Of all the girls that are so smart,
There's none like pretty Sally; she is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley. There is no lady in the land,
As half so sweet as Sally: She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.”
--"Sally in Our Alley," by Henry Carey
The original play was based on the popular song "ally in Our Alley." The play, a musical comedy, was produced in New York at the Broadway Theatre, opening August 29th, 1902, the story of a good-hearted Jewish girl named Sarah but called “Sally.” The story was about her relationships with family and friends and the people in her neighborhood alley who she tries to help whenever trouble strikes. It was the basis for a 1916 film of the same title and helped inspire the Ziegfeld show Sally. The musical was originally intended as a vehicle for Marilyn Miller, the dancer who was a fast-rising Broadway star.
Sally ran 570 shows. All it needed was for someone to figure out a way to turn the musical spectacle into a silent film, and someone who could play the part of Sally as well as Marilyn Miller. The story and staging was the direct opposite of So Big.
As written for the screen, Sally (Colleen) is adopted out of the orphanage by Mrs. Du Fay (Louise Beaudet), who teaches dance. Hard times hit and Du Fay looses her students. Sally finds work as a dishwasher at the Ally Inn cafe, run by Pops Shendorf (Dan Mason) where she meets the Duke of Checkergovinia (Leon Errol), a fallen nobleman working as a waiter. She also meets Blair Farquar (Lloyd Hughes, Colleen's frequent co-star), a wealthy man who frequents the cafe and catches Sally’s eye. Sally dreams of a better life. When given a chance to dance at the cafe, she is a hit. She acquires an agent who has her pose as a famous Russian dancer. While performing at a reception held by Mrs. Ten Broeck (Myrtle Stedman) she runs into Farquar, who falls in love with her. She rejects his affections, knowing that when she was a lowly drudge she was not good enough for him.
Her performance at the ball is magnificent and she enjoys the adulation of the audience until the moment is ruined and the ruse revealed by Pops, who has followed her to the soirée. He exposes her as his dishwasher and she is banished from the Farquar home. One of the guests at the reception, however, was Florenz Ziegfeld, who signs Sally to dance in the Follies. She becomes a star, and Blair eventually convinces her to reconsider her rejection of him... in the end she decides to marry him.
For the production a gown designed by Mme. Francis of New York. Once it had been established after Flaming Youth that picture-goers paid attention to what Colleen’s film fashions, marketing of fashions and cosmetics became tied into nearly all of her films. Wardrobe became very important, unlike the days when she was making Slippy McGee, where she was looking for hand-me-downs.
It was during this film that she met a young man on the crew with the unusual and invented title of "comedy constructor." Mervyn LeRoy, who would go on to become an important director and eventually direct Colleen, though after a rough patch between Colleen and her studio.