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In the 1920's, vaudeville reigned supreme as the Dancing Dolans tapped their way across the nation's stages. Fifteen years later, the act has become dated, and son Junior decides to quit to become a great composer. While in a bar, Junior meets Russian composer Ivan Boultonoff, who offers to teach him the art of composition. The pair return to Ivan's hotel room, where the Russian ballet troupe of impresario Sergei Alexandrovitch is quartered. That night, as Ivan dozes, Junior composes a ballet he names "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue." The next morning, Ivan awakens and presents the composition as his own to Alexandrovitch, who takes an instant disliking to Junior. In addition to Alexandrovitch, Junior also meets Vera Barnova, the troupe's prima ballerina whom, he discovers, he knew as a girl in vaudeville. As Vera and Junior resume their romance, one of the dancers in the chorus disappears, and Junior is pressed into dancing his part. When Junior's performance turns the turgid ballet into a farce, however, Junior flees the theater in disgrace. The critics, however, hail Junior's blunder as a new technique, prompting Peggy Porterfield, the ballet's patroness, to insist upon staging "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue." The embarrassed Junior returns to bid Vera farewell, and when Vera discovers that he and not Ivan wrote the ballet, she insists upon his participation in the show. Junior's ideas clash with those of Constantine Morrisine, the lead male dancer, and when their disagreement ends in a skirmish, Morrisine breaks his ankle, forcing Junior to take his place on stage. Meanwhile, the resentful Alexandrovitch arranges for Junior to be assassinated at the end of the dance, but Ivan discovers his plot and saves Junior's life as the curtain falls to thunderous applause.