Boys Town (1938) Poster

(1938)

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9/10
Giving the kids a break
bkoganbing31 October 2005
Boys Town is not the actual story of the founding of the famous orphanage in Nebraska for homeless male youth. True some of the problems that Father Edward J. Flanagan had in making his dream come true are dealt with here. But about a third of the way through the story line changes and it deals with the problems of one of the youths Boys Town takes in.

The youth is Mickey Rooney and Father Flanagan is played by Spencer Tracy. They are some contrast in acting styles. It's a tribute to Director Norman Taurog in that he was able to reign in Rooney, who's performance some times goes a little over the top.

Tracy however beautifully underplays against Rooney. San Francisco two years before was a milestone film for Tracy. Previous to San Francisco, Tracy had played mostly roughewn types on either side of the law. No pun intended, but as the priest there, Spencer Tracy became the wise paternal figure so beloved in so many films.

There's a lot of Father Tim Mullin continued on in Tracy's Father Flanagan. No new ground was broken, but the ground was carefully cultivated by Tracy in Boys Town, earning him a second Oscar in a row. That Oscar resides at Girls and Boys Town today, the place did go co-ed in the Seventies.

Tracy was under a lot of pressure in this part because Father Flanagan was still alive. Rumor hath it that he enjoyed Tracy's portrayal very much.

Well if my life story was ever important enough to bring to the screen, I couldn't ask for anyone better than Spencer Tracy to play me.
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8/10
An Old-Fashioned Feel-Good Film
ccthemovieman-111 March 2006
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.
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10/10
Tribute To A Remarkable Man & Place
Ron Oliver18 June 2002
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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8/10
"There's no such thing in the world as a bad boy."
classicsoncall30 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Spencer Tracy earned a second Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Father Flanagan, the inspirational founder of Boys Town, a haven for troubled youth on the outskirts of Omaha, Nebraska. Flanagan was spurred to action by the execution of a prison inmate whose life paralleled many of the boys that Flanagan has come to know in his own home town. With a shoestring budget, and the aid of practical but good hearted businessman Dave Morris (Henry Hull), Flanagan begins the task of building a home and a legacy for hundreds of troubled young men.

Flanagan soon meets Whitey Marsh (Mickey Rooney), a street wise punk who is about to follow in the footsteps of his criminal brother; but it was big brother Joe (Edward Norris) who asks Flanagan to befriend Whitey. At first, Whitey wants none of it, but there always seems to be something holding Whitey back, whether the thought of a good meal, the effort to make an impression on the other boys, or just the friendship of another young boy Pee Wee (Bobs Watson) who looks up to Whitey. Rooney gives an incredibly fine performance here, portraying a wide range of character and emotions. His near breakdown when Pee Wee is injured and the thought that he was responsible is enough to cause a tear jerk reaction.

The film does get a bit simplistic at times, and some of the situations seem contrived to keep the story moving. But it's anchored by a sense of faith and hope in Father Flanagan's crusade to make the world just a little bit better for one boy at a time. In that, the film has a timeless appeal, and resonates as strongly today as it must have in the late 1930's.
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10/10
Worth watching over and over.
Sushifreak18 November 2003
Very touching story about a man who knows the right thing to do and is selfless in giving the boys a chance at life with no regard to how it might affect his own life. I think that viewing this should be manditory for some of the people who have lost touch of what matters most in this life and it's not money.
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A fine story of one man's love for the forlorn and another's discovery of humility
shankar_k21 March 2001
A classic tale of one man's belief in the inherent goodness in every human being. Spencer Tracey, in one of his finest performances, essays the role of Father Flanagan who, in spite of mounting pressure from society, champions the cause of juvenile delinquents and gives them a shelter and some much-needed care. But the order in Boys Town is marred by the reluctant entry of Whitey Marsh (played effortlessly by Mickey Rooney), a cocky street-smart urchin who loathes having to adjust his ways to suit the others. However, as the events unwind, Whitey slowly starts loving Boys Town so much so that he stakes his life for it. What impressed me about the movie most was the brilliant performance from Spencer Tracey - a delicate balance of charm, wit, care and enormous willpower.
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9/10
great movie
dlcowfan18 December 2005
some silly acting and Mickey gets TOO emotional at times, but inspirational and a near tear jerker at times.....can serve as a model for some of the problems with our youth today....will watch it every time it comes on.....i hope you do, too...have your kids watch it every time it comes on....from beginning to end....and then sit down and have a talk with them about responsibility, dignity, truthfulness, and honesty....make a copy and every time your kid tells a lie or doesn't something dishonest, have him/her watch it again and again...its worth it....one of Mickey Rooney's best and definitely one of his best on the NONcomedy/musical side...
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7/10
Wonderful Hollywood hokum
MartinHafer27 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Oh what a silly and contrived film,...but somehow it still works. Yes the film features Spencer Tracy as a priest yet again. Mickey Rooney plays a know-it-all jerk that you just KNOW will redeem himself in the end. And, Yes, you kind of figure that Pee Wee is going to buy the farm since he idolizes the dumb jerk played by Rooney. So with all this schmaltz, how does this STILL end up being a decent film? Well, it gets the "full MGM treatment"--excellent direction, music and acting all combined to pull at your heart and make even curmudgeons smile--just a little. Give it a try, but if you ARE a curmudgeon (like me), see it alone--you'd hate for it to get out that you can enjoy this sappy fare. But you will enjoy it!
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There is no such thing as a bad boy - Father Flanegan
thursdays8 June 2004
The "true story" of Father Flanagan, an Catholic Priest in early 1900's Nebraska, whose motto "There is no such thing as a bad boy" lead him to open a large orphanage for boys nobody wanted. With love and the insistance that there is always hope, the man "gets through" to even the toughest kids anyone else would have called "hopeless".

Spencer Tracy won his second consecutive Best Actor Oscar as the long suffering Flannegan. Mickey Rooney is great as Flannegan's "toughest challenge", and many of the orphans give genuine performances in this Hollywood Classic. The movie "Boys Town" was a major boost to the real-life orphanage, eventually catapulting it to a successful multi-million dollar organization, helping boys (and girls) throughout the US!

"Boy's Town" gives hope to all of the "orphans" among us. Whether without parents, or from unhappy homes. There are always caring individuals whose life goal it is to "leave no child behind". Where there is life, there is hope!*****
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5/10
A little too saintly to be entertaining
Igenlode Wordsmith28 February 2002
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.
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10/10
Makes you think long and hard about what is important
benjamin_380xd26 February 2006
"No race that does not take care of its young can hope to survive—or deserves to survive." -Father Flanagan I've seen this movie several times and each time it leaves me humbled. All too often we are caught up in the gotta haves of today without realizing what the true gotta haves are. And that is children who are loved and nurtured. Father Flanagan performed a wonderful service during his 62 years on earth and we should be grateful for that self sacrifice. Thanks to Father Flanagan, the world is a better place and children are cared for in the way that they deserve. Because without well adjusted children, how can we expect to be surrounded by well adjusted adults? Bottom line, this movie will make you think and perhaps re evaluate what is truly important in life.
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10/10
By far, one of the best biographies ever made
Elizabeth-32815 December 1999
Warning: Spoilers
I absolutely adore this film. Spencer Tracy is simply magnificent in his Oscar-winning role of Father Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town. But I think the guy who really steals the show is Mickey Rooney. He was only 18, but he was so talented! In this, he really shows the audience what an incredible actor he is. I think he should have won an Oscar too!

My favorite part of "Boys Town" is when Pee Wee gets hit by a car, and Whitey really shows his emotions for the first time. This part really just rips my heart out, to see a tough kid like Whitey just fall apart. Pee Wee was the only boy who stood by Whitey right from the start: his only true friend. But thank goodness Pee Wee lives!~

"Boys Town" is a movie that really defines the Golden Era of Hollywood by displaying a wonderful cast and a beautiful story. So I give it a 10, hoping that it brings up the IMDb score of a low 7.2. It deserves much better than that!!
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7/10
Mickey Rooney saves the day
mik-1916 October 2004
A lot of especially younger people today are going to despise 'Boys Town' for its unashamed sentimentality, and the objection is hard to contradict. Even the director Lasse Hallström who doesn't shy away from overt emotion in his movies would, I hope, steer away from some of the grosser clichés of this picture.

Having said that, I found 'Boys Town' truly engrossing. It is, of course, about Father Flanagan (Spencer Tracy) who sets up a self-governed community for wayward, homeless boys in Nebraska, a sort of humanitarian answer to the often brutal and authoritarian reformatories. Flanagan's biggest challenge proves to be Whitey (Mickey Rooney), tough and self-serving kid brother of a convicted felon. Though Flanagan repeatedly claims 'I only know one thing, There's no such thing as a bad boy", Whitey's surely testing his patience and ends up endangering the whole future of the enterprise.

Actually, and that came as a shock to me, Rooney's Whitey was the surprise of the movie. Whereas Tracy is going through the motions as the archetypal priest with a heart of gold, and whereas too many of the boys are acted with the sort of saccharine sweetness that must have been grating even in the mid- or late 1930s, Rooney is perfect. I myself never gave him credit for his versatility, his instinct and his willingness to take risks. From his initial streetwise swagger (when told that "On a clear day you can see all the way to Omaha", he retorts, "Yeah? THEN whadda ya got?") he gradually, so gradually as to be believable, evolves into a decent young chap. The scene in which he falls apart, because he believes he has caused the death of a hero-worshiping little boy, rings very true in its sobbing and crying earnestness. The director, alas, ends up destroying the honesty of the scene by applying scores of boys kneeling in fervent prayer, with a soprano soaring above them all.

All in all, 'Boys Town' ought to have been a whole lot better. Another director would have helped. It's a nice touch, though, to have the scrawny destitute kid hitch for a week to get to Boys Town only the night before it is destined to foreclose.

So, watch it for Rooney and the occasional touching ensemble scene.
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6/10
Pedantic & Puerile
telegonus14 November 2001
This is a pedantic and puerile attempt at telling the story of the remarkable Father Flanagan and his admirable little community of Boys Town. As the good father, Spencer Tracy is one-dimensional, though warmer in his quieter scenes than was usually the case. As his toughest charge, Mickey Rooney is way over the top, and continually irritating. Half-way through the movie I was sincerely hoping he'd get bumped off. The few virtues this film possesses have to do with its intention, which is to tell us about Father Flanagan, which it does proficiently. Production values are outstanding, also, but the acting of the Young Ones leaves much to be desired, and one wishes the Dead End Kids, who had debuted in films the previous year, had turned up at some point and rocked the boat a little, showing us just how tough young deprived and neglected youngsters can be, and how much mischief they can make. I have no doubt that the father would have been more than up to the task, as he dealt with such things in real life all the time.
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Tracy's Oscar
Michael_Elliott28 February 2008
Boys Town (1938)

*** (out of 4)

Spencer Tracy won his second of back to back Oscar for his performance here as Father Flanagan, a man who's dream is to create a home for abused and troubled boys. This film here seems to take a beating due to its over sentimental aspects but I don't see anything wrong with it. Yes, the sentimental aspects are a little over the top at times but this is still a pretty powerful film and Tracy is brilliant in his role. The scene with Pee Wee and Mickey Rooney is perfectly done and quite touching and the film's heart is in the right place. Henry Hull co-stars.
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7/10
Don't Cry Little Fishy
caspian197827 April 2005
Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney star in the 1938 classic, Boys Town. Based in a real-life Home for Boys in Nebraska, Spencer Tracy would win Best Actor at the Acadmey Awards for his performance. Mickey Rooney, at the age of 18 wins the audience over, although it is Spencer Tracy that is hailed the lead actor as the noble and always wise Priest. Rooney plays the tough guy / teenage hell-raiser who ends up becoming a nice boy. His addition to Boys Town is followed by a series of knocks and explosions. The family atmosphere of Boy's Town is the true winner of the movie. Watching Rooney slowly become of the family of forgotten boys wins your heart. Spencer Tracy is only the star of the movie, it is Rooney who is the movie.
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Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney star in this movie based on a real Boy's Town.
TxMike24 February 2004
Spencer Tracy won the Oscar for best actor as Father Flanagan who established Boy's Town in Nebraska, inspired by the tale of a career criminal who had been raised in a reform school. With no funds and no help from his bishop, Fr Flanagan scraped together enough cash and some furniture to rent a house for the first five boys. Eventually donations and enrollment grew so that Boys Town became a small complex, with dairy and crop farming. The boys elected their own 'mayor' from among the boys, for six-month terms. Mickey Rooney was 17 but played Whitey, a boy of about 13, who seemed intent on causing trouble. Flanagan's motto was 'there are no bad boys', but Whitey made him re-think that. Excellent movie, especially for its place in cinema history, with two fine classic actors, Tracy and Rooney.
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10/10
A Classic
reversal681 January 2001
I have enjoyed this movie since I was a child. I saw it for the first time when I was about ten-years-old and have watched it many times since. While parts of it may seem "hokey" by today's standards, the performances of Tracey and Rooney are memorable. The tensions between the "tough-love" priest and the wise-mouthed swaggering delinquent make for timeless drama. I have to admit though, that every time I watch this movie, there is a part of me that wants Whitey Marsh to stay bad, remain a delinquent and fail to succumb to the straight-laced rules of Boys Town. (Perhaps, that is the rebellious residue of a Catholic education.) In any event, I agree with the sentiments reflected by a prior poster, that when Pee Wee gets hit by the car, and Whitey starts sobbing, well, it is hard not to sob along with him.
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3/10
Patronising claptrap
grange8528 May 2000
For the most part Boys Town is a pretty run of the mill comedy/drama weighed down by the overrated hamminess of its two major stars...until you start to feel the remorseless hammering of its pathetically naive message, it tries to cover subject matter that is deep and complex (homelessness, delinquency, crime etc.) and does it in such a shallow and patronising way, serving up infuriating clichés (particularly in the characterisations of Father Flanagan, Whitey Marsh and Tony Ponessa) along the way.

Perhaps a film such as this had a time and a place but you can find 30s films covering serious subject matter in a considerably less condescending manner.

From me a generous 3/10.
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7/10
Solid Tracy performance earned him the Academy Award
vincentlynch-moonoi2 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The strength of this film is the not story itself, because at least the last fourth of the picture -- when Whitey (Mickey Rooney) leads all the boys of Boys Town to confront hardened criminals at an abandoned inn is total fiction in a movie that purports itself to be the story of the real Boys Town and Father Flanagan (which is not to say that it isn't great movie making!).

No, the strength of this film is the performance by Spencer Tracy as Father Flanagan. And of course, it won him an Academy Award. Highly fictionalized or not, his portrayal made him the real Father Flanagan to many people. It is a remarkable performance, in part because as usual, he plays his roles in somewhat of an understated way, which makes them seem all the more realistic. There's quite a bit about the making of this film in the new Tracy biography, and it's interesting to compare the confidence of the character he was playing here with his insecurity in playing a priest.

The other star of the pic was Mickey Rooney. Interestingly, this film was made the same year he began making the Andy Hardy films. What a cocky character, and in some ways (ala the Tracy biography) he may have been pretty much the same in real life. But, despite some overacting, he plays this part memorably.

Most of the other supporting actors do very nicely, but special mention should be made of Henry Hull, who does an especially nice job as Tracy's/Flanigan's crusty friend with a soft heart. And, it is a hoot watching Bobs Watson cry! Some of the scenes in the picture were filmed at Boys Town, and overall it's a nice production. While the aura of Boys Town and the basic history isn't far from the truth, the actual plot of the movie is a little far-fetched. Would the iconic Father Flanigan really lead his boys to overtaking and capturing a trio of bank robbers and murderers? But, it makes a swell story and is very entertaining. This film was interesting enough -- and over the years I've probably watched it half a dozen times -- that since I now live in Colorado, I just might make a trip out in Nebraska to visit the real Boys Town.

This is one for your DVD shelf!
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6/10
Hokey and yet likable despite a smothering of sentiment...
Doylenf23 November 2010
SPENCER TRACY underplays the role of Father Flanagan who was the man behind the creation of BOYS TOWN and yet Hollywood thought his performance deserved an Oscar in 1938. The film looks very dated now and the sentiment is laid on a bit thick. The delinquent boys seem more like stereotyped cardboard characters dreamed up by the scriptwriter with only occasional glimmers of truth in the acting.

Best among the supporting cast are GENE REYNOLDS (always a fine child actor who later turned his talents to directing) and little BOBS WATSON, who does a remarkably convincing job of playing the little boy who worships "Whitey," played by MICKEY ROONEY. Rooney's performance is a bit too blustery but there are moments when his acting nails the truth.

Still, it's hard to know how much "truth" there is in the story told here, since so much of the script seems to depend on contrivances that make one suspect it's a purely fictionalized account of the actual story behind the development of Flanagan's Boys Town. Anyone with a fondness for Tracy and Rooney will find it easy enough to sit through, but I don't think it's the finest work of either star.
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Going my way
dbdumonteil21 September 2010
It's been some years since the story about the Catholic Church sheltering pedophile priests came to light.I do hope it's only a minority.

But it's comforting to watch a movie based on this wonderful priest ,Father Flanagan (brillantly portrayed by the great Tracy)If there are saints in the universe,he must be one of them.After listening to the story of a prisoner about to be executed -a victim of fate more than a criminal-,the man of God decides he would take in all the boys standing in great danger of going to the dogs in a town he would build for them.

One of Flanagan's most salutary qualities is his superb tolerance :before lunch,every boy prays his own God ,not only Jesus (they are even allowed to have no God),which was revolutionary!thirty years later,when I was in a catholic holiday camp,we had to pray and thank OUR Lord before we ate.

Many viewers will praise Mickey Rooney and he is impressive as a "gangster in miniature" ,but my favorite is the adorable Pee Wee!
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A sugary saccharine confection
JoeytheBrit17 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Spencer Tracy won the Academy Award for Most Sincere Priest of 1938 for this one. He drifts through a range of emotions here from pious sincerity to pious righteousness to pious tolerance via pious determination and resourcefulness – all of it smothered in a sickly dose of pious non-sexual love for his ever growing brood of ankle-biters. In real life Tracy is one of the cussing-est, hard-drinking womanisers in Hollywood and it must have amused him no end to have received an Oscar for his portrayal of the saintly Father Flanagan.

The film takes a left turn halfway through, as if it has grown tired of watching the rather dull father, to concentrate on the problems endured by Whitey Marsh, played by an 18-year-old Mickey Rooney. Rooney clearly thinks he's in a comedy. Just look at the way he struts around as the mayor of Boys Town shows him around the town; he lifts each leg as if he has glue on the soles of his shoes and twitches his head this way and that like a particularly alert sparrow. Later, when things go particularly bad for his character, Rooney overacts outrageously, determined to tug at the heartstrings of all those mothers who had made him one of America's favourite teens.

Of course, this being a Hollywood product of the thirties, everything works out OK in the end. Father Flanagan saves the boys' home from closure, Whitey becomes accepted and liked by his peers, all of whom are wonderfully likable young tykes ('there's no such thing as a bad boy,' Tracy repeatedly intones), and little Pee Wee, inspired by Tracy, goes on to become a real-life Methodist minister.

This one's so sugary you're going to want to brush your teeth after watching it.
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SUPERB
john.foulks15 October 2001
I have always been a fan of Spencer Tracy, and I feel that this is one of the great movies he has been in, this and Captains Courageous. He depicts the type of acting that the stars of today do not have, he should be classified as one of the 10 most talented movie stars ever born.
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4/10
Boys Town Gang
Lejink4 October 2019
Normally I'm a big fan of social commentary features from vintage Hollywood. Often including priests in the cast as some sort of moral compass or bell-weather for troubled individuals to tap into or rub up against as appropriate, depending on how their characterisations are handled, they can either add to or subtract from the bigger picture. I've just lately watched two old contemporary features featuring sub-plots with prominent priest parts where both see the Father mentoring rebellious youths, one the classic James Cagney / Pat O'Brien gangster film "Angels With Dirty Faces", the other, "San Francisco" in fact co-starring Spencer Tracy in what looks like a dry-run for his extended part here.

In this film though, it's all about the Father and his adopted sons, the homeless, sometimes delinquent youths who come to populate the self-reliant and sufficient community he builds for them called "Boys Town" (wonder what happened to the girls, or the black kids come to that?). While I appreciate the story is based on the real life Father Flanagan, I'm afraid I found this movie just too sentimental and cloying to appreciate.

I see that Tracy won the Oscar for leading actor in this part, just as he had for the supporting actor role in the near-identical part mentioned above in "San Francisco" but really other than mostly look alternately beatific and pious, I'm not sure he's working too hard here. Mickey Rooney is the bad boy who becomes the Father's big test subject, sent to Boys Town by his too-far-gone older gangster brother to stop him going down the same rocky road as him. Mickey, as was his wont in his early roles, it has to be said works way too hard in his part. There's also a Tiny Tim child character who will either have you reaching or retching into your handkerchief, for me I'm afraid it's the latter.

A huge commercial hit on initial release and as stated, recognised by the Academy into the bargain, it's rare for such a film to miss with old sentimental me but I really found it toe-curlingly cliched and difficult to swallow.

Forgive me Father, if in so doing, I have sinned.
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