Spencer Tracy already won an Academy Award for Best Actor the previous year for playing a Portuguese fisherman in "Captains Courageous" and, although he was already a bonafide star for the Metro Goldwyn Mayer studio, portraying Father Edward Flanagan in "Boys Town" might have been his most iconic role.
Here are six quotes about Spencer Tracy's role in "Boys Town."
"Your name is written in gold in the heart of every homeless boy in Boys Town because of the anticipated picture you are going to make for us, and everybody here — and all of our alumni — are talking about you, thinking about you, and praying for you every day. "
– The real Father Flanagan, in a letter to Spencer Tracy
when he learned the news that Tracy had accepted the role in "Boys Town," according to the late actor's biography written by James Curtis
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"All actors do everything possible to live up to live their part — to be the very image of the person they are portraying. But few actors, Father, have the opportunity of being confronted by that person. That makes the going even rougher, for as I play this part I will be thinking not only of you but of what you will think of me ... I'm so anxious to do a good job as Father Flanagan that it worries me, keeps me awake nights."
– Spencer Tracy
to Flanagan, in a conversation when the two first met
"Often, after a scene, he'd reach over and hug me and take me on his lap. I felt like a little puppy. I would follow along and stand close, hoping he'd call me over, and often he would. He'd say, 'How're you doing?' and put his arm around me."
– Bobs Watson
, who played Pee Wee and who eventually became a minister inspired by Tracy's performance on and of camera, pushing back on the idea of Tracy's gruff on-set reputation, according to Turner Classic Movies
"It's a song of freedom. It's a song of rehabilitation. It's a song of youth, no matter what color or faith you are. It's about praying. It's about living a good life."
– Mickey Rooney
to Louis B. Mayer, as he and Tracy tried to convince the MGM head that he should release the movie, according to Moviefone
"To Father Flanagan, whose great humanity, kindly simplicity, and inspiring courage were strong enough to shine through my humble effort."
– Spencer Tracy, from the inscription he wrote on the Oscar facsimile that the Academy sent to Boys Town, according to Moviefone
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