Based on the actual "Boy's Ranch" located in Oldham County, Texas northwest of Amarillo, Texas. The ranch was started in 1939 by ex-wrestler Cal Farley of Amarillo as a home for underprivileged boys when rancher Julian Bivins donated the old Tascosa courthouse and 120 acres of land for Farley's project. It started with Farley and his wife and nine boys, and currently has over 400 boys and fifty buildings on 4000 acres of farm/ranch land and its own post office and school. Now known as Cal Farley's Boy's Ranch. This film is a semi-western version of MGM's earlier "Boy's Town" plot-wise in which a snarling little petty thief and liar (played by, who else, Skip Homeier in a repeat of his Nazi brat in "Tomorrow the World") who comes to the ranch and immediately makes problems. His comeuppance and redemption is a foregone conclusion, although many viewing the film were rooting for him to end up in Tascosa's old Boot Hill. James Craig and Dorothy Patrick play the characters of Cal Farley ... Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ex-ball player (Craig) starts up a ranch for troubled boys, which includes the incorrigible Skippy (Homeier) and his more likable buddy Hank (Hickman). Based on a true story.
The movie's just the kind of wholesome family entertainment MGM specialized in. Sure, it's a long way from Oscar bait, while Maltin's movie guide doesn't even bother including it. Yet the admittedly minor film has a number of low-key attractions. I especially like the movie's refusal to get smarmy with material that invites it. Even little Butch Jenkins, with an irresistible mug right out of Mark Twain, is kept from getting cutesy. Plus, his frustrated efforts at riding the crafty mule Jasper are a real hoot. That's also a well-modulated scene on the Harpers' front porch where both Butch and the older couple discover "shirt tails to hang onto".
Still, there are several drawbacks the movie's longer than it should be; the climax is exciting but also too stagy for what's gone before; and Skippy's sudden turn-around is unconvincing, as another reviewer points out. Nonetheless, the boys look like real boys, while MGM wisely resists its usual impulse to over-glamorize. The material may indeed be derivative, but it's also generally well handled, with a good positive message. One thing for surethey don't make 'em like this any more. Too bad.
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