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).