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Although children throughout America are mesmerized by television broadcasts of old Western movies starring singing cowboy "Smoky" Callaway, Mike Frey and Deborah Patterson, partners in the advertising firm that resurrected the films, are frustrated, because Smoky, a notorious drunk and womanizer, disappeared ten years ago. Their sponsor, Tom Lorrison, demands to see Smoky to decide if he wants to finance some new pictures for television, so Mike sends Georgie Markham, Smoky's last agent, to look for the missing star. After weeks of Georgie following fruitless leads from California to Mexico, Mike and Debbie are about to admit defeat when they receive a letter from "Stretch" Barnes, a Colorado cowhand who chastises them for televising movies of a man who looks just like him. Seeing the photo Stretch has sent as proof of the uncanny resemblance, Mike decides to go to Colorado and lure Stretch to Hollywood. Mike and Debbie are impressed with the naive but rugged Stretch and convince him to impersonate Smoky by telling him that Smoky has died and that millions of children who idolize him would be devastated. The money also appeals to the frugal Stretch, who dreams of owning a ranch. Unknown to Mike, Georgie has just located the real Smoky in a South American dive and shanghaied him aboard a slow boat to Los Angeles. When the unsophisticated Stretch arrives at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Debbie and Mike prepare him to meet Lorrison and his wife at the Mocambo nightclub. Stretch fails to recognize movie stars Elizabeth Taylor and Clark Gable, and is shocked when Mrs. Lorrison reveals that she met a drunken Smoky years ago, but Mike convinces Lorrison that "Smoky" no longer drinks and he agrees to finance a screen test. Stretch is not a good actor and members of the crew and cast, thinking that he is Smoky, put him through his paces for not remembering them. The director and Lorrison like the innocence he brings to the role, though, and predict success. Stretch, who declined to watch the test, is packing to leave, but Mike convinces him it is his duty to "the children" and urges him to make a personal appearance at a children's hospital. The children love the affable Stretch, and Mike arranges for him to take a nationwide tour as Smoky. While Mike works on a merchandising and advertising campaign, Stretch begins to enjoy his role as Smoky and falls in love with Debbie, who is touring with him. She gently refuses his proposal, saying that she is merely fond of him, but he gives her a ringbox and asks her to keep it in case she decides to wear the ring. Debbie makes a call to Mike, begging him to change places with her, but he quickly gets off the telephone when Georgie and the real Smoky walk into his office. While Stretch and Debbie are in New York, he is deeply affected when a woman lambasts him for not using his money to help the real children who need him, those who are impoverished or ill. Unaware that Debbie has just learned that the real Smoky intends to take back his identity, Stretch goes to an attorney to set up the Smoky Callaway Foundation for disadvantaged children, intending it to receive all but a small portion of "Smoky's" sizeable earnings. When Debbie learns about his selflessness, she is touched and cannot bring herself to tell him that legally Smoky is entitled to all of the money. As she and Stretch travel back to Los Angeles, a reluctant Mike pays to send Smoky to a training camp to get him in shape. Because someone has been sneaking liquor to Smoky, he is not sound enough to appear at a contract-signing ceremony, so Mike and Debbie continue to keep Stretch in the dark while he signs Smoky's contract. That night, Lorrison takes Debbie, Mike and Stretch to a nightclub for dinner. There, Mike gets a call from Georgie saying that Smoky has run away and is heading to Hollywood. While Stretch is in the men's room, Mike sees the intoxicated Smoky at the bar and tries to get him to leave. A few moments later, Stretch and Smoky meet in the parking lot and an angry Stretch leaves after realizing that he has been duped. Even the remorseful Debbie cannot get Stretch to talk to her. When one of Stretch's lawyers comes to the hotel and confirms that if he signs the foundation papers, no one can use the money for anything but the intended purpose, Stretch calls Mike to say that he will appear at a charity event at the Coliseum for the offered $5,000, and secretly plans to reveal the truth. Before Stretch leaves the hotel, Smoky comes to his room and the two fight. When Mike arrives, he gets into the scuffle and he and Smoky are knocked unconscious by Stretch. When Smoky awakens, he has had enough of Hollywood and decides to return to South America. At the Coliseum, Debbie convinces Stretch that the children really need him and shows him that she is now wearing the ring. Stretch then rides onto the field and delights the audience as Mike wishes Debbie well.