Former film critic Michael Elliott continues with his exploration of how biblical truths can be extracted from the screenplays of popular movies. In Volume Two of the series, Thus Saith Hollywood takes aim at some of the most familiar and beloved films of all time to show that God's Word is indeed timeless and communicates to every generation.
Film: Boys Town (1948)
Directed by: Norman Taurog
Written by: John Meehan, Dore Schary
U.S. Dist.: MGM
Starring: Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney
Rated: Not Rated
About the film:
Father Flanigan, opposed to the harsh treatment of juvenile delinquents, opens Boys Town where he tries to help troubled youths become productive members of society. His philosophy comes under attack with the arrival of Whitey Marsh who has problems adjusting to the Boys Town way of life.
"There is no such thing as a bad boy.”
Father Flanagan (Spencer Tracy) in Boys Town (1938)
“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
Proverbs 22:15 (KJV)
Father Flanigan’s quote may, at first glance, appear to be naive or idealistic, but is it wrong? Not according to the scriptures.
It is true that we are all born into a crooked and perverse world but none of us are born inherently bad. We are, however, born inherently foolish. Without oversight, instruction, reproof and correction, we may very likely succumb to the evil influences that surround us in this world. Though not inherently bad, we can easily grow up to do bad things.
That is what “rod of correction” is for. It does not refer to a physical beating or punishment but rather the teaching of a proper standard of behavior. It means that a parent is not to let a child continue down a path of foolishness that may have unhappy and unwelcome consequences. Parents are to provide the needed reproof and correction so their child will learn which actions to avoid and which ones to embrace.
Flanigan’s observation was that children, left to themselves, will develop poor, even dangerous, habits. With the proper guidance and attention, children can develop into shining examples of hope and promise. That’s exactly what God desires and intends for all of us.
Questions to consider while watching the film:
1. What caused Whitey to develop into the boy who first came to Boys Town? What caused him to change?
2. Consider the film in light of Proverbs 22:6. How important is the early behavioral training that takes place in childhood?