Important Theatrical Scenes

Figure 1.--Surely another of the classic scenes involving child actors is when Oliver Twist takes his empty bowl of gruel to the director of the orphanage and pitifully asks, "Please, sir. I want more." This is Mark Lester playing the scene in the musical version "Oliver!". We are not sure, however, this is how boys would have been dressed in an orphanage. Hopefully readers might have some insights.

HBC has noted certain scenes in the movies listed here that are particularly powerful or provide interesting information about boys clothing. Perhaps the most powerful scene with a boy is the "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" scene from Cabaret, but many other scenes have created powerful images and provide fascinating insights about boys' clothing. Interestingly, quite a few come from musicals. Some are humerous, such as Aunty Mame and Music Man. Others are encouring, and optimistic like Camelot. Others depressing, even haunting such as Aurevoir les enfants and Schindler's List. The imapct on people of these and similar scenes in incalculable. We note that there are some winderful films such as "To Kill a Mockingbird" that are no included because no one one scenes grabs the viewer likes the scenes listed here.

Aunty Mame

Aunty Mame's nephew Patrick is overjoyed when he gets his first pair of long pants for Christmas. Several years later Auntie Mame when she begins having trouble with Patrick, asks herself, "Why did I ever buy him those damded long pants."

Au revoir les Enfants

One of the movie images that I find deeply moving, almost haunting is the scene in the classroom where the Gestapo officer walks up to the class desk of the Jewish boy who without saying a word closses his book and goes silently with him.

Battle of Britain

There are several brief scenes in this historically very accurate film which involve boys. One is the most moving scene in the film. A fighter pilot with a few days off visits his family in London. The boys had been evacuated, but as the Hermans had not bombed the cities had returned home. He finds his family in a church during an air raid just as the Blitz on London began. The pilot rebukes his wife, but brought to model air planes he made for the boys. The expression in the boys eyes was an incredible piece of acting. Shortly aftewatd his wife and children are killed when the churcgh is hit. A cheeky scene involves a boy bringing his farthers cigarettes to a Britidh pilot who bales out and lands in the family green house. The pilot says, "Thanks aufully old chap." The camera shifts to the boy who has the perfect expression on his face for that age--pleased with himself.

Birth of a Nation (United States, 1915)

"Birth of a Nation" may be the first propaganda film. It was not produced by a government, but a private film maker--D.W. Griffth. Like all good propagabda films, it was technically well made and an enormously popular film. It was also filled with crude racial stereotypes. Perhaps the most powerful scene is when the meneacing hand of a Mexican soldiers reaches out to grasp a blond child. It is sifficult to assess the impact of the film, but this occurred during the rise of the Hu Klux Klan and vicious race riots occurred in the late-1910s and 20s.


One of the most powerful movie scenes with a boy is the "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" scene from Cabaret. The scene begins in a plesant summer day at festival in a small town. An innocent-looking boy begins to sing. Slowly the camera pans fown to see his brown shirted uniform and swastika. The song becomes instantly sinister. The film pans the crowd and both young and old join in, sharing the commitment of the young NAZI.


The very last scene of Camelot has a very dejected King Arthur coming across a young boy, Tom of Warwick who has joined his army to persue Lancelot and Guinavere. Arthur is convinced that his reign has failed, that all is lost. His dream of creating an England governed by just laws is lost for ever. But Tom makes him realize that some still cherish the marvelous dream of Camelot. He orders Tom not to join the battle, to return to England and to spread the Camelot lengend. Arthur is elated to learn that all is not lost and that his dream has been taken up by the next generation. The scene takes place at night in subdued lighting and clothing is not important here. Camelot of course is a lengend and thus clothing at any rate would be largely imanginative, but set in early medieval England.


Jackie Cooper's very moving performance upon the death of Champ has to be one of the classic boy scenes in film history. It is less well known than some of the movies mentioned here, perhaps because it is an older film. Ricky Schroder also performed it well.

ET: The Extraterrestrial

The climax of ET: The Extraterrestrial is another great movie scene. The emotional good-bye's, the music and the visuals, especially when ET and Elliot say their goodbyes. Hearbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. Henry Thomas is absolutly perfect. The final shot of the rainbow trail across the sky then the closing in on the windswept face of Elliot as the music comes to thundering climax is movie making at it's best.

Empire of the Sun

A HBC reader tells us that there are several great scenes in Empire of the Sun. "Thre is the brilliant scene when Jim arrives at the camp, wearing his school boy inform (blazer, cap and shorts) and walks up to the Japanese plane and runs his hands over it, then turns and salutes the three pilots that walk up to him. Then the screen darkens and then it shows the camp 4 years later and we see the changed Jim, in flyers jacket and kacki shorts with an American-style crew cut and the haunted look of a survivor. The visuals, combined with the music are Steven Spielberg at his best. The other EOS wonderful scene is when Jim sings a salute in the early morning to the Kamikaze pilots, followed by the sudden air attack by the US planes as Jim excitedly jumps for joy on the roof of a building, to his tearful confession to the doctor that he can't remember what his parents look like anymore, to a final shot of the table holding the saki glass of the Japanese pilots. Quiet to loud to quiet; a brilliant scene. Christian Bale was wonderful, again illus trating Spielberg's ability to get great performances from child actors." HBC quite agrees. The scene with the Japanese plane was brilliant. The scene when the P51 appaers was my favorite.

Knute Rockne: All American - (US, 1940)

Johnny Sheffield has a brief part at the beginning of the film when he plays the young Knute in America at age 9 years. This was just one year following his first Tarzan film. Johnny plays his part quite well. He wears knickers. Several other kids appear, mostly in knickers. He pesters the big boys to let him play football. He is run over two btimes, but makes the tackle. The second time he is knocked out. As a result he is late to dinner which upsets his father who lectures him in Norwegian. There follows a great line. "Speak American papa. We're all American now. Especially me, I'm the left end." He tells his parents thast he has been playing a most wonderous game. Jis mother asks why his nose is bleeding. He replies nonchalantly, "Some one must have stepped on me." Many today will see this as corny, but in fact many boys in immigrant families had this conversation about speaking 'American' and becoming American with their fathers in the late-19th and early-20th century. And it was sucessive generations of immigrant boys that played key roles in saving Europe from the Germans in World War I, again in World war II, and finally saving Europe from the Soviets in the Cold War.

Music Man

Professor Harold Hill warns the citizens of River City about the tell-tale signs of corruption. The pool hall was a danger as well a a coy of Cattain Billy's whiz-bang. (I'm trying to recall the precise words here.) In this case, a boy pulling "... down his knickerbockers below the knee".


Surely another of the classic scenes involving child actors is when Oliver Twist takes his empty bowl of gruel to the director of the orphanage and pitifully asks, "Please, sir. I want more." He is dressed in rags like the other orphans. There have been many productions of Oliver Twist, and almost all have this scene. It was in the Mark Lester musical version and he did it beautifully. A HBC reader was on the set when the version with Mark Lester was shot. The book had been done several times before: Jackie Coogan played Oliver in 1922, Dickie Moore played the part touchingly in 1933, and John Howard Davis appeared in the 1948 production that featured Alec Guinness' marvelous interpretation of the sly Fagin.

Schindler's List

One wrenching scene that I can not get out of my mind is a scene from Schindler's List where the NAZI guards are rounding up the children. Many of the children try to hide, but are found. One scenr shows a boy that hid in the waste and excrement under the out house. There is no dialog, but I found it to be one of the most heart wrenching scenes in the film. The film leaves it to the imagination what was done with the children. They were being rounded up to kill them because they were not productive. This is the same reason the children were selective for immediate murder when they arrived at Auschwitz and other concentration camps.


"Shane" is of course one of the great westerns. The most memorable scene in "Shane" is when after the gun fight, Shane rides away so as not to cause problems with Joey's parents. Joey, not understanding, runs after Shane yelling, "Shane, come back Shane." Joey is dressed is the typical dress of a farm boy in the late 19th century with a brimmed hat, kneepants and a bowl haircut--providing an enduring image of the American West. Joey was of course beautifully played by Brandon de Wilde. It was his performance that tansformed "Shane" from a good to a great film classic.

To Kill a Mockingbird

While a powerful movie, I'm not sure if there is a particular scene that should be listed here. Perhaps Jem in Atikus' car when the racist father Finch threatens him and spits on the car. Or perhaps Scout in Atikus's lap in the rocking chair while they wait for Jem to recover and Atikus explains that one day Jem will get his watch and Scout her mother's necklace.

The Yearling

The beginning of "The Yearling" with the boy played by Claude Jarman Jr. watching the fawn is a beautifully done scene. I'm not sure yet, however, if it merits to be listed here.


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Created: April 14, 1998
Last updated: 7:26 AM 1/24/2011