The lead actress in a traveling troupe gets the call to New York leaving her husband and son behind. Tragedy awaits all. Get out the hankies. It’s based on a play by Eugene O’Neill.
Walt Underwood (Conrad Nagel) owns a traveling tent show that puts on plays in small towns. They usually stay in each place for a week. In Mansfield, Ohio it’s his wife Marlene’s birthday. She gets a cake and a dressing table made by her son Jimmie and Beef, the boss of the stagehands. Jimmie also gives her an incense burner. She pretends to like them. She gets a telegram to join a show on Broadway. Walt won’t stand in her way.
Jimmie has always idolized his mother and he and Walt go to New York to visit her. At the hotel the manager takes Walt upstairs. Marlene and her lover fell asleep in their room. One of them had a lit cigarette. Neither one will be smoking anymore. Walt breaks it to Jimmie by telling him she fell asleep and left her curling iron on.
Lou (Leila Hyams) is the ingenue of the troupe. She helps Walt clear out Marlene’s things. She finds a note and Walt grabs it. It’s a letter from Marlene’s paramour saying they should tell Jimmie he’s their son. It just isn’t Walt’s day. Later in Galveston the show isn’t doing well and an attachment is put on the shows’ property. The troupe wants to disband since they’re not getting paid. Walt is out on a drunk.
Lou convinces the stagehands to hang in there for another week and goes looking for Walt. She finds him in a booth at a speakeasy. He’s with a B girl who’s plying him with booze. Lou tries to get him out of there. He doesn’t want to go. The manager doesn’t want him to go because he owes fifty-two bucks. Lou gets Beef and the boys. They get him out after wrecking the joint.
Walt passes out in Lou’s hotel room. Jimmie walks in but Walt is out like a light and Lou is in the bathroom and they don’t see him. Jimmie misunderstands.The next morning Jimmie is disgusted with both of them. Lou found a couple hundred old scripts Walt wrote and suggests they try and sell themselves as a radio show. They’re a hit.
Jimmie is in military school and drops by the studio. He wants to go to lunch with them but they’re too busy. Walt goes to see their boss and negotiates a new contract. He goes back to the studio and asks Lou to marry him. Once again Jimmie isn’t happy and says Walt never loved his mother and storms out,
Walt and Lou go to the cops and turn in a missing persons report on Jimmie. He’s run off to join a circus where Beef and the boys work. The cop orders a sandwich and that tips off Walt to Jimmie’s location.
The movie has an exciting penultimate ending and the very end has a nice supply of syrup. This isn’t a bad melodrama and Nagel is always good to watch.