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In 1941, with only a small suitcase and the clothes on her back, Mamie Stover is escorted by a San Francisco policeman to a freighter bound for Honolulu and told never to return. The only other passenger onboard is Jim Blair, a successful writer returning home to Honolulu, and one day, the brazen, sultry Mamie sidles up to him and suggests he write her life story. When Jim characterizes her as a "shapely Cinderella with a yearning heart," Mamie confides that she came from a poor Mississippi town and is determined to become a "big success" before returning home. The two enjoy a shipboard romance, and as they near Honolulu, Jim offers to help Mamie find a job. When he questions her plan to work as a hostess in a honky-tonk known as "The Bungalow," Mamie challenges him to take her to his house on the hill and make a lady out of her. Jim then rebuffs her and replies she must climb that hill by herself. Soon after, the ship docks in Honolulu and Jim is greeted by Annalee, his refined, hilltop sweetheart. As they part, Jim offers Mamie a $100 loan, and she proceeds to The Bungalow, where her old friend, Jackie Davis, introduces her to the owner, Bertha Parchman, a pragmatic businesswoman, and the manager, the sadistic Harry Adkins. Harry, the club's enforcer, enumerates the house rules: hostesses are forbidden to have boyfriends on the "outside," and are not permitted to go to Waikiki Beach or have a bank account. Some time later, Jim receives a note from Mamie, repaying his loan and inviting him to the club, where she is now known as "Flaming Mamie," the main attraction. Disapproving, Jim goes to the club and offers to buy Mamie a return ticket home. At first wary of Jim's judgments, Mamie suggests they see each other outside the club and he agrees. After Jim picks her up the next day in his car, Mamie waves a bankroll in his face and boasts she will be rich one day. When Mamie separates out $200 and asks Jim to write a check to her father in that amount so that she can impress him, he at first refuses, but Mamie cajoles him with kisses. Later, Annalee comes to visit Jim and, sensing that he is uneasy, asks if Mamie is coming. When Jim answers yes, Annalee leaves, her feelings hurt. Soon after, Mamie appears and Jim angrily shows her a letter from her father addressed to "Mrs. Jim Blair." After Mamie explains that she was only trying to make her father proud of her, Jim agrees to continue the ruse, but once again implores Mamie to go home. Mamie defiantly replies that she intends to break all the prohibitions against her and become rich. When Jim criticizes her for measuring everything in terms of money, Mamie charges that he has never been poor and therefore cannot understand how she feels. Realizing that he has been insensitive, Jim apologizes and they embrace. Back in town, Harry spots Mamie climbing out of Jim's car and brutally beats her. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the islanders panic and real estate speculators begin to sell their property and flee to the mainland. Capitalizing on the situation, Mamie buys the land cheaply and rents it out. Jim decides to enlist in the infantry, and the night before he is to report for duty, he invites Mamie to go dancing with him at an exclusive resort in Waikiki. When Harry strolls across the hotel terrace and orders Mamie to leave with him, Jim challenges him and a fight ensues. Two M.P.s then arrive to restrain Jim, but when Mamie accuses Harry of beating women, they release Jim and decide to give Harry some of his own medicine. Jim then pledges his love to Mamie and asks her to leave The Bungalow and marry him after the war. After Mamie promises to quit her job, Jim places his ring on her finger. Back at The Bungalow, Bertha, worried that Harry's encounter with the military police may have dire consequences for the club, fires him, after which he cruelly insults her. When Mamie returns, she finds the girls celebrating Harry's departure. Bertha calls Mamie into her private quarters and offers to make her a star. When Mamie informs Bertha that she intends to quit the club for a man, Bertha entices her to stay by offering her half of the profits and suggesting that she establish a mailing address in the "good section" of town to placate Jim. While Mamie writes Jim, now in combat, that she has quit The Bungalow, Bertha emblazons Mamie's image on six-foot posters and commissions a song to be written about her. One day at Jim's camp, a soldier returns from furlough, bearing a photo of Mamie's poster. As Jim scrutinizes the photo, a bomb falls, wounding him. Granted leave because of his injury, Jim goes to The Bungalow, seething with resentment over Mamie's deception. Rebuffing her entreaties, Jim declares that they are too different to be together and leaves for good. Now alone, Mamie sobs as she plays her song on the phonograph and fondles Jim's ring. Some time later, Mamie returns to San Francisco wearing the same threadbare suit she had on when she left and is informed by the same policeman that she is not welcome. After she tells him that she is just passing through on her way home, he comments that she looks like she "didn't do so good in Hawaii." When she asks him if he would believe that she made a fortune and gave it away, he just shakes his head.