While loosely based on Sousa's autobiography Marching Along, the film takes considerable liberties and dramatic license, often expanding and extrapolating on themes and passages in the book. Much of the film is devoted to a romance between fictional characters Willie Little, a musician who joins the U.S. Marine Band under Sousa, and Lily Becker, an aspiring concert singer. In the film, Willie is credited with designing the Sousaphone and naming it after his mentor, while in real life, Sousa himself designed the instrument. The film follows Sousa from his days as head of the Marine Band to his leaving the Marine Corps to form his own band in 1892 and the ups and downs of his band.

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