Cast & Crew
Jeff Shannon, a self-made millionaire, impatiently cancels a business appointment when he is notified by the principal of the Redford Military Academy that his son Austin is about to be expelled from school because of his inability to adapt to campus life. Hurrying to his son's school, the manly Shannon is humiliated by Austin's cowardice on the sports field. Although Austin tries to explain his discontent to his father, Shannon refuses to listen and returns home, thinking that he has solved his son's problem. Taunted by his fellow students, Austin runs away. While walking down a city street, he hears a woman loudly accusing Gus Novak, a shiftless bum, of stealing her purse. When a policeman appears to arrest him, Gus's fourteen-year-old newsboy son Joe convinces the officer to let his father go free. Joe befriends Austin and invites him home. The next morning, Joe goes to work, leaving behind his dog, Eight Ball, to keep Austin company. At the newsstand, Joe reads about Austin's disappearance and the $1,000 reward offered for his return and excitedly hurries home to notify his friend of the news. Although Austin talks Joe out of exposing him, Joe, who longs for an education, cannot understand his friend's refusal to return to school. While Joe goes back to work, Austin keeps busy, building a doghouse for Eight Ball. One day, while snooping around the house, Gus discovers Austin's school uniform in Joe's closet and realizes his true identity. Unknown to the boys, he writes a ransom letter to Shannon. Austin, meanwhile, proves his courage by rescuing Eight Ball from drowning one day, and Joe uses the incident to build his friend's self-confidence and teaches him to box and play football and baseball without flinching. Austin then completes his education by joining Joe in selling papers on the street. While hawking papers one day, the boys read a story about Austin's kidnapping and, realizing what Gus has done, decide that Austin must return to school. Upon his return, Austin is interrogated about his kidnapping by the police, his father and newspaper reporters, but refuses to betray his friend's father. Praised for his courageous escape from his kidnappers, Austin becomes the hero of the school and is selected as "The Boy of the Year," the Academy's highest award. Loyal to Joe, Austin persuades his father to send him $1,000. Shannon agrees to do so, but on police advice, marks the money. As a result, Joe is arrested for kidnapping, and Austin lacks the courage to exonerate him. To save his son, Gus breaks into the Shannon home and tells Shannon the truth, pleading with him to help Joe. Shannon then advises his son to "let his conscience be his guide." After a terrible struggle with himself, Austin confesses the truth to the court. Joe is released and both boys return to the school, welcomed by the students and faculty as heroes.
Max Hoffman Jr.
Howard J. Green
The working title of this film was It's Tough to Be a Hero.