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Gangway for Tomorrow

Gangway for Tomorrow(1943)

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Remind Me

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Jim Benson, the driver of a car carrying five defense workers to an aircraft manufacturing plant, invites his passengers home for dinner Sunday night and admits that he has made up fictional biographies about each of them in response to his wife's questions. Benson's story about Lisette, a French woman, triggers haunting memories of why she came to the United States: In Paris, during the war, Lisette used her work as a cabaret singer to hide her activities in the French underground. When Lisette and her freedom-fighter friends use a secret radio transmitter to interrupt Hitler's broadcast with a rendition of the "Marsellaise," a German colonel recognizes Lisette's voice, and she is arrested with the other members of her group. Betrayed by one of their own, the group is sentenced to die in front of a firing squad. After she accepts her life in exchange for entertaining the German troops, Lisette is loaded on a truck bound for prison. Lisette jumps from the rear of the truck, and returns to the radio transmitter where she broadcasts a warning about the traitor in their midst and memorializes her martyred friends. Coming out of her reverie, Lisette explains to Benson that after escaping from France, she came to America because her father was an American and she wanted to aid the war effort in any way possible.
       Soon after Lisette finishes her story, Benson's car tire goes flat, and as the other passengers wait alongside the road, fellow defense worker Joe Dunham changes the tire. As he works, Joe remembers his pre-war life as a race car driver: Joe, who is planning to join the Air Corps after completing the Indianapolis race, is leading in the last lap when his tire blows and he loses control of his car. In the ensuing accident, Joe suffers injuries which render him ineligible for military service. His thoughts returning to the present, Joe finishes changing the tires, and the others climb back into the car.
       The budding comraderie of his fellow passengers prompts Tom Burke to worry that he may have to recount his story: Before the war, Burke is a prison warden whose duties force him to supervise the execution of his younger brother, Dan Barton, an incorrigible criminal. As the hour of Dan's execution approaches, Burke reflects back to a year earlier, when he asked his brother to leave town before their mother discovered that her youngest son was a criminal. Dan defies his brother's request, and when their mother sees a newspaper headline identifying her son as the gunman who killed four men during a bank robbery, she dies, clutching Dan's photograph in her hand. Burke escorts Dan to the electric chair and is about to pull the switch when the phone rings. Ignoring the ringing phone, Burke electrocutes his brother and then answers the call from the governor pardoning Dan. Burke's thoughts return to the present when Wellington, another passenger in the car, asks him what he did before the war and he answers that he was in the legal business.
       Benson's description of passenger Mary Jones as a "nice, pretty home girl" prompts her to think back to the triumphant night she won the Miss America pageant. No longer Miss Jones but Miss America, Mary foresakes her boyfriend, Bob Nolan, for her career. When Bob proposes, Mary insists upon postponing any thought of marriage until after she has completed her reign, and sets out to find fame in New York. Promised three song and dance numbers in a Broadway show, Mary sees her part reduced to a walk-on. Brokenhearted, Mary receives a letter from Bob, notifying her that he has enlisted in the Air Corps and is stationed in Australia. Benson's question about her boyfriend brings Mary back to the present, and she answers that he is still in Australia.
       Benson's description of Wellington as an ex-banker prompts Wellington to reminisce about his travels as an erudite hobo. Arrested for vagrancy, Wellington is chastised by Judge Fred Taylor for failing to come to the defense of his country. Inspired by the judge's words, Wellington goes to work at the aircraft factory. As Wellington's thoughts return to the present, Benson's car arrives at the factory, and after agreeing to meet for dinner on Sunday, the workers link arms and enter the plant to the strains of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."