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Boys Town (1938)

Passed | | Biography, Drama | 9 September 1938 (USA)
When a death row prisoner tells him he wouldn't have led a life of crime if only he had had one friend as a child, Father Edward Flanagan decides to do something about. An advocate of child... See full summary »

Director:

Norman Taurog

Writers:

John Meehan (screenplay), Dore Schary (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
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Won 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Spencer Tracy ... Father Flanagan
Mickey Rooney ... Whitey Marsh
Henry Hull ... Dave Morris
Leslie Fenton ... Dan Farrow
Gene Reynolds ... Tony Ponessa
Edward Norris ... Joe Marsh
Addison Richards ... The Judge
Minor Watson ... The Bishop
Jonathan Hale ... John Hargraves
Bobs Watson ... Pee Wee
Martin Spellman ... Skinny
Mickey Rentschler ... Tommy Anderson
Frankie Thomas ... Freddie Fuller
Jimmy Butler ... Paul Ferguson
Sidney Miller ... Mo Kahn
Edit

Storyline

When a death row prisoner tells him he wouldn't have led a life of crime if only he had had one friend as a child, Father Edward Flanagan decides to do something about. An advocate of child rights and an opponent of the severe approach to juvenile delinquency at the time, Flanagan genuinely believed that there is no such thing as a bad boy. Starting with just a few boys in a rented house, Father Flanagan eventually establishes Boys Town on 200 acres of land 10 miles outside of Omaha, Nebraska. Much of the film focuses on Flanagan's attempts to influence one boy, Whitey Marsh, who will become a hoodlum if he doesn't change his ways. When Whitey is implicated in a bank robbery, it puts all of Boys Town at risk. Throughout it all Flanagan has to fight prejudice in those who believe delinquents should just be locked up and the never ending shortage of money to accomplish his goals. Written by garykmcd

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:

USA

Language:

English | Hebrew

Release Date:

9 September 1938 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Boys' Town See more »

Filming Locations:

Boys Town, Nebraska, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (DVD)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Color:

Black and White (Sepiatone)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the 400 movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies. See more »

Goofs

Whitey lowers his baton twice when he steps up to make his election speech. See more »

Quotes

Father Edward J. Flanagan: There is no such thing as a bad boy.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Also available in a computer colorized version. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Day Damn One (1990) See more »

Soundtracks

Theme Music of Boys Town
(uncredited)
Music Traditional, from "Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes"
Performed by the Boys Town Acapella Choir (as Boys Town A Cappella Choir)
[Sung at an assembly]
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Tribute To A Remarkable Man & Place
18 June 2002 | by Ron OliverSee all my reviews

Father Flanagan courageously fights against all odds to see his dream of BOYS TOWN become a reality.

Pulsing with real life, here is a family film which not only entertains but informs - bringing back to our attention one of the most vibrant personalities of the 20th Century, Father Edward Flanagan. Excellent production values - with outdoor filming that actually appears to have taken place on location at the authentic Boys Town - help tremendously with the viewer's enjoyment.

Earning his second Oscar in two years, Spencer Tracy is magnificent as the good Father. He gives us a hero of patience & grace, one who values prayer & faith, but one who is also quite ready to land a few powerful punches for a good cause. Tracy's own private life was anything but tranquil, which only makes his performance here all the more impressive.

Admirably cast as a nasty little punk, young Mickey Rooney breezes through an important role which would help propel him into becoming Hollywood's top star within a couple of years. Like a junior version of Tracy himself, the two are wonderful together, striking several dramatic sparks off their characters' personalities. While Tracy plays his role with quiet humor & dignity, Rooney hams it up magnificently.

Henry Hull offers good support as Tracy's pawnbroker friend who nervously gets to worry about all of Boys Town's financial woes. Little Bobs Watson as Pee Wee, the Town's youngest resident, is cute without being too cloying.

*************************

After an education in Rome, Irish-born Edward Joseph Flanagan (1886-1948) came to America in 1904. Ordained a priest in 1912, Father Flanagan was sent to Omaha, Nebraska, where he established the Workingmen's Hotel for derelict men in 1914.

Soon, however, his great calling and the purpose for his life's ministry became clear - the work with abandoned & abused boys. In 1917 Father Flanagan opened the Home for Homeless Boys in a large old house. Outgrowing their facilities, in 1921 Father Flanagan moved his young charges to a farm site 10 miles from Omaha, capable of housing hundreds of youths. Quickly becoming more of a living community than just a school, the boys voted in 1926 to rename the place Boys Town.

Eventually covering some 1300 acres of farmland, dormitories, workshops, classrooms & playing fields, Boys Town incorporated itself as a sovereign township in 1936. Largely governed by the young men themselves, the institution is open to boys of all religions, colors & creeds and strives to provide healing for all manner of emotional & physical abuses.

Girls were first brought into the program in 1979.


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