "Junior," can enjoy a normal childhood in Brookford, Massachusetts, Sam's ancestral home. To make ends meet, the Parkers convert part of their colonial house into a restaurant featuring cheap chicken and steak dinners. They are quickly forced to close down, however, after Mr. Clinton, the snobbish head of Brookford's influential First Families of the Revolution organization, orders the townspeople to boycott the place because the Parker family line boasts no colonial heroes. During an auction of their belongings, the Parkers discover a letter hidden in a wall, signed by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. The letter is addressed to Sam's great-great-great grandfather, Jonathan Parker, and acknowledges his bravery during the Revolutionary War. Although Clinton doubts the authenticity of the document, Susie determines to prove its claim and heads for Washington, D.C. with Sam. In the nation's capital, the nearly broke Sam and Susie meet with immediate frustration, but are befriended by reporter Mike Garrett, who offers to share his newspaper's penthouse apartment for one hundred dollars. Unknown to Sam and Susie, Mike owes money to a loanshark and his two thugs, Marty and Willie, and has no legal right to occupy the penthouse. Consequently, when Mike's boss, the stuffy Mr. Whitley, arrives unexpectedly in town and encounters the unconventional pair in his penthouse, he is outraged. To save his job, Mike offers to help the Parkers with their letter and takes them to the National Archives. There Sam and Susie are overjoyed to learn that the document is indeed authentic. They are further thrilled when a close examination of the letter reveals that the U.S. government owes them £50,000, with interest compounded since the Revolution. After Mike breaks the news that the total amount owed exceeds seven billion dollars, Sam and Susie become overnight celebrities. While they are enjoying their sudden popularity at a charitable fashion show, however, Mike learns that Congress has declared their inheritance null and void. Before the news spreads, gangsters Steve Garland and Zero Zantini overhear a desperate Mike concocting a phony kidnapping scheme with Marty and Willie and decide to kidnap the Parkers themselves. When Steve and Zero show up at the penthouse, Susie and Sam, who have not been told they have lost their windfall, gladly go off with them, believing they have been sent by Mike. While Zero guards Sam and Susie at a warehouse hideout, Steve leaves to negotiate their release. Upon learning of Congress' decision, Steve then telephones Zero with orders to "get rid of" the Parkers. Before the zealous Zero can do the deed, however, Steve, who has just sold the story of the fake kidnapping to Mike's newspaper rival, orders him to stop. Although Sam and Susie escape from the gangsters unharmed, they are denounced in the news as greedy fakers. Now despised by an entire nation, the vaudevillians return to Brookford and hide out in their house with their children. Clinton, meanwhile, has arranged for Congress to investigate the Parkers, but to everyone's surprise, the Senate decides that Susie and Sam should be paid their inheritance after all. Having suffered enough, however, Susie and Sam decline the offer and insist on remaining poor.