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Fighting Father Dunne (1948)

Approved | | Action, Biography, Crime | 12 May 1948 (USA)
In 1905, a crusading priest tries to help poor newsboys.



(story), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »


Cast overview, first billed only:
Matt Davis
Miss O'Rourke
Mr. Michael O'Donnell
Harry Shannon ...
Thomas Lee, Lawyer
Steve Davis
Mrs. Olaf Knudson
Donn Gift ...
Paula Hendricks
Kate Mulvey
Policeman Danny Briggs (as Jim Nolan)
Billy Cummings ...
Billy Gray ...


St. Louis, 1905: Parish priest Father Dunne becomes aware of the plight of the city's newsboys, living on pennies and often homeless, and resolves to help them. Through inspired finagling and the gift of the blarney, he organizes a sort of "co-op" orphanage for increasing numbers of boys. Then he's faced with the tougher problem of stopping the escalating violence in inter-paper rivalry for "good corners"... Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The true story of Father Dunne of St. Louis, who promised his gang of roughneck kids a better deal...and led them into the hearts of fellow townsmen! (original poster) See more »


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

12 May 1948 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Domani saranno uomini  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Referenced in Let's Go to the Movies (1949) See more »


I've Got Rings On My Fingers
Written by Robert P. Weston, Fred J. Barnes, and Maurice Scott
Performed by Myrna Dell, James Nolan, and cast
See more »

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User Reviews

A pre-cursor to Boystown.
24 August 2004 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Before Father Flanagan started Boystown and after MGM gave his life the Class-A MGM treatment in two films starring Spencer Tracy, Father Peter Dunne of St. Louis had a similar smaller scale operation. And RKO a much smaller studio did a film about his work with homeless male youth and got Pat O'Brien to play the title role.

The real Father Peter Dunne in 1905 took in three homeless newsboys he found living in a box in St. Louis as it is shown in the film. That was the start of a home he created which serviced now several generations. The home is still being run, but not in the St. Louis metropolitan area any longer.

Dunne's problems are just like what Father Flanagan had to deal with and O'Brien with the Irish charm working on all cylinders solves nearly all of them during the course of the film. One major difference between this film and Boystown is that where Spencer Tracy took his charges out of the city and created his own town so to speak, Dunne's group is still in the city, the kids are still selling newspapers and dealing with big city life.

Pat O'Brien was Hollywood's quintessential Irishman. His best roles were as fast talking promoter types whatever their profession (Knute Rockne) or when he played priests (Angels With Dirty Faces, The Fighting 69th)quiet, reflective, wise and strong. He doesn't break any new ground with Father Dunne, but it's the O'Brien we've come to expect and I suspect wouldn't be happy to see him as anything else.

Pat O'Brien also has a Mickey Rooney like character in this film. Here the part is played by Darryl Hickman in probably the best role he had in his juvenile career. Unlike Rooney in Boystown, Hickman comes to a tragic end, so unlike Tracy, O'Brien couldn't save all the kids in his charge.

Good supporting cast and the best performances their come from Charles Kemper as O'Brien's put upon brother-in-law and Arthur Shields as an irascible wealthy donor to O'Brien's cause. He's an Ulster man and always lets Father Dunne know it. In real life Shields and his brother Barry Fitzgerald were just that.

How times have changed. Could Fighting Father Dunne or Boystown be made today? I don't know how the public would take a couple of priests starting a home for wayward teenage boys now.

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