While working as the publicity man for a two-bit carnival, Jimmy Bates (Lee Tracy) decides that the best way to drum up some business is through a little good old fashioned speculation and controversy. When he announces that dancer Teresita(Lupe Velez) will name the man in town who fathered her and left her mother years ago during one of her performances, not only do people show up to get the dirt, a few men also slip him some money to keep their names out of it.
The police also take an interest in the story, but when they find out the whole stunt is a sham, they shut down the whole carnival and Bates, Teresita, and their friend Achilles (Eugene Pallette) jump in a car and head to New York. Bates has promised Teresita that he’s going to turn her into a big star, so as soon as they make it to the city, he hits the ground running building hype for Teresita. He brings them to the Ritz and convinces them that she’s a Turkish princess and they are given a nice suite.
Bates resorts to all sorts of crazy publicity stunts to get the newspapers talking about this mysterious princess. Merle Farrell (Frank Morgan) is the big Broadway producer in town and he’s flabbergasted when Bates tells the press that the princess will be starring in Farrell’s new show. But when ticket sales increase, Farrell decides to go along with it. On opening night, Teresita’s dance is not a hit with the audience, so Bates stops the show, telling the crowd the dance was too sacred to be performed in public. He has Teresita sing a song instead and she becomes an overnight sensation. She’s now a star and Bates has a new gig as Farrell’s publicity man.
Even though Bates is in love with Teresita, she loses interest in him and starts setting her sights on Farrell instead. When Bates finds out about it, he takes some incriminating pictures of them together, and uses them to blackmail Farrell into giving a spot in his show to another girl he’s determined to turn into a big star. With the public losing interest in Teresita, she and Achilles lose interest in New York so when he decides to buy the carnival they had worked at before, she leaves with him. But New York just isn’t the same without those two and it isn’t long before Bates finds himself back at the carnival right where he started.
The Half Naked Truth is amusing, but not great. It’s the kind of movie I’m glad I saw once, but it’s not the sort of thing I’d go out of my way to watch again. I got some laughs out of it, I liked the cast, but there wasn’t anything about it that impressed me so much that it became one of my favorites.