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In San Francisco around the turn of the century, June and Joe Tyme perform in an unsuccessful vaudeville act known as "The Two Tymes." Shortly after they are fired because their act is so old-fashioned and dull, the Tyme's twelve-year-old son Buster, also known as "Small Tyme," returns home after leaving school to go on the stage. Although June insists that Buster return to school, his ebullient performance so impresses agent Harry Swift that he offers the family an immediate job--if Buster joins the act. June gives in, and now billed as "The Three Happy Tymes," the act is a huge success. Eventually, the Tymes are offered a twelve-week run in New York City. When they arrive, however, they learn that the city has a law forbidding children under sixteen from working. Joe suggests that they pass Buster off as a midget, but despite a convincing performance by Buster, the investigating committee is not fooled and the act is closed. Joe is so upset at losing his shot at the big time that he starts drinking. When he misses a performance, his reputation is ruined, and the Tymes are unable to get more bookings. In desperation, June takes a job as a waitress in the hotel where they live. For Joe, this is the final humiliation, and when he later learns that family friend Billy Shay wants to stop performing with a group of showgirls known as "The Six American Beauties," he suggests that Billy take his place in the act. Buster and June refuse to perform without Joe, however, and so he walks out on his family to force them to do as he wishes. With Billy performing Joe's role, the act is again successful. Joe continues drinking and is forced to move from the hotel. When Buster overhears Billy ask June to divorce Joe and marry him, he runs away in search of his father and unsuccessfully begs him to return to the act. As Christmas approaches, June learns that Joe is working in San Francisco as a waiter in a honky tonk on the Barbary Coast. She asks him to come back to them, but he responds that he will never live off the money she earns and advises her to get a divorce. "The Three Tymes" are offered work in a new show by Al Wilson, which is scheduled to open on New Year's Eve. When Wilson asks them for a punchier number, Buster suggests Joe's old baggy pants routine. Wilson loves the idea, but when Billy orders Buster to teach him the routine, the boy is unable to do it and in frustration, Billy hits him. Joe, who is making a Christmas Eve visit to the hotel, witnesses this and knocks Billy unconscious. Because Billy is now unable to perform, Wilson reluctantly agrees to let Joe take his place. Reunited, the three Tymes perform the closing number on New Year's Eve to great acclaim.