Against all odds Father Flanagan starts "Boys' Town" after hearing a convict's story. Whitey Marsh comes there. He runs away but, hungry, returns. He runs away again but, when friend Pee ... See full summary »



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Won 2 Oscars. Another 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Gene Reynolds ...
The Judge
Minor Watson ...
The Bishop
John Hargraves
Bobs Watson ...
Tommy Anderson
Freddie Fuller
Jimmy Butler ...
Paul Ferguson
Sidney Miller ...
Mo Kahn


Against all odds Father Flanagan starts "Boys' Town" after hearing a convict's story. Whitey Marsh comes there. He runs away but, hungry, returns. He runs away again but, when friend Pee Wee is hit by a car, returns. He runs away and joins his brother's gang. Flanagan and the boys capture the crooks and the reward saves the town. Written by Ed Stephan <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The greatest heart drama of the year. See more »


Biography | Drama


Passed | See all certifications »





Release Date:

9 September 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Boys' Town  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (DVD)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


When shooting began on the movie Mickey Rooney repeatedly tried to steal scenes by fumbling with a handkerchief, pulling faces and other bits of business. This so annoyed Spencer Tracy that he threatened to have Rooney thrown off the movie unless he behaved. See more »


While the boys are praying out front for the injured Pee Wee, Whitey goes behind them and grabs a branch of a tree with no leaves. When he turns around, the branch now is covered with leaves. See more »


Dan Farrow: [panicky, about to die in the electric chair] How much time have I got, Father?
Father Edward J. Flanagan: Eternity begins in forty-five minutes, Dan.
Dan Farrow: What happens then?
Father Edward J. Flanagan: Oh, a bad minute or two.
Dan Farrow: And after that?
Father Edward J. Flanagan: Well, Dan, that's a question that scientists and philosophers have been asking for a million years.
See more »


Referenced in Decodings (1988) See more »


Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child
Sung offscreen in prison by an unidentified prisoner
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User Reviews

An Old-Fashioned Feel-Good Film
11 March 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is a pretty famous movie, one of those old-fashioned feel-good films that bring a tear or two to the eye of the sensitive individual.

It's very dated, yes, but part of that "dated" means mostly nice kids, not brats and more nice role models, instead of extremely-flawed heroes. It seems, as film fans, we normally got one of the extremes thrown at us: overly good or overly bad. This is overly good.....but I'm fine with that.

Mickey Rooney really livens the film up with his appearance. He and most of the characters represent an America that is long gone, people and ideas that are way too "corny" for today's audience. Sometimes it's sappy but sometimes it's refreshing to see, too.

The "bad" kids in this film seem pretty nice and tame to today's bad kids, believe me. "There are no bad boys," as Father Flanagan put it, and one would wonder if that still applied today. Flanagan is nicely portrayed by Spencer Tracy. The priest is shown to be one who had a real heart for wayward boys.

Spencer and Rooney are the obvious stars of this sentimental story but little "Pee Wee," played by Bobs Watson, is the most endearing character in the movie.

Corny but a remembrance of a much more innocent America.

27 of 31 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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