“There is no such thing as a bad boy” – Father Edward J. Flanagan
That’s right, there’s no such thing as a bad boy — or is there? Well, well, well…that brings me to my getTV Mickey Rooney Blogathon pick: Boys Town.
Why Boys Town? This should be an easy question to answer, right? Especially because I voluntarily picked it for my Blogathon post! But, as strange as it may seem, when I sat down to write this post, I found myself struggling with this question. You see, Boys Town, for me, was never one of those films that I ran out to buy on DVD (still don’t own it to this day); it’s never been one of those films that I found myself streaming when I had time to kill (until today of course), and it was never one of those films that I purposely searched for in television listings. As a matter of fact, I probably haven’t seen this film more than five times in my entire life. So, why is it that I know every inch of this film? Why do I know every character, every scene? Why can I perfectly re-create pivotal scenes in my mind’s eye with no effort at all??? What is it about this film that has etched itself so indelibly in my mind and heart??? Well, I had to purposely watch it again to figure that out… so thank you getTV Mickey Rooney Blogathon!
A mere one hour and 33 minutes later, it became perfectly clear to me. This movie resonates with me — from the first scene to the last. It resonates with me for three reasons…
1) It shines a light on the wonderful ‘real life’ Father Edward J. Flanagan and his tireless efforts to help homeless, abandoned boys
2) The ever-steady presence of Spencer Tracy as Father Flanagan
3) Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of Whitey Marsh, a tough guy who turns out to be not-so-tough after all…
That said, for this Blogathon, I’d like to share some scenes with you of Whitey’s rocky road to adulthood…
Father Flanagan (Spencer Tracy) tries to take Whitey (Mickey Rooney) to Boys Town at the request of Whitey’s brother Joe who’s serving time in prison
Tracy: I’m Father Flanagan. I saw your brother Joe just a little while ago. We had a long talk about you Whitey. Joe wants you to come with me to Boys Town.
Rooney: You’ve got a swell chance taking me to that joint… What am I going to do in a broken down nursery like Boys Town?
Whitey is introduced to Mo Kahn (Sidney Miller) Boys Town’s 2nd baseman and barber 🙂
Rooney: Hi eagle beak.
Boys Town Mayor Freddie Fuller (Frankie Thomas) with Whitey, Mo and Pee Wee (Bobs Watson)
Pee Wee: What’s your name?
Whitey: Go on, beat it kid!
Freddie: On a clear day you can see Omaha from here.
Whitey: Yeah? Then what’d you got?
Whitey: A guy would be a dope to try to do anything around here with 200 spies ready to run and tell teacher on him.
Freddie: There’s no squealing. Whenever you do anything wrong, you just go to Father Flanagan and squeal on yourself.
Whitey: Hey you wanna know something? I think you and Father Flanagan and this whole joint is screwy.
Whitey is called to Father Flanagan’s office
Father Flanagan: Well, how do you like the place Whitey?
Whitey: The more I see of it, the more I don’t like it.
Father Flanagan: Well you will like it.
Whitey: I’m clearing out of here the first chance I get.
Father Flanagan watches as Whitey tries to leave Boys Town
Father Flanagan: We have a boy in trouble…
Crafty Father Flanagan rings the lunch bell early! And Whitey runs back to Boys Town. Whitey sits next to Tony Ponessa (Gene Reynolds)
Freddie: The bell saved you, didn’t it buddy.
Tony: If you’re a Catholic or a Protestant, you can go right on being one.
Whitey: Well, I’m nothin’.
Tony: Then, you can go right on being nothin’, and nobody cares.
When Whitey’s temper gets the best of him, Whitey and Mo must appear in Boys Town Court.
Freddie: Who struck the first blow?
Whitey: The first blow??? What, are you kidding, there was only one blow.
Whitey runs for Mayor, not because he cares, but because he wants the fringe benefits… incidentally, he’s running under the ‘Don’t Be a Sucker” ticket.
Freddie: He’s run a campaign rotten with lies and mud, and promises that he knew were lies when he made them!
Whitey: I think you and Tony are a pair of dirty double-crossing guys!
Whitey and Freddie try to solve their differences in the ring…
…and Whitey is knocked out!!!
Pee Wee cries: Whitey!!!!!!!!!
Whitey is ‘clearing out’…
Pee Wee: There’s Whitey. Where’s he going? Whitey!!!
Pee Wee runs after Whitey…
Pee Wee: Wait for me Whitey! Whitey! Wait for me Whitey! Hey where you going?
Whitey: Go on, beat it will you!
Pee Wee: You going away?
Whitey: Sure, I’m blowing the plant. Go on back, will you Pee Wee? Where you belong. That’s a good kid. On your way.
Get out your handkerchiefs! Pee Wee begs to go with Whitey, and they both burst into tears. Admittedly, my favorite scene in the entire movie.
Pee Wee: But we’re pals. Ain’t we?
Whitey: Ah, go on and beat it. Will you? Go ahead.
Pee Wee: I’m your pal, Whitey. Take me with you!
Whitey: I can’t be bothered. Go on and beat it will you!
Pee Wee: No. I want to go with you.
Whitey: Ah, go on beat it.
Pee Wee: No. I want to go with you.
Whitey: Go on back and scram, will you!
Pee Wee runs after Whitey and gets hit by a car. (Hope you still have that hankie!)
Whitey: Pee Wee! Pee Wee! Pee Wee! I didn’t mean it! Honest I didn’t! Speak to me, Pee Wee! Oh golly, I’ll do anything, anything at all Pee Wee!
A distraught Whitey…
Wanders aimlessly into town…
Whitely stumbles upon a bank robbery, gets shot in an alley, and runs into his criminal brother, Joe (Edward Norris)…
Whitey: Joe! It’s me, Whitey!
Brother Joe insists Whitey go ‘straight’…
Joe: You’ll be okay, just lie still. What are you doing out of school?
Whitey: I walked out
Joe: You walk back. Get me. You’re going straight. That’s why I put you there.
Joe: Listen Whitey. No squawking or squealing… Don’t talk ’til you’re dead sure I’m away…
Now, I don’t want to ruin the ending for you, but suffice it to say that Whitey has some very serious choices to make… and he makes them… and although things do look bleak for a while, we do learn, after all, that… “There is no such thing as a bad boy”
Now, just for fun, here are a few behind-the-scenes photos:
Mickey Rooney with director Norman Taurog and Sidney Miller (in the background), on the set of Boys Town
Mickey Rooney with director Norman Taurog
And, last but certainly not least…Mickey Rooney, Bobs Watson and the real Father Edward J. Flanagan, playing marbles
This post is part of The getTV Mickey Rooney Blogathon hosted by Once Upon a Screen,Outspoken & Freckled and Paula’s Cinema Club taking place throughout the month of September. Please visit the getTV schedule for details on Rooney screenings throughout the month and any of the host sites for a complete list of entries.
And please don’t forget to check out the other fabulous Blogathon entries via one of the above three host sites!
–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub
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FANTASTIC post and you’re true blue! Brought back every inch of this movie and now I must watch it again!! THANKS so much for contributing this, Annmarie!
Loved doing it! Made me re-connect with the film and I enjoyed every minute of it — even when I was crying 🙂 Always a blast to be counted among the fabulous bloggers contributing to these Blogathons 🙂
Pee Wee! Nooooo! Yeah. You can see it coming and it still tears your heart out.
I cried watching it last night 🙂
I love this post! BOYS TOWN is one of those that I might not seek out every time, but if I happen on to it, I watch it EVERY time, and I cry every time too. It’s perfect in itself, does that make any sense? It just might be my favorite Mickey Rooney movie and you really captured why. Thank you Annmarie!
Thanks Paula! I know exactly what you mean. Even though I may never purposely seek it out, when I stumble upon it, I’m hooked. It’s such a good film… guess I take it for granted some time. Watching it ‘on purpose’ for the blog post was a real eye-opener for me…
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Touching. The Pee-wee scene had me tears.
Now I really want to watch this.
Unique Post here
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I loved it so motch.
As a persian boy .i cried all along to see that film.
I love see classic movies.and i dont care that it is black and white.