Pain and Glory (Dolor y gloria)
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Spencer Tracy is an acclaimed actor who I always assumed that I would someday "get" as from what I have seen of his work so far he seems to play nice, morally upright, often religious American men in fairly one note performances. He appeared in a lot of films that were considered important during their time but I did not find him remarkable in them and in the romantic comedies he made with real life partner Katharine Hepburn she does most of the work. This is the second of two consecutive Academy Award wins so I thought that his performance here would be one of his best but shockingly I found it even less impressive than his work in even lighter fare than Father of the Bride (1950). The film itself I really hated as it was the sort of schmaltz popular with the Academy during the 1930s and the fact that religion was being forced on me actively turned me against the film.
The kindly Father Flanagan, Spencer Tracy, chooses to open a home where underprivileged young men can be rehabilitated after speaking to a man who has become a convicted murderer as a result of his difficult childhood. Flanagan takes on several young men with troubled backgrounds but with order and regimentation the boys become devoted to their new leader. They set up proper facilities for the boy and Flanagan allows them to set out certain laws with unruly boys getting punished if they do not fall in line. Flanagan finds a seemingly insurmountable challenge in trying to convert Whitey Marsh, Mickey Rooney, to Christianity and stop him from committing criminal acts because he is the brother of the dangerous Joe Marsh, Edward Norris. With an election of the new leader of Boys Town Marsh launches an unprecedented campaign but his efforts may not be rewarded.
The specter of religion that spreads across the entire film is something that alienated me because as an atheist I disagreed with the messages put forward and was angered when the characters were hypocritical. Much like Going My Way (1944) this film supports the idea that religious institutions should be provided with money from banks without having to pay back debts. This is an offensive idea to me because that money is being taken from hardworking people who have put the money they earned into the bank for safekeeping and an institution that may go against their beliefs spending their money without their permission is a terrifying thought. I support the idea of troubled young people having their lives improved by social services but having religion involved could be problematic as elements of their doctrine, particularly in the 1940s, could damage a young man's psyche and encourage discrimination against minorities. This film values the religion aspect over the rehabilitation as we see far more of the boys singing angelically in a church choir than the methods that are employed to help them understand the root cause of their troubles and how to improve.
The schmaltz is laid on mercilessly as it feels like an awful line like "There is no bad boy" is trotted out every fifteen minutes because it practically is. This is the sort of thing that Tracy says when presented with a ‘challenge' which is almost always resolved in five minutes with very little consideration or development on Flanagan's part. He is a perfect saint throughout and learns nothing from his experiences as he is never asked to question his religious beliefs, learn new teaching methods or come to terms with mistakes he has made. Plot twists used for dramatic effect also come out of nowhere and are not dealt with sufficiently as at one point a young boy dies in front of Marsh after being struck by a car and while this was meant to be an emotional moment as Rooney begins crying a scene later everybody appears to be unaffected. The film seems like a series of events vaguely stitched together with each moment meant to tug at the heartstrings of middle America harder until finally they end up weeping. I cannot imagine many modern viewers being swayed by this film's clumsy attempts at emotional manipulation but I am glad we have moved beyond the era of Spencer Tracy playing father figures with little emotional depth.
Boys Town is an incredible film. It is about Father Edward J. Flanagan and the school he created. Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney give amazing performances. The screenplay is well written. Norman Taurog did a great job directing this movie. I enjoyed watching this motion picture because of the drama. Boys Town is a must see.
its a heartwarming family type of film. Based on the real life work of Father Flanagan, an amazing priest who cared deeply for welfare of young homeless/troubled boys. Not the most interesting film per say, but a good message about maturity, goodwill, helping youth and ethics. Pee Wee is too cute in this film btw. Almost too amazing to believe it was a real story, but it is. Spencer Tracy plays the typical lovable dad type once again lol.
What can you say about this one? No attempt is made to hide the fact they are in California -- mountains in the background, palm trees noticeable and western shrubbery you wouldn't find in flat Nebraska. But 1938 audiences weren't sophisticated enough to notice these things, and they didn't notice the soap opera script that was being performed for them. Tracy was Tracy: no acting involved. As always, he played himself. Mickey Rooney was just plain bad. His attempt at playing a hoodlum missed the mark by a mile. Some of the boys were exceptionally good. The script was regrettable, given what might have been done with this project. The intention behind it was good, but the ways in which they tried to accomplish their goals fell flat artistically. Not done well and it doesn't age well either. Someone else could have made this a classic. Instead, we have a tired, old, dated film that is not worth watching.
This film focuses on Father Edward J. Flanagan, whose 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, Flannagan finds that his staunchest supporters are the workaday folks.
A classic with Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney squaring off magnificently. Spencer Tracy won his second back to back best actor oscar award .
One of my classic faveorites...
A feel good redemption film.
Sanitized and sappy, very loosely inspired by true story film of the real life Boys Town. I felt Rooney gave an emotionally charged great performance, while Tracy as Father Flanagan is understated and resolved.
Boys Town has a heart, means well and is well acted and has its moments, but this is still such an overrated movie that never distinguishes itself from other biopics of the era with a boring story, slow pacing and very annoying characters.
just a beautiful story told well.