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After he is thrown out of town for romancing the mayor's underage daughter, nightclub singer Joey Evans travels to San Francisco in search of a job. Along strip club row in North Beach, Joey spots a poster advertising the appearance of his old friend, band leader Ned Galvin, at the Barbary Coast Club. At the club, Joey wangles a job from owner Mike Miggins when the club's emcee fails to appear and Joey jumps onstage to engage the audience in patter and songs. After the show, Ned invites Joey and Linda English, a naïve young chorus girl who aspires to be a singer, to perform with the band that night at a charity event sponsored by Vera Simpson. When Joey recognizes the wealthy, widowed Vera as a former stripper, he embarrasses her by proposing that Vera perform one of her strip routines to raise money for the charity's auction. Later that night, Ned and Joey walk Linda to her rooming house where Joey notices a room for rent sign in the window. After ascertaining from the sleepy landlady that there is a vacant room adjoining Linda's, the womanizing Joey eagerly rents it. The next morning, Linda is surprised to find Joey pounding on her bathroom door. As the weeks pass, the fast working Joey romances most of the club's chorus girls, whom he calls "mice." Only the tough-talking Gladys and the wary Linda remain immune to his charms. Annoyed by Joey's constant propositions, Linda tricks him into buying a small dog, which he names "Snuffy." One night, to get even with Joey for embarrassing her, Vera comes to the club and flirts with him. As Joey begins to sing, however, Vera walks out without paying her bill and Mike fires him. Undeterred, the glib Joey strikes a deal with Mike: if Joey can convince Vera to return to the club by Saturday, he can keep his job. At the Simpson mansion on Nob Hill, Joey informs Vera that he has been fired because of her and intends to leave town. Afterward, when Linda tells Joey that she will miss him and Snuffy, he invites her to dinner and she accepts. At closing time that night, Vera, intrigued by Joey's insolence, comes to the club, thus assuring that Joey will keep his job. After Joey sings an insulting song to her, Vera leaves with him and drives him to her yacht. There, Joey reveals his grand ambition to have his own club. When Joey suggests that Vera become his partner in "Chez Joey," they seal the bargain with a kiss and Vera awakens the next morning with a smile on her face. Back at the rooming house, Joey tells Linda that he is moving up to Nob Hill. When Joey gives her Snuffy, Linda, angry and hurt at being stood up the night before, takes the dog and slams the door in Joey's face. Soon Joey hires the entire crew of the Barbary Coast to work at Chez Joey, the palatial Nob Hill club bankrolled by Vera's money. After Joey promotes Linda to be the featured female singer in the show, however, Vera reminds him that she "owns him" and orders him to fire Linda. When Joey tries to manipulate Linda into quitting by demoting her to stripper, she deduces that Vera wants her fired and suggests that Joey change the name of the club to Chez Vera. That night, as Vera entertains her society friends at the mansion, Joey waits for her aboard the yacht. Rather than Vera, however, a drunken Linda stumbles onto the boat, kisses Joey and passes out. The next morning, Linda, ashamed of her behavior, thanks Joey for not taking advantage of her. After they tenderly kiss, Linda agrees to perform the striptease. At the rehearsal before opening night, Vera walks in just as Linda is doing her striptease. When the men in the audience begin to leer at Linda, Joey, unable to stomach her degradation, tells her to put on her clothes and sing a love song instead. Furious, Vera threatens to close the club unless Joey fires Linda. After Joey declares that "no one owns Joey but Joey," Vera shutters the club and Joey, for the first time in his life, gives up his dream to preserve his integrity. When Linda pleads with Vera to reopen the club, Vera comments that Joey must be in love with her because he insisted that she keep her clothes on. Vera then implies that she might consider reopening the club if Linda would leave town. Later, as Joey packs his bags aboard the yacht, Vera appears and says she has changed her mind. When Vera suggests they get married, Joey replies that he will always be a bum and that marriage would not transform him into an honest man. Later, at the darkened Chez Joey, Joey reflects on what might have been. As he walks out of the club onto the sidewalk, Vera and Linda drive up in Vera's car. Linda and Snuffy then jump out and Linda asks Joey if she can go with him. When Joey warns her to get out while she still has a chance, Linda looks forlorn and Joey kisses her. As they walk off together, Linda suggests that they bill their new act as Joey and Linda Evans.