Father Edward Flanagan (Spencer Tracy)
Right up there on the shelf of Old Hollywood tropes, last seen nestled between the White-Hatted Cowboy Hero and the Loudmouth-from-the-Bronx WWII G.I., is the Tough-but-Saintly Irish priest. Exemplars of this form include characters so memorably played by the likes of Barry Fitzgerald and Pat O’Brien—and, at the top of the list, Tracy’s Father Edward Flanagan. Like the real priest whose story is the basis for the movie (and who would become something of a hero to Tracy), the movie priest gamely takes on and overcomes every obstacle in his dream to build a community for abandoned and orphaned boys. It’s believed that the heavy-drinking Tracy—a lifelong alcoholic—had to take a few weeks to dry out before shooting commenced. True or not, he gives the priest a strong-willed vitality that earned him his second Academy Award.
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