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Boys Town (1938)

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Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 2
Fresh: 1 | Rotten: 1

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Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 4,138

My Rating

Movie Info

Spencer Tracy won his second Oscar for his portrayal of Father Edward J. Flanagan--then promptly turned the statuette over to the real Father Flanagan out of gratitude. The priest's philosophy that no boy will grow up bad if given a chance in life culminates in his formation of Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska. Unable to raise funds through "proper" channels, Flanagan finds that his staunchest supporters are the workaday folks who have faith in him; none is stauncher than Jewish pawnbroker Henry

G,

Drama, Classics

John Meehan, Dore Schary

Nov 8, 2005

MGM Home Entertainment

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All Critics (19) | Top Critics (2) | Fresh (17) | Rotten (2) | DVD (2)

Tracy, showing necessary restraint, makes his portrayal of Flanagan sincere and human.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Mickey Rooney is a hard case, but eventually he cracks -- as will you, under the relentless, flat sentimentality of Norman Taurog's direction.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

One of the more overrated films of its era.

February 10, 2012 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

There's only one Christmas scene, but the movie's sentimental mood makes for nice holiday viewing.

December 25, 2009 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

A dated but entertaining tale of friendship

August 9, 2007
Film Threat

a watershed film that discusses an important societal development

November 12, 2005 Full Review Source: Filmcritic.com
Filmcritic.com

At the time, the real-life Flanagan complained that MGM made Boys Town look so neat, clean, and well managed that he had trouble raising money for the center

November 3, 2005 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

Shameless but effective weepie about wayward orphans

October 28, 2005
Film Journal International

Tracy is always good -- was he ever bad in a film in his entire career?

January 15, 2005 Full Review Source: Goatdog's Movies
Goatdog's Movies

Superior high-minded 'quality' movie, but in its heart it's a soap opera.

January 21, 2004
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

These days you might gag at some of the more saccharine aspects.

May 24, 2003 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

A classic with Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney squaring off magnificently.

March 13, 2003
KPBS.org

Audience Reviews for Boys Town

A cute, sentimental movie, which you can't help but like. Tracy is fantastic as Father Flanagan, and that cute kid who plays pee-wee is priceless. Sometimes it was a bit too much sentimentality for me, but if you love true life dramas, you will like this movie.
October 14, 2010
ajv2688

Super Reviewer

Spencer Tracy plays Father Flanagan, the creator of Boys Town, in this sentimental film from 1938. Flanagan believed in the motto "There's no such thing as a bad boy" and made it his life's mission to help reform boys who'd been abandoned to the streets or to the various other state institutions (which were so effective at creating better criminals). After being inspired by a death row convict who claimed if he'd had just one friend looking out for him when he was twelve, his life would've been different, Father Flanagan abandoned his soup kitchen and decided to focus on helping young boys instead. Things go great the first few years, that is, until trouble arrives in the form of Whitey Marsh (Mickey Rooney), a street tough who's gangster brother pays to have accepted into the town. Whitey doesn't fit in and apparently doesnt' want to either, putting on a big, tough guy act to try and bully the other kids. It doesnt' work, of course, as most of the kids come from bacgrounds just as tough, if not tougher than him. Mickey Rooney is one of those child actors who is basically a fully formed performer right from the start, and his performance as Whitey Marsh wouldn't be significantly different if delivered as an adult. Spencer Tracy is subtle and understated, perhaps more understated than in any other role in his career, and it's little surprise he won the oscar. The weepiness of Rooney and "Peewee" (Bobs Watson) can be a little comical at times, but kids tend to be very emotional, and I think the performances are appropriate for the characters. A nice little movie.
July 19, 2010
Mr Awesome
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

An endearing and lovable film in spite of the fact that it practically drips sap. The sentimentality is so thick at times that it almost seems to parody itself. A schmaltzy classic.
April 9, 2010
flixsterman
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

Continuing my study of the Oscar-nominated films of 1938, we move to "Boys Town," which I found engaging but not inspiring. The film is a depiction of the real-life Boys Town, which was a hugely successful orphanage for boys founded in the 1920s by a Catholic priest.

Spencer Tracy won his second Oscar for his portrayal of the priest, Father Flanagan. Mickey Rooney, playing one of the most troubled boys at the facility, nearly sinks the picture with his ridiculous overacting. Luckily though, the other teenage actors are superb, especially Gene Reynolds, playing a boy with a disability who becomes mayor of the institution.

The film confirms my view that 1938 was a mediocre year for American film. It amazes me that "Boys Town" received so many Oscar nominations. In addition to Best Picture and Best Actor, the film received nods for Best Director (Norman Taurog) and Best Original Story. Taurog, who would in later years direct many of Elvis Presley's films, was named Best Director only once, in 1930 for "Skippy," another film starring a child actor (Jackie Cooper).
July 29, 2009
Bill D 2007
William Dunmyer

Super Reviewer

    1. Father Flanagan: There is no bad boy.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
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