powered by AFI
In 1899, at the Boston Empire Theatre, vaudevillian Pete Monahan proposes to his partner, Lillian Rice and is accepted in the midst of their performance. Backstage, however, show girl Rose announces that she is already engaged to Pete, asserting that he had drunkenly proposed to her the night before. Learning of Rose's claim, Lillian leaves Pete, and he, in turn, marries Rose. Pete and Rose then form their own act, and with the addition of their son Jimmy and daughter Patsy, they become the Four Monahans. Rose later deserts her family and leaves Pete a note admitting that he never proposed to her, that he had only told her how much he loved Lillian. At the start of World War I, the Three Monahans are playing the Colonial Theater in Schenectady, New York when they are offered the headlining position at the Empire Theatre. The sentimental Pete refuses to return to Boston, so in retaliation, Henderson, the district booker, fires them from the Colonial as well. The Monahans fortunes improve, however, when a theatrical agent offers to handle their act and books them on the prestigious Keith theater circuit. On a train to Philadelphia, the now-teenaged Jimmy meets Sheila DeRoyce, Lillian's daughter. Thinking that Jimmy is merely a hobo, Sheila tells him that she and her mother are performing on the Keith circuit with famed actor Arnold Pembroke. When they meet again backstage, she learns who Jimmy really is. Pete also gets re-acquainted with the widowed Lillian, and Pembroke jealously threatens to replace the DeRoyces if Sheila continues to spend her time with Jimmy rather than rehearsing. In actuality, Pembroke is aware that the talented Sheila is the only reason that he remains on the Keith circuit. Upon arriving in San Francisco, Pete tells his children that he plans to propose to Lillian that night, only to learn later that she has just become engaged to Pembroke. The heartbroken Pete then begins drinking heavily, unaware that Lillian is marrying Pembroke only to ensure Sheila's future. After Jimmy and Patsy are forced to perform without their drunken father, Weldon Laydon, the producer of the Manhattan Follies, offers to book the brother-and-sister act, but they, unaware of who he is, refuse his offer. Later, Sheila runs away from Pembroke and her mother, and she and Jimmy decide to elope. They are stopped, however, by Lillian and Pembroke, after which Pembroke admits that his ego can no longer accept Sheila as the star of their act, and leaves. Meanwhile, an upset Pete throws a brick through a liquor store window and is sentenced to thirty days in jail. With their father in jail, Jimmy and Patsy then join the Manhattan Follies. They quit the show, however, after Weldon tells them that their father will not be allowed to join the production. Pete is released from jail just as Prohibition is passed, but having read his children's rave review in Variety , he refuses to return to the act and goes to work on the Patriotic Charities Benefit Show. Jimmy and Patsy join their father on stage, however, and when Weldon sees their performance, he agrees to book the trio. Pete and Lillian are then reunited, as are Jimmy and Sheila, and the Monahans are now a quintet.