Spencer Tracy won his second Oscar for his portrayal of Father Edward J. Flanagan--then promptly turned the statuette over to the real Father Flanagan out of gratitude. The priest's philosophy that no boy will grow up bad if given a chance in life culminates in his formation of Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska. Unable to raise funds through "proper" channels, Flanagan finds that his staunchest supporters are the workaday folks who have faith in him; none is stauncher than Jewish pawnbroker Henry Hull, who digs deep into his pockets to help Flanagan realize his dream. The story of the struggle to get Boys Town on its feet paralleled with the regeneration of punkish Mickey Rooney, the younger brother of criminal Edward Norris. At first a wise-guy rebel, Rooney rises to a position of authority, responsibility and respect in Boys Town's self-maintained government. Boys Town, by the way, is the source of the classic line "He ain't heavy--he's my brother."
by Hal Erickson synopsis