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​Reel Stories - Making the Movie 'Boys Town'​

  • reel-pic1.jpg “Boys Town” was one of the first movies filmed on location in the Omaha, Nebraska area. It also was one of the first movies ever to be filmed at the original location of the movie subject.
  • The movie was filmed on-location during the end of June and early July. It was so oppressively hot, wax audio recordings melted, forcing crews to re-record many portions of the film’s sound.
  • One Boys Town alumnus recalls watching in amazement as film crews shot a night scene for the movie. He says the crews set up the scene in front of one building and then used tarps to make it dark like night, even though it was the middle of the day.
  • During filming, the village of Boys Town was still under construction. There were few trees to buffer any sounds rolling across the plains. One alumnus recalls having to run across the street to ask carpenters stop nailing when the director wanted to film a scene. Another had to ask crews blasting stumps out of the ground to “hold their fire” until a scene was finished.
  • Shooting the movie “Boys Town” took just 12 days. Ten days were spent on location at the Village of Boys Town.
  • While the actual filming took just a few days, several crews of movie people worked at Boys Town for three weeks making preparations for the filming.
  • reel-pic2.jpgSpencer Tracy spent a week shadowing Father Flanagan to learn his mannerisms and interactions with the boys.
  • ​Two Boys Town boys were originally slated to star in the picture. Producers eyed 7-year old Andy Cain to play PeeWee, a character based off of Andy himself. MGM came to Boys Town and took several publicity shots of Andy and his older brother Jimmy, but when the boys went to Hollywood for their screen tests, both froze on camera. Producers decided to instead hire child actor Bobs Watson to play the role.
  • reel-pic3.jpgFather Flanagan was originally paid just $5,000 for the rights to the movie “Boys Town .” When the movie became a huge financial success, donations for the home dried up because the public believed Boys Town reaped many of the rewards. In order to keep the home open, Father Flanagan approached MGM for help. Spencer Tracy made a personal appeal to the American public to continue supporting the Home and the studio donated $250,000 to build a dormitory at the home for the hundreds of boys who now wanted to live there. MGM also paid another $100,000 to make a sequel.
  • The on-site filming of the movie attracted thousands of people to the village of Boys Town each day. Many days, the crowds of spectators topped 5,000. In fact, Father Flanagan had to spend most of the $5,000 he was given for the rights of the movie to repair damages the crowds of people inflicted on the campus.
  • Tourism at Boys Town boomed following the release of the movie. The village averaged 100,000 visitors a year beginning in 1940.