Cast & Crew
Jackie "butch" Jenkins
Faced with the prospect of having to spend the remainder of his baseball-playing career as a bench warmer, Dan Walker decides to leave his team and return to Amarillo, Texas to be with his wife Susan and daughter Mary. Before leaving, Dan makes a court appearance on behalf of two neighborhood boys he has befriended, Hank and Skippy, who have been treated more harshly under the law because they are orphans.
Dan's personal involvement results in the boys becoming his temporary wards, and he takes them to Amarillo with him. Soon after arriving in Amarillo, Dan sends the boys to a rancher friend of his to be put to work as ranch hands. Skippy, the more hardened troublemaker of the two, immediately rejects the discipline of farm living and after refusing to take orders, leaves the rancher with no choice but to send them back to town. Believing that Dan gave them a raw deal, Skippy persuades Hank not to return to Dan's and the two manage on their own for a short time, until Skippy is hospitalized for appendicitis. Dan learns of Skippy's condition from his neighbor, David Banton, who owns the abandoned Tascosa court house where Skippy, Hank and some of their old pals have been living.
While Skippy recovers from his illness, Dan persuades Banton to allow him to convert a piece of Banton's property into a ranch for wayward boys. Banton lets Dan borrow the land but stipulates that the loan is for a trial period only, after which he will judge the experiment's success and then decide the ranch's future. Time passes, and the ranch, named the Old Tascosa Boys Ranch, proves to be a great success, with many new arrivals. While one new arrival, a precocious boy named "Butch," does well at the ranch, another new arrival, the recuperated Skippy, continues to show contempt for Dan's efforts to help him and neglects the responsibilities assigned to him. One day, Skippy steals a wallet from the home of a nearby rancher, Mr. O'Neill, and buries it for safekeeping at Boothill Cemetery. When rumors spread that the boys of Boys Ranch are responsible for the rash of thefts in the area, O'Neill and other ranchers try to persuade Banton to revoke the use of his land for the school. Banton's decision to take away the ranch is hastened by the discovery that prize money for a livestock contest has been stolen from his car.
By now, all the boys suspect that Skippy is behind the thefts and try to keep their ranch by forcing him to confess, but Skippy refuses and runs away. Hank follows Skippy and when he discovers him unearthing his buried loot at Boothill, a fist fight ensues. During the fight, Hank hits his head on a tombstone and is knocked unconscious. Skippy flees from the cemetery and is about to escape Tascosa by train when he learns about rising floodwaters and realizes that Hank's life is in jeopardy. Skippy has a sudden change of heart and risks his life getting through the fast-rising waters and saves his friend's life. The experience changes Skippy, and after returning the stolen money, he settles into life at the ranch.
Jackie "butch" Jenkins
Robert E. O'connor
William Mckeever Riley
Charles Salerno Jr.
Edwin B. Willis
Ralph E. Winters
Jenkins plays a kid named Butch in the film. A dog-loving orphan, Jenkins's character is more of a comic foil for his fellow troublemakers. As Variety put it, "[Jenkins'] every appearance is a guaranteed chuckle." Boys Ranch was the seventh film Jenkins appeared in and is right at the halfway mark of his twelve film career. Jenkins' mother was an actress (Doris Dudley), but he was not an aspiring child star. Instead, the profession came looking for him; Jenkins was first discovered by an MGM talent scout while playing on a Los Angeles Beach. His first film was The Human Comedy (1943) where he played little brother to Mickey Rooney.
After that, Jenkins played the brother of Angela Lansbury in National Velvet (1944). He also took a turn opposite Edward G. Robinson and Margaret O'Brien in Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945). He then earned the lead role in the weeper Little Mister Jim (1946), where he played a boy dealing with his mother's death. This was also the fourth film Jenkins would make with James Craig, his Boys' Ranch co-star. Jenkins and Craig were also teamed in The Human Comedy and Our Vines Have Tender Grapes.
As for Boys' Ranch, Jenkins held his own with the cast of mostly older kids. There's Darryl Hickman as the trying-to-go-straight Hank, and Skip Homeier as the rebellious Skippy. Homeier would go on to appear in a number of westerns after his childhood movie days were behind him. He is perhaps best remembered for his villainous role in The Gunfighter (1950) where he vows to kill Gregory Peck. Boys' Ranch was filmed on location at a ranch near Amarillo, Texas. And Jenkins even got to sing a bit for the film he tunes up round the campfire with "Blood on the Saddle."
The high point of Jenkins' career came in 1947 with My Brother Talks to Horses. In another leading role, he played a boy who is able to communicate with horses, acquiring inside information on the races. After that, Jenkins made just four more films, including the Van Johnson-June Allyson comedy The Bride Goes Wild (1948) and Summer Holiday (1948), where he would again play Mickey Rooney's younger brother, his career coming full circle.
In 1948, Jenkins' mother removed her son from the industry, believing the pressure was too much for him. Jenkins had developed a nervous stutter that would stay with him into adulthood. Looking back, Jenkins had no regrets. In a 1970 interview, he confessed, "I have never regretted leaving the picture business and am very grateful to my mother for taking me away from it. I enjoyed the first few years of acting in movies but I certainly don't miss it. In fact, when I've had offers to return a few times, I wasn't even tempted. There may be a better way to live than on a lake with a couple of cows, a wife, and children but being a movie star is not one."
Producer: Robert Sisk
Director: Roy Rowland
Screenplay: William Ludwig
Cinematography: Charles Salerno, Jr.
Film Editing: Ralph E. Winters
Art Direction: Edward C. Carfagno, Cedric Gibbons
Music: Nathaniel Shilkret
Cast: Jackie 'Butch' Jenkins (Butch), James Craig (Dan Walker), Skip Homeier (Skippy), Dorothy Patrick (Susan Walker), Ray Collins (Davis Banton), Darryl Hickman (Hank).
by Stephanie Thames
Working titles for this film were Black Sheep and Alley Cowboys. According to studio publicity material, the film's story is based on the real-life boys' ranch founded by Cal Farley near Amarillo, TX. According to an unidentified contemporary news item in the AMPAS Library's file on the picture, film crews spent five weeks shooting on location in Texas. The Hollywood Reporter review called the film the "Amarillo, Texas version of Boys Town," a reference to the popular 1938 M-G-M film about a Nebraska home for boys. (See AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.0465.) The film marked the motion picture debut of actress Dorothy Patrick.