Top Man
Universal Pictures
(a.k.a. Man of the Family, UK release)


Directed by Charles Lamont
Written by Zachary Gold
Story by Ken Goldsmith
A Bernard W. Burton Production


Released on September 15, 1943

       A wartime comedy-drama starring Donald O'Connor with Richard Dix as father of typical American family, Lillian Gish as mother, and sisters Peggy Ryan and Anne Gwynne.  Susanna Foster moves in across the street for the usual adolescent romance.  When Dix is called to active duty with the Navy, O'Connor assumes responsibilities of head man in the household, and eventually winds up herding this schoolmates into the labor-short war plant for four-hour shifts to break a bottleneck of production.  He also teams with Miss Foster to put on the postponed school variety show at the plant for the finish.


 

Cast:

Donald O' Connor

Susanna Foster

Lillian Gish

Anne Gwynne ... Pat Warren

Peggy Ryan

Richard Dix

Noah Berry, Jr.

Samuel S. Hinds

Production:

Zachary Gold- Writer

Ken Goldsmith- Story

Charles Lamont- Director 

Bernard W. Burton- Producer

Hal Mohr- Cinematographer

Paul Landres- Editor

Louis Da Pron- Dances

Inez James & Buddy Pepper- Songs

Charles Previn- music

Full Storyline

Tom and Beth Warren are worried about the poor grades that their teenage son Don is getting at Burlington Junior College. When questioned by his father, Don states that he is only interested in becoming a flyer, as Tom was in World War I. As he is being chastised for his laziness by his two sisters, Jane and Patricia (Anne Gwynne), Don sneaks out of the house and discovers a new family moving in across the street.

The new neighbors include an attractive young girl named Connie Allen. Don takes Connie to Higgins' soda fountain, where she is an immediate hit with all the young men, if not with the jealous young ladies. Don soon falls in love with Connie, but Pat is not as lucky, as her longtime boyfriend, Ed Thompson, is spending all his time working at the Federated Aircraft factory. The Warrens' lives are further disrupted when Tom re-enlists in the U.S. Navy. Jane, however, misunderstands her parents' conversation and tells all that Don has been accepted into flyer training.

Don's joy is short-lived, as he soon learns the truth, along with the fact that his childhood friend, Bud Haley, has just been killed in an air battle. After his father leaves, Don becomes "the man of the family," and begins to take his studies more seriously. His commitment to the books is so complete that he is even called into the principal's office to discuss his vastly improved grades and misses numerous rehearsals at Connie's house for the college variety show.

Later, Ed and Pat have a fight and break up, so Don goes to the aircraft factory to talk to the engineer. He is stopped at the gate by a security guard, but is later let in by Mr. Fairchild, the plant superintendent and Connie's uncle. Learning that the factory has a man-power shortage, Don suggests the he and his college friends come to work at the factory on a part-time basis. At first, his friends are unwilling to sacrifice their leisure time, but with Don's encouragement, they all agree to go to work to help the war effort.

With the extra workers, the factory's production increases drastically, so Fairchild agrees to let the students put on their canceled variety show at the plant. As an extra attraction, Connie uses her uncle's money to hire Count Basie and His Orchestra. The show is a great success, and the plant itself is decorated by the U.S. Army and Navy for its contribution to the war effort. Don himself receives a special citation from the Bureau of Aeronautics, which is presented to him by his father. The young man, however, insists on sharing the credit with Connie.

 

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