Boys Town Logo
Boys Town Logo

As we gear up for the Oscars, let's dive into the rich history behind the iconic movie “Boys Town.” Here at Boys Town, we proudly display our own Oscar, presented to us by Spencer Tracy who won best actor for his portrayal of Father Flanagan in the 1938 film. The Oscar remains a cherished memento in our Hall of History.

The story behind the movie is as fascinating as the film itself. It all began when Hollywood producers stumbled upon a magazine article about Boys Town, a unique community dedicated to children of all races, religions and backgrounds, and where the youth played major roles in how the community was run and governed. Intrigued, they reached out to Father Flanagan who welcomed them to visit the village.

Once the movie was given the green light by Hollywood, the filming took place right here at Boys Town, making it one of the first movies shot on location. Despite the scorching summer heat, a massive crew arrived, bringing trucks loaded with cameras and equipment. The excitement was palpable as Hollywood stars like Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney interacted with the kids and locals.

Father Flanagan played a crucial role in shaping the script, ensuring it stayed true to Boys Town’s mission. Despite initial doubts from studio head Louis B. Mayer, the movie was eventually released to critical acclaim and became a global sensation.

The premiere, held in Omaha instead of Hollywood, drew massive crowds, showcasing the city’s support for Boys Town. It was a star-studded affair, attended by Hollywood luminaries and Boys Town youth, including Boys Town’s Mayor.

The movie’s success inspired countless individuals and even led to the creation of similar institutions worldwide. It also gave Boys Town the traction it desperately needed at the time to appeal to others all over the world for much-needed help and donations to care for the boys.   

Today, the legacy of “Boys Town” lives on, cherished by all who visit our campus and the Oscar displayed in our Hall of History. The Oscar represents Father Flanagan’s and Boys Town’s enduring legacy of providing healing and hope for children in need.

Click here to see our girls and boys with the Oscar. If you’d like to support our mission, please visit