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Boys Town (1938)

Passed  |   |  Biography, Drama  |  9 September 1938 (USA)
7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 3,695 users  
Reviews: 40 user | 18 critic

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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Title: Boys Town (1938)

Boys Town (1938) on IMDb 7.3/10

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Won 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
Leslie Fenton ...
Gene Reynolds ...
Edward Norris ...
Addison Richards ...
The Judge
Minor Watson ...
The Bishop
Jonathan Hale ...
John Hargraves
Bobs Watson ...
Martin Spellman ...
Skinny
Mickey Rentschler ...
Tommy Anderson
Frankie Thomas ...
Freddie Fuller
Jimmy Butler ...
Paul Ferguson
Sidney Miller ...
Mo Kahn
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Storyline

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 <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The life story of a boy who was "born to be hung"! See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

9 September 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Boys' Town  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (DVD)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Freddie Bartholomew was considered for the part of Mickey Rooney's best friend, but was not cast because the producers felt he was too associated with Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936) and so would not be believable in this film. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Freddie Fuller: There's our baseball field... last year one of our players was drafted by the St. Louis Browns.
Whitey Marsh: Well, I like the Yankees.
Freddie Fuller: You would!
See more »

Connections

Followed by Men of Boys Town (1941) See more »

Soundtracks

My Mammy
(1921) (uncredited)
Music by Walter Donaldson
Lyrics by Sam Lewis and Joe Young
Title Sung a cappella by Mickey Rooney
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A little too saintly to be entertaining
28 February 2002 | by (England) – See all my reviews

The film takes a long time to get going - I almost gave up on it after the first half-hour. But mercifully, after the documentary-style and resolutely non-judgmental opening, "Boys Town" acquires a plot - and some sense of direction. The trigger for this is the introduction of the first character in the entire film who is allowed to be flawed. So far, everyone else has been shown to be either a curmudgeon with a heart of gold, a rascal with a heart of gold, or an unashamed saint; but Joe Marsh is a flashy and unrepentant young criminal.

He is not entirely beyond redemption, however. He loves his younger brother, who hero-worships him in turn and longs to emulate him; and it is doubtless a sad reflection on human nature that it is only with the arrival of strife in the Eden of Boys Town, in the shape of Joe and Whitey Marsh, that the film manages to become at all interesting.

What follows is a story that has been told many times before, from Louisa May Alcott's "Jo's Boys" onwards. This is the story of a rough boy who rebels against unaccustomed gentle surroundings and tries to corrupt his new world to match the one he knows, and whose ultimate saving grace is his protective love for a younger child.

The main problem for this film is the role of Father Flanagan, a thankless part for any actor. The man has - literally - no weaknesses, no human flaws, not even any self-doubt. His charm can apparently melt the hardest heart and conjure water out of a stone - or out of a hard-headed pawnbroker, which according to the script comes to the same thing. The man is too likeable to be 'insufferable'; but it was surely not the intention of the director that the audience should end up by willing Whitey to resist the priest's moral pressure, to shield his brother even at his own expense and that of his adopted community - and to be so pleased when the boy attempts to do so.

To be honest, I don't see that this part deserved to win an Oscar for Spencer Tracy - not because the actor played badly, but because the character as written simply doesn't present him with enough challenging material to demonstrate his craft. It is the child actors who play the various boys who deserved the real praise in this film. Ultimately I suspect Tracy's Oscar was an award aimed at rewarding the efforts of the *real* Father Flanagan rather than at his performance in this film.


6 of 9 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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