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Movie Director overlooking filming

The Boys Town Story: 1937 – 1947

Boys Town Contributor

The following is part of our Centennial Timeline Series, providing historical insight into each decade of Boys Town's history. This time, we see Boys Town at the height of its fame, becoming a household name, thanks to the tireless public relations work of Father Flanagan — and an Oscar®-winning film called Boys Town.

The cast and crew from MGM Studios began filming the movie Boys Town in the village in 1938. Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney, two of the biggest stars at the time, were among those who would spend 10 days on location filming.

The movie premiered later that year on September 7, in Omaha. Boys Town won two Academy awards. Dore Schary and Eleanore Griffen were honored for writing the Best Original Story, and Spencer Tracy won the Best Actor award for his portrayal of Father Flanagan. The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Norman Taurog) and Outstanding Production.

In 1941, CBS Radio aired the first broadcast of several national broadcasts featuring the Boys Town Choir. That year also marked the dedication of Dowd Chapel in the Village of Boys Town, built with a donation from Mary Dowd.

In Detroit in 1944, a crowd of more than 43,000 attended the Boys Town vs. Detroit Central Catholic football game, which ended in a 14-14 tie. Boys Town and DCC played regularly throughout the era, drawing enormous crowds.

In 1946, Boys Town announced a $30 million expansion that doubled the size of the home, adding an administration building, a high school, 25 cottages, a visitors' center, a dining hall, a field house, a music hall, and a vocational center.

Click through our slide show to see more photos.