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Boisterous Calamity Jane Canary, who dresses like a man, returns from her mail run to Deadwood, Dakota Territory. Then over a drink of sarsaparilla at her friend Henry "Milly" Miller's Golden Garter Saloon, she entertains the men with exaggerated tales of her triumphs over danger. Prospectors show up, claiming they have just escaped a Sioux Indian ambush, and admit that 2nd Lt. Danny Gilmartin, who was riding with them, was knocked off his horse during the attack and left for dead. Calam leaves abruptly to rescue Danny and, after finding him captive at an Indian camp, releases him and escapes with him on her horse. Later, at Milly's saloon, Calam wonders why the men are taking such an enthusiastic interest in the pictures inside their cigarette boxes, and is told by her best friend, gambler Wild Bill Hickok, that the pictures are of Adelaid Adams, a New York actress worshiped by red-blooded men everywhere.
Meanwhile, Francis Fryer, a passenger on the stagecoach, introduces himself to Milly as the performer he hired for his dance hall. Milly is shaken by the news, as he has advertised that the act opening that night is a woman, "Frances Fryer," and fears the wrath of his gun-happy, female-hungry patrons. At Milly's insistence, Francis reluctantly presents himself as "Frances" that evening, until his wig falls off and reveals his true sex. Calam stops the ensuing riot with gunfire and careless promises that Adelaid Adams will soon be performing there. Later that evening, Milly confides to Calam and Hickok that his troubles are merely postponed, as no high-class act like Adelaid will come near a town like Deadwood. Hickok dares the competitive Calam to bring Adelaid to Deadwood, promising to come to the show dressed as a Sioux squaw if she succeeds. Before Calam heads for Chicago, where Adelaid is performing, Hickok also suggests that she buy feminine things there, as he suspects that she is "passable pretty" under her deerskin. In Chicago, Calam attends Adelaid's closing night performance and visits her dressing room after the show. Unaware that the actress has already left, Calam mistakes Adelaid's maid, Katie Brown, for her employer and invites her to perform in Deadwood. Katie, seeing a chance to break into show business, agrees to return with Calam, silently hoping that she can keep her deception a secret in remote Deadwood.
After a harrowing trip for Katie, the women arrive in Deadwood, where Katie is highly received by all the men, including the infatuated Hickok and Danny. Although Francis, who recognizes her, keeps her secret, it becomes obvious during her performance that she is not Adelaid, and she finally breaks down and confesses. Another riot seems imminent, but Calam, with guns and a speech, persuades the crowd to give Katie a chance to perform as herself. The music starts again, and Katie wows them in her own style. Afterward, however, Hickok, dressed as a female Sioux, lassoes Calam at the waist and lets her swing from the rafters. The next day, Katie moves in with Calam, but finding that the rundown shack lacks a "woman's touch," helps fix it up and feminizes Calam, who admits that she has a hankering for Danny. When the two smitten suitors, Hickok and Danny, come calling to take Katie to the ball at the fort, Katie tries to sidestep Danny's advances. However, the men draw straws for her, and when Danny wins, Hickok gallantly asks Calam to accompany him.
At the ball, the new, dressed-up Calam that Katie has created is a beauty, and is seen, perhaps for the first time, as a woman. Calam's happiness ends when she sees Danny and Katie kiss. Reverting to her old ways, she shoots a cup of punch out of Katie's hand, then abruptly leaves the ball. Believing that Katie was conniving for Danny all along, she packs up Katie's things for Hickok to deliver. During Francis and Katie's next performance at the Golden Garter, deerskin-clad Calam shows up and orders Katie out of town. Holding her own, Katie borrows a gun and shakily aims at Calam's sarsaparilla. Although her shot goes awry, Hickok secretly shoots Calam's cup, and the crowd cheers for Katie. Hickok drags the defeated Calam away, and scolds her for trying to break up Katie and Danny. As she cools off, they talk about their own dreams of children and home, and Hickok admits that he loves Katie. Despite his declaration, they soon are kissing and realize that all along they have shared a secret love for each other. The next day in town, a transformed Calam wants to apologize to Katie, but learns from the heartbroken Danny and the angry townsmen that she took the stagecoach to Chicago. Abruptly, Calam rides off and brings Katie back for a double wedding.