Set in 1916, the film centers around the real-life vaudevillian duo of Jo Hayden (Garland) and Harry Palmer (Kelly). Jo is hopelessly in love with the ambitious Harry who dreams of playing at the prestigious Palace Theatre on Broadway.
World War I looms over the couple as they try making it big on the circuit, and Harry is drafted soon after hitting the big time. Not wanting to miss his chance at the Palace, he deliberately injures his hand in order to avoid the draft for a few more weeks.
Jo, on the other hand, is none-too-impressed, and – believing him to be a draft dodger – leaves him. Unfortunately, Harry’s hand injury turns into a permanent disability, and without Jo, Harry joins the Red Cross to entertain the troops, realizing he let a great gal get away.
- Belated Love Epiphany: Jo thinks Harry is going to leave her to perform with another woman, and she begins to cry. Harry’s consolations soon turn into ardous kisses.Harry: Why didn't you tell me I was in love with you?
- Casanova Wannabe: Harry definitely likes to play the ladies man, but in reality, he’s not as smooth as he thinks.
- The Determinator: Harry is so adamant on playing the Palace that he breaks his hand to avoid the draft.
- Deadpan Snarker: Several instances for Jo especially during her BST period with Harry.
- Draft Dodging: Not wanting to miss his chance to play The Palace, he injures his hand to avoid the draft for a few more weeks.Harry: You think anything's going to stand in the way of us playing the Palace this time? Oh no, not even a war.
- Double Act: Jo and Harry are Hayden and Palmer, vaudeville act extraordinaire.
- Glamorous Wartime Singer: Jo sings for the Red Cross to cheer up the soldiers.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Harry has, as Jimmy points out, good intentions but goes about them wrong.
- Heroic BSoD: When Jo receives a telegram telling her about her brother’s death, she immediately breaks up with Harry, not waiting for an explanation and disappears.
- Hopeless Suitor: Jo Hayden: Gee what do you do when you love somebody so much, and they don't even know you're around?Jimmy: I dunno, Jo. I guess you just keep right on loving them.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Harry in his rush to save a truck load of soldiers, shoots and kills several Germans and finishes them with a grenade.
- Love Triangle: Jo loves Harry, but Jimmy loves Jo.
- The Musical Musical: A staple of the early MGM films. Vaudeville acts always put on a show!
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Harry gets two:Jo: You'll never be big time because you're small time in your heart.Jimmy: You know what's been the matter with you? You've been walking around with a picture book villain in your pocket and every once in a while you take a look at it like it was a mirror.
- Revised Ending: When the film was initially previewed, the audience was dissatisfied with the ending: they thought that Jo should end up with Jimmy rather than Harry. This prompted Louis B. Mayer to order three weeks of additional shooting to give Kelly's character more of a conscience and to reduce George Murphy's presence in the film.
- Titled After the Song: Which is performed as a duet by Jo and Harry.
- Tomboyish Name: Jo Hayden.
- Show With In A Show: We get to see several acts throughout the film, but primarily are shown vaudeville routines.
- Unrequited Love: Jimmy loves Jo but is stuck at the sidelines. He does help Jo and Harry to get back together, so he’s not a bad guy.
- Vaudeville: Jo and Harry are a double act back when vaudeville was still a viable career.