This Oscar-winning original story is about a romance on a ship between a man condemned to be executed and a woman doomed to an early death.
At a bar in Hong Kong Joan (Kay Francis) bumps into Dan (William Powell); they immediately hit it off as they drink a toast. As Dan waves good-bye, he is arrested by Steve (Warren Hymer) and handcuffed to be taken back to San Francisco. Dan's drunk friend Skippy (Frank McHugh) seems to be wanted everywhere for stealing and barely makes it up the gangplank ahead of the Hong Kong police. Dan jumps overboard, gets the key from Steve, and then saves him from drowning. In gratitude Steve allows Dan to go without the cuffs on the voyage. The doctor tells Joan she should not drink or do anything exciting; but hearing that Dan is looking for her, she wants to live if even for only a few days. She finds Dan, and they are drawn together, having more in common than either realizes. Skippy finds his old con-artist friend Barrel House Betty (Aline MacMahon) masquerading as a countess. He explains that Dan is being sent back to be executed. She says she owes Dan a big favor and begins flirting with Steve.
Joan plans a day with Dan in Honolulu, and he kisses her. Betty got the bullets from Steve's gun and gives Skippy money to pass on to Dan. Dan writes a note to Joan, explaining and asking her to meet him in Mexico. Steve checks his gun and reloads before shooting a bottle out of Dan's hand. Then he locks him in the brig; but Betty takes the key out of his pocket and hands it to Skippy, who springs Dan. Joan is warned by her doctor and meets Dan. He pays to take a freighter at dark while he is off buying her flowers. They spend a romantic day on the beach as she refuses to let him explain. In the evening when he tells her he is not going back, she faints. Dan carries Joan back to her room on the ship and retrieves his unopened note there. The doctor tells him she needs rest and that a shock could kill her. Dan tells him a shock is inevitable, because he is going to be executed. When the ship arrives in San Francisco, Steve gets a telegram about the "countess" being a con-artist; but she confesses, and he agrees to forget about the past. Dan and Joan drink a toast. Steve puts the cuffs on Dan, and Joan learns that he is a murderer. Joan says good-bye to Dan until New Year's Eve when they drink an invisible toast.
This story shows how the crisis of facing death can stimulate people to appreciate living in the present. Dan nobly gives up his chance to escape in order to care for Joan when she faints. The confidence tricks and pick-pocketing of Skippy and Betty seem benevolent as they help their condemned friend. This is a story for the heart, not the head.