TOP MAN 1943
Top Man (also known as Man of the Family) is a 1943 American black-and-white film starring Donald O’Connor, Susanna Foster, Lillian Gish, Richard Dix, and Peggy Ryan. This was O’Connor and Ryan’s first film away from the third of their trio, Gloria Jean.
- Directed by Charles Lamont
- Produced by Milton Schwarzwald
- Written by Ken Goldsmith Zachary Gold
- Starring Donald O’Connor
- Cinematography Hal Mohr
- Distributed by Universal Pictures
- Release date September 17, 1943
- Running time 74 minutes Country United States
Musical in which a family puts on a show to boost the morale of the local factory workers.
“The working title of this film was Man of the Family . Universal producer and writer Ken Goldsmith died at the age of forty-three while working on the pre-production of this film. He was replaced as associate producer by Bernard W. Burton.” (AFI – American Film Institute)
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, 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. (AFI)
TOP MAN (1943) (American Film Institute) Catalog
81 or 82.5-83 mins | Comedy-Drama | 17 September 1943
Lillian Gish, Susanna Foster and Dorothy Gish visiting Universal Studios in July 1943
The Winnipeg Tribune – Cavalcade of Screen Lillian Gish 08-17-1943