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Boys Town
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2004
"Boys Town", is I believe one of those very special movies that only comes along occasionally in a viewing lifetime. I never fail to be moved and inspired by this wonderful story and by the very special man who is central to this story; Father Edward J. Flanagan, the man who founded Nebraska's famed Boys Town which has given hope and a decent future to countless homeless and abused young boys and girls ever since. MGM here created a perfect story out of this unique man's life and they ended up with a stunning motion picture that has remained a much loved classic ever since. Spencer Tracy will always be remembered for his Academy Award winning portrayal of Father Flanagan and it is he who gives "Boys Town", its lasting appeal with a performance full of honesty, and a belief in the basic decency of all people regardless of religion, age or colour. The films most famous line that "there is no such thing as a bad boy", echoes Father Flanagan's philosophy throughout his life and it creates a lasting impression that has succeeded in touching each new generation of movie goers who have loved this film.

"Boys Town", was planned as one of MGM Studios biggest productions for 1938 and having Spencer Tracy play the famous priest was an inspired piece of casting if ever there was. Tracy actually built up a reputation for his roles as a priest from his earlier work in "San Francisco". It indeed would be hard to find a better marriage of actor and role than we have here with Spencer Tracy and Father Flanagan. Playing the Priest as a caring, warm and endlessly optimistic man Spencer Tracy also injects the character with enough toughness and inner drive to make him a believable person who at times questions his own judgement and inner faith. It really is a masterful performance and stands as one of the pinnacles in Spencer Tracy's legendary career as an actor. Of course as in a major production such as this there is plenty of talent on show in the other major roles. Mickey Rooney really came into his own playing the streetwise tough boy Whitey Marsh who along the way, despite many ups and downs is given a new life full of hope by Father Flanagan. Rooney's often overlooked talent is truly utilised to the fullest here and his transformation to where he becomes Boys Town's Mayor through Father Flanagan's endless concern and care for him despite the troubles he causes is one of Rooney's best performances ever. Henry Hull playing Dave Morris the eternally frustrated offsider to Father Flanagan really does great work here and adds some much appreciated humour in the scenes when he hears about the "latest scheme" being hatched by Father Flanagan that of course he will be dragged into. The scene when he unexpectedly delivers Christmas presents to the boys who are going without even the basics for the festive season is a beautifully realised moment that is one of the most moving in this story. The young actors who make up the boys in the story are also outstanding and high marks in particular go to Gene Reynolds as the crippled boy Tony Ponessa who shares some of the most moving moments in "Boys Town", with Father Flanagan, Frankie Thomas as Boys Town Mayor Freddie Fuller, and perhaps most interesting of all Sidney Miller in a wonderfully played out performance that contains some great humour as jewish boy Mo Kahn. Child actor Bobs Watson of course steals many scenes as Boys Town's youngest resident Pee Wee who is largely responsible through almost tragic circumstances, for Whitey's transformation into a decent individual. Often accused of being overly sentimental "Boys Town", probably is guilty of that at times but I certainly dont see anything wrong with that. Certainly many problems are sorted out perhaps a bit too easily in the script and most of the boys seem to be perhaps at times a bit too nice but they are really not things to take exception to and the fine writing and character development on display make "Boys Town", first class viewing.

Followed a couple of years later with a sequel titled "Men of Boys Town", and featuring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney in their old roles, this 1938 film is still the one to see. In our present hardened society it is easy to pass harsh judgement on a film like "boys Town", however I find that I love this film more and more with each screening and I believe the sentiment works very well in telling this story. The care put into this film by cast and director Norman Taurog is evident in every frame and makes it a heart felt piece of movie story telling. There seem to be no performers like Spencer Tracy nowadays who could bring such feeling to the role of Father Flanagan in my belief. Sentiment, drama, action, and strong characters with a clear intent all combine to help make a viewing of MGM's "Boys Town", a treasured experience you should not miss. Enjoy this classic sometime soon.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2003
Keeping this review "short", I am compelled to echo the kind words of previous reviewers. There's much to be said of Boys Town, but it would fill a 1500 page book and still be too short. Father Flanagan died in Germany May 15, 1948. The tears still well up today, more than a half century later. Watching these 1938 and 1941 films is like reliving my childhood all over again. I recall so well the scenes in the movie.... but "I" remember the rooms, the buildings, the birch trees lining the entryway to Boys Town and the wooden stage where Whitey Marsh (Mickey Rooney) was elected Mayor of Boys Town. Father Flanagan's office (and the rest of the building) where PeeWee got his candy treats became the gradeschool principal's office. I remember it all so well. I relive my childhood with every viewing. Oh yes.... in real life I was there: 1948 - 1953. These two movies are part of me today to share my history with my children and their children.
How could I possibly "not" like these great works?
Bill Ford - Southern California - August 2003
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2002
Father Flanagan takes in abandoned boys between the ages of 12 to 18, regardless of race or creed, and fights to raise money, to feed and teach and mother his friendless charges. Mickey Rooney - bless him - runs the gamut of emotions from the tough, poker-playing gangster kid, through the tear-choked, made over youngster, to the final noble youth who becomes mayor of Boys Town. The film manages - in spite of its embarrassing sentimentality of its closing scenes - to be a consistently interesting and frequently touching movie. A burning desire to help his fellowmen and a belief that there is no such thing as a "bad boy" inspired and assisted the Reverend Edward J. Flanagan to found "Boy's Town". Spencer Tracy's sincere portrayal of the role of the priest Father Flanagan was truly an outstanding performance in his career, it even ranks above his Father Tim in SAN FRANCISCO; Tracy simply IS Father Flanagan! As a footnote, in real life, Tracy donated the Oscar he won for his portrayal as Father Flanagan TO Father Flanagan himself; Tracy had it inscribed thusly: "To Father Edward J. Flanagan, whose great human qualities, kindly simplicity and inspiring courage were strong enough to shine through my humble efforts. S/Spencer Tracy".
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2005
"Boys Town" stars two of the greatest actors of the golden era of Hollywood, Mickey Rooney and Spencer Tracy, and their parts in this movie are among their best roles. "Boys Town" doesn't have quite as close a connection to Christmas as the other two titles in the Classic Holiday Collection (there's one scene set on the holiday), but this true story of a priest who builds a boarding school for troubled youth is one that will warm your heart. Tracy plays Father Flanagan, a kind, socially conscious priest who can be tough when he needs to be, and Mickey Rooney displays his wide-ranging acting talent (from tough talk to tears) as one of the neglected boys whom Flanagan sets on the right path.

"Boys Town" is accompanied by its own less-famous sequel, "Men Of Boys Town," so you're getting two features on one disc. You also get a featurette about the real Boys Town (which still exists and has expanded beyond its original Nebraska location), as well as a 1939 radio program promoting the movie with Tracy and Rooney.

If you like this great movie, you may want to consider getting the excellent Classic Holiday Collection, which includes this film along with two other great classics, "Christmas In Connecticut" and "A Christmas Carol" (1938).
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 2004
This movie is one of the all time best movies ever made. The second part Men Of Boys Town is just a great if not more so. Mickey Rooney gives one of his best performances, if not his all time best. This movie really spotlights his great dramitic acting skills as well as his comedy skills. Spencer Tracy was great as Father Flannigan, but Mickey Rooney steals the show. The story is great and the acting as just great. I love the friendship of the little boy Pee Wee and Whitney Marsh(Mickey Rooney). This movie is highly recommended....buy it now!!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2001
This touching story of one man's compassionate determination to run a town made by and for boys certainly deserved the 2 Oscars awarded it. Spencer Tracy is wonderful in his role as Father Flanaghan, and Mickey Rooney just outstanding as the "tough guy" boy; the know-it-all, unemotional and bigger and better than everybody else "dude". I think he deserved an Oscar for his awesome acting too. The philosophy behind a "town" built for homeless boys, one entirely run by them is a real eye-opener! The companionship, loyalty and character growth that happens here is wonderful to behold. Overall, it's a terrific movie, proving that compassion and love can win out, even if it takes awhile for a hardened heart to soften.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2007
When I became a Boys Town fan in 1993, I had not heard of Boys Town before!

I started reading some books about Boys Town and lucky enough I saw the two Boys Town movies on German television. This was years ago. I wrote to Boys Town and asked them when they would release the movies "Boys Town" (1938) and "Men of Boys Town" (1941). It took me 12 years of waiting, and in 2005 I was able to buy this wonderfull DVD at Amazon.com!

The movies are superb! High quality an a must have for every Boys Town fan!! Wonderfull movies, with father Flanagan at his best!!

Rolf Breemes

A Boys Town fan

from The Netherlands!
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2005
Boys Town is a timeless classic. An epic tale of a man (Fr. Flannagan) who witnessed the failure of society to do something about wayward youth while working as a jail chaplain, and heard the call from G-d to become part of the solution, instead of sitting on the sidelines and complaining about the problem.

For some, this film may seem mawkishly sentimental and altruistic,but its simple message rings loud and clear today and must be heard by all---parents, educators, mental health professonals, policy makers; There is no such thing as a bad boy (or girl).

In spite of being in black and white, and in spite of involving a religous figure, this film's message has wide appeal and has stood the test of time.

The message still applies today.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2006
I WAS IN A SIMILAR SITUATION AS THIS SHOW [A CATHOLIC ENVIREMENT] AND HAVE SEEN BOTH THIS SHOW AND 'MEN OF BOYS TOWN'. THIS IS THE REASON I GOT THESE SHOW [BOTH ON ONE DVD]. IT IS A GOOD DEAL FOR THE MONEY. ONE OF THE FUNNIEST PARTS WAS WHEN MO MADE WHITEY LOOK LIKE AL JOLSON AND HOW EVERYONE LAUGHED AT HIM DURING THE ROW CALL. GENE REYNOLDS PLAYED TONY PONESSA [ALSO STARRED IN 'THEY SHALL HAVE MUSIC'] WAS PERFECT FOR THE PART. UNLIKE TED MARTLEY [MEN OF BOYS TOWN] WHO CRIED FOR ATTENTION TONY PREFERRED TO DO THING FOR HIMSELF AND NOT DEPEND ON OTHERS FOR ANYTHING. IN SOME WAYS HE AND TED MARTLEY WERE ALIKE. THESE SHOWS SURE TAKES ME BACK TO THOSE DAYS WHEN I WAS RAISED IN A CATHOLIC ORPHANAGE WHERE I SAW BOTH OF THESE SHOWS.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 9, 2010
While it may at times come across a little overdone, there are lots of things about `Boys Town' that feel beautifully executed. Despite an odd premise (according to today's set of stifled standards, but I'm sure upon it's filming and release there were no `curious' connotations attached to the project), this film pushed through and becomes something to adore and enjoy. It is a sentimental and schmaltzy film, and at times it is overly so, some brilliant performances and an overall air of earnest honesty helps make this film better than it should have been.

The film tells the story of Father Flanagan, a kind hearted man who opens a home of delinquent boys so that they can get every opportunity in life that they deserve. He has spent his life trying to help reform, with mixed results, but this is the biggest undertaking of his life so far, and it isn't one he can do alone. He gets off to a shaky start, but after he sees some rich results from his hard work (results that the community can see as well) he begins to get the support he needs to help his efforts grow. Soon, Flanagan and his boyish counterparts are developing a community all their own.

That is, until Whitey Marsh comes to live with them.

Whitey is rough around the edges and seemingly defiant. Flanagan has always believed that there is no such thing as a `bad boy', but Whitey tests Flanagan's faith in that belief. When Whitey finds himself witnessing a crime, he puts not only his own safety, but the future of Boys Town in jeopardy.

To pick at the films flaws would be quite easy, but also a tad unnecessary. It was a different time back in the 30's, and cinema was different as a result. Yes, the film has some serious plot holes (especially towards the end of the film) and it does seem to layer on the sentiment very heavy, with mixed results (Whitey's breakdown is PERFECT, while the final segment involving the `mayor of Boys Town' scene seemed a tad overdone, even if Rooney sells it). I found that the film went a little preposterous towards the end as well, defying logic (the rushing of the boys was forced and out of sync with the rest of the film) and yet, I can't really complain much.

These flaws don't bother me.

The film is very good, in spite of the flaws. I think a lot of this has to do with the countless `superb' performances captured here. It is rare to find a film this old that sports refined `child' performances. That isn't to knock the child actors of yesteryear, but they just lacked the refinement we see today. Mickey Rooney, Frankie Thomas and Bobs Watson are just a few (the most notable) in a long line of child performances in this film that just got everything right. Now, I have not seen a lot from Rooney, but I have never liked him. He is unbelievably brilliant in this film. The way he conjures up all the right emotions to create an arrogant kid that believably changes his ways is just marvelous. He never rings false; not once. I am a BIG fan of Spencer Tracy. He is one of my favorite actors of all time, and this performance is subtle yet strong. It is one of his Oscar winning performances (although I would have gone with Cagney in '38) and I can see why. The character alone is so likable you can't help but root for him.

In the end I must say that `Boys Town' is a very good film, and one I surely recommend. I don't think it is perfect, and I can't help but notice its flaws, but they are forgivable thanks to the wonderfully committed performances that sell you on everything.
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