Category Archives: Spencer Tracy

Boys Town

Directed by Norman Taurog
Produced by John W. Considine Jr.
Written by Dore Schary, Eleanore Griffin & John Meehan
Starring Spencer Tracy
Mickey Rooney
Henry Hull
Music by Edward Ward
Cinematography Sidney Wagner
Editing by Elmo Veron
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date 9 September 1938
Running time 96 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Boys Town is a hard film to review for me because although I thought it was a great story, and Spencer Tracy’s fine portrayal of Father Flannigan was pretty good, there was one element that almost ruined the film for me. I am talking about Mickey Rooney’s performance as Whitey Marsh.

I have seen a few Mickey Rooney films and know that he can be quite a ham, but here his over-acting really affected my enjoyment of the film. The part really could have used a little subtlety instead of Mickey trying to steal every scene when he really didn’t have to. Perhaps I could put it down to him just being 18 at the time he made this film BUT… he had been acting in vaudeville and movies all his life so there shouldn’t be an excuse. Perhaps because Tracy’s  portrayal of Father Flannigan is very understated the director wanted to have the Mickster play his part way OTT.

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Bad Day At Black Rock

Directed by John Sturges
Produced by Dore Schary
Written by Story: Howard Breslin
Screenplay: Don McGuire & Millard Kaufman
Starring Spencer Tracy
Robert Ryan
Anne Francis
Dean Jagger
Walter Brennan
Ernest Borgnine
Lee Marvin
Music by André Previn
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) January 7, 1955 (United States)
Running time 81 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Bad Day At Black Rock is one of those movies that always seems to be shown on Foxtel, usually at about 1am on Fox Classics. It’s a movie that I have always been curious about but could never actually be bothered watching until today, after the book A Rough Guide To Westerns recommended it. I am glad that I watched it.

The film has an all-star cast headed by Spencer Tracy as Macreedy, a one-armed stranger who one day gets off the train at the sleepy town of Black Rock looking for Komoko. This get the members of the small town into an uproar for reasons that become apparent as the movie progresses. It doesn’t take long for Macreedy to realise that he is not welcome in Black Rock.

We find out that there is a dark secret in Black Rock that Macreedy’s snooping around will eventually bring to light. This secret involves Komoko, who was a Japanese farmer living near Black Rock on land sold to him by the film’s villain Reno Smith. The land that Smith sold Komoko was useless but that Smith became enraged that Komoko was able to grow food on the land. The day after Pearl Harbour Smith and his cronies attacked and murdered Komoko. Now they are afraid that four years later Macreedy will uncover this.

Tracy gives a great performance filled with quiet dignity as Macreedy. Despite the fact that the whole town is against him and have planned to murder him Macreedy does not stop in his quest to find out about what happened to Komoko. The villains featuring Ryan, Borgnine and Marvin are menacing as they harass Tracy and await darkness to fall so that they can kill him. It is only after one of the posse hears why Macreedy is searching for Komoko that the tables start to turn. Komoko’s son was a GI who gave his life in Italy to save Macreedy. Macreedy wanted to take the medal that Komoko’s son received to Komoko Sr.The film comes to a head when Macreedy is double-crossed by Liz Wirth, which culminates in Macreedy being ambushed by Smith.

There is a lot of tension in the film as we all know what Macreedy’s fate will ultimately be, but as he is the film’s hero we hope that he will find a way out. It is a really good film to watch.


Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo

Directed by Mervyn LeRoy
Produced by Sam Zimbalist
Written by Dalton Trumbo
Book: Ted W. Lawson & Robert Considine
Starring Van Johnson
Robert Walker
Robert Mitchum
Spencer Tracy
Phyllis Thaxter
Stephen McNally
Music by Herbert Stothart
Cinematography Robert Surtees, ASC
Harold Rosson, ASC
Editing by Frank Sullivan
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) November 15, 1944
Running time 138 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Anyone who has seen the terrible Disney film Pearl Harbour from a few years back will be familiar with the premise of thirty Seconds Over Tokyo as the events of this film were featured in the second half of Pearl Harbour. This is about the Doolittle Raid where a squadron of B-25 Mitchell Bombers took off from an aircraft carrier to hit Japan as a retaliation over Pearl Harbour.

The acting, especially from Van Johnson, is a little over the top as Ted Lawson, whose story this is based upon, while we don’t see that much of Spencer Tracy who plays Lt. Col. Doolittle. Robert Mitchum is featured in the film too in one of his earliest roles.

Johnson, who died in December 2008 at age 92, is a little hammy in his portrayal of Lawson, whose plane crashed on the Chinese coast after bombing Tokyo and had to have his leg amputated. During the films ending Lawson does not want to see his wife until he has an artificial leg and has learnt how to dance, whilst his wife, played by Phyliss Thaxter, does not want him to see her because she has put on a little weight. Oy Vey!!! Such melodrama. In the end they embrace because they are both glad that Lawson has survived.

However despite the over acting this is a fine film with great scenes of the hulking bomber taking off on their dangerous mission from the confines of the aircraft carrier. Whenever Spence is on-screen he gives the audience a reassuring feeling that he is in control and that everything will be alright in the end. The film is even quite even handed about their portrayal of the Japanese, which is quite surprising since the war in the Pacific was still raging when the movie was released.