The true story of Father Edward Flanagan, who sought to
create a village for young wayward boys with nowhere else to go.
Boys Town (1938)
Directed by Norman Taurog
Written by John Meehan and Dore Schary
Starring Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney, Henry Hull, Leslie Fenton, Gene Reynolds, Edward Norris, Bobs Watson, Jonathan Hale
Oscar Wins - Best Actor (Spencer Tracy), Best Original Story
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Director,
Best Original Screenplay
Father Edward Flanagan is one of the noblest human beings who ever lived. As a Catholic priest, he dedicated his life to helping wayward boys straighten out their lives by giving them food, shelter, and a purpose in life. God knows how many boys he saved, but his creation of the village of Boys Town in Nebraska is arguably his greatest achievement. This film is a highly fictionalized depiction of Father Flanagan's dream, using the fictional character of Whitey Marsh to showcase Flanagan's merciful and patient demeanor. This film is brilliant, dramatic, hilarious, and unforgettable.
Spencer Tracy shines as Father Flanagan, winning his second of two back-to-back Oscars for his performance. However, Mickey Rooney steals the show as Whitey Marsh, a young hoodlum turned upright Boys Town citizen. At such a young age, Rooney was already a superstar and a talented actor, and I think his performance in Boys Town is his finest work. The supporting cast is fantastic too, with all the kids delivering fine performances. The second half of the film is a doozy, with a certain accident throwing the entire film into new territory and giving Rooney the chance to really show his acting chops.
Seeing how Flanagan refused to ever give up on a boy, even when all hope seemed lost, is inspiring. Boys Town is one of the first biopics where the subject was still alive at the time of filming, and I hope the real Flanagan felt Tracy lived up to the role. I certainly did, and I think this film should be far more well-known these days than it is. I think it should've taken Best Picture in 1938, and I intend to recommend it to people.