** boys clothing : movie subject themes

Movie Depictions of Boys Clothes: Subject Film Themes

Figure 1.--This Ra Hould in his military school uniform. I'm not sure what film this was for. American films in the 1930s often depicted the boys being sent to boarding schools. And for reasons we do not fully understand, many American boarding schools were military schools.

Movies in a variety of subjects provide useful information on boys' fashions. It is often difficult to wade through long lists of movie titles to find films on so specific themes. This section will give you an alphabeticalmlist of films touching on certain topics. Some films may be on more than one subject list, depending on the theme and plot line. These lists will include films from all countries and chronological periods. HBC cirrently had a subject or topic page for: choirs, schools, and youth groups. Nore subject selectors will be added as appropriate and as more films with useful costume information or loaded on HBC. Please let us know if you know of a subject page whicg should be added to this section.


One common theme in American movies during the 1930s-50s was that rich kids were spoiled and often dressed in fancy sissy clothes. Georgie in the The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), is probably the all-time bratiest kid in the movies. There are, however, many other examples, and movies with this theme include the many productions of Tom Sawyer (the Sid character), and Newly Rich (1931). Newly Rich was called Forbidden Adventure in the UK. Newly Rich is a good example of this genre. It is about Tim Tiffany, a poor boy who makes it big in Hollywood. He wears a velvet suit and broad white collar with ringlet curls throughout most of the movie. The basic plot is about two women who are constantly trying to one-up each other. Jackie's Mom takes him to Hollywood where they make it big in the movies. The other woman has a daughter about the same age portrayed by Mitzi Green. Basically, it's a comedy and Mitzi makes fun of Jackie when they revisit their small town with him all done up as "Tiny Tim". Jackie's not thrilled with his new attire, but he also knows it's the price he must pay for being in the movies. The picture was child actor Jackie Searl. Jackie was quite popular in movies during the 1930s, usually playing the part of a brat. He was born in 1920, he would have been about 11 years old at the time the film was made. Jackie also played young "Sid" in an early 30s version of "Tom Sawyer", so wearing fancy outfits was not uncommon for him. Another film about a spoiled rich kid is Captain's Courageous (1937) staring Freddy Bartholomew.

Choir Movies

Some interesting movies have been made in Europe about boys choirs. The movies have been of uneven quality, but do show some details about the cotumes worn by choirs in the various countries. The films reflect the various costumes worn by the choirs in the various countries, including sailor suits, short pants, lederhosen, liturgical vestments, and other outfits. The various movies dealt with all sorts of themes, both religious and secular. The love of music is one popular contining theme. A 199? English film dealt with the intricaies of tunning a choir in a great cathedral. The difficulties of qualifying for a choir, the dedication of the choir master, and relationships and mischieviouness of the boys are continuing themes. The choir costumes sometimes are involved with the theme. The few films I know about at this time shows the boys wearing a variety of costumes, including large bows, white shirts, black short pants, white kneesocks, sailor suits, lederhosen, liturgical vestments, and other outfits worn by the choristers.

Dance Movies

A variety of movies have been made dealing with dance or with dance scenes in the film. Most of the movies that HBC has noted have dealt with ballet, but there have also been filmd dealing with other dance types like interpretive dance. Our information in this area, however, is still very limited. We are not aware of films dealing with Irish or Scottish dance, bit there may well be some.

Governesses and Nannies

Quite a number of films have dealt with the role of governesses and nannies. Interestingly "governors", sort of male governesses for boys, have not been addressed in films. Most of the films that HBC is aware of are British films. Presumably there are some French films on this subject, but HBC is not yet familiar with them. Many have 19th century settings, but there are some set in the 20th century as well.


Hollywood was very late to come to the anti-NAZI. Once it began, NAZIs and evil-Germans became a staple in Hollywood films. This would eventually include films that had very little, if anything to do with World War II, such as the Indiana Jones series. The World War II films often depicted attrocities against civilians, but usually they did not dweal on the Jews. This in part because it was only after the War that the general public became aware of the Holacaust mean the effort to completely destrop European Jewery. Articles appeared in American newspaers, but nothing was ever published in the popular press describing the dimensions and organization of the Holocaust. This continued after the War. Only in the 1970s do we begin to see movies that actually attempt to address the Holocaust in its full breath, including mass shootings and gas chambers. This varied from country to country. Many American and German films have addressed the topic. The French rarely do. And although there are many Soviet World war II films, the Holocaust was as far as we know not addressed. The heart rending human drama involved with the Hollacaust has now been the subject of many films. The most exhaustive presentation was a TV-miniseries 'The Holocaust'. The Holocaust was such a massive undertaking that the movie format has to focus on an individual or group. The most haunting film is 'Schindler's List'. There is now a sizeable number of movies dealing with the Holocaust. Even so, many of topics remain untouched or poorly addressed, including the Romanian Army killing Jes, the topic of knowledge and complicity, Einsatzgruppen, NAZI plans for the Slavs, the role of German academics and industrialists, Allied knowledge, the participation of non-Germans, and other topics. Here we list Holocaust films with a special focus on films involving children.

Juvelie Delinquency

Quite a number of films have dealt with the suject of juvenile delinquency and reformatories. This seems to have been a subject of considerable interest to Americans. It has not been extensively dealt with by British films, however, we believe that there are a number of foreign films on this subject. Boys often did not wear uniforms in American regormatories habe been common in British borstals and other foreign reformatories.

Military School

Several films have been made that were set in military schools or include scence from those schools. Often the films pursue the established stereotypes of the schools. The German/Austrain films are often quite somber. The American films tend to take a more upbeat approach, in some cases a humerous approach. One English film uses an incident from a military school to emphasize a basic principle of law.


We do not know of may films involving boys about music and musical instruments or t least notable scenes. Surely the most important is 'Amadeus' about Mozart, surely the greatest prodigy in history. But thefilm begins with Mozart already a young man. The 'Tommy Dorsey Story' deals extensively with his childhood. Here there is some overlapwith the prodigy page. Here, however, we are talking more about music. Some of these films are musicals, but most musicls are not really about music. There is a scene in 'Pennies from Heaven' with a unique child orcestra performing 'Love is good for anything that ailes you'. The children all emacuately dressed out in wmaculate white outfits both dance and play their instruments. Surely there are more pertinent films. we will dd them as they come to us or readers alert them to us.

Orpahange Movies

We can think of only a few moview about orphans and orpahanges. Quite a number of films have brief scenes set in orphanages, but this is only a minor part of the film. Here we are primarily interested in films that include at least important scene or two in the prphanages. The most famous of course are the movies made on Oliver Twist. There are both American and British versions. The best known is the musical version "Oliver!" with Mark Lester. One major film is "Boys' Town" (1938) with Spencer Tracey and Mickey Rooney. The most famous film about a girl orphan of course must be "Annie" (1982). There are a few other films such as Disney's "Pollyana" (1960), There was also a silent version. There is the Argentine film "Chiquitas" (2001). We note a Soviet film "Boys / Mal'chiki" (1971). Hopefully readers will recall filns that we should add to this list.

Prodigy Movies

We have noted several films which have been made with the prodigy theme. They commonly condemn the whole idea and not allowing the child to grow up 'naturally'. The films are mostly about boy prodigies, but in real life there are more boy prodigies. Most are musical prodigies, which are probably the best known of all the various kinds of child prodigies. The American film that occurs most readily is 'Dangerous Holiday' (U.S., 1937). The best known English film is 'Prelude to Fame' (1950) set in Italy. It is notable because it is based on an Aldous Huxley short story. Another is 'Five Days in June' (France, 1989) in which a musical prodigy and his mother become caught up in the Normandy D-Day invasion.

Reformatory Movies

Quite a number of films have dealt with the suject of juvenile delinquency and reformatories. This seems to have been a subject of considerable interest to Americans. It has not been extensively dealt with by British films, however, we believe that there are a number of foreign films on this subject. Boys often did not wear uniforms in American regormatories habe been common in British borstals and other foreign reformatories.

Rich Children

Rich boys in old movies were often costumed in facy outfits, often but not always short pants. Very common;ly these rich children were also depicted as spoiled. A good example is "Captains Courageous" (US, 1937). Another example is "Thououghbreads Don't Cry" (US, 1937), although in this case the rich boy isn't spoiled. Today a spoiled rich kid will be shown wearing the latest styles and be well versed about the most fashionable products.

School Movies

Quite a number of films have dealt with school life. Often these provide useful images as to what boys wore to school in different countries. These productions vary, but they often provide useful insights as to school uniform and dress. Many of these films are English or French, as well as Belgian. Many but not all are set in private schools, often boarding schools. Some good examples are Au revoir les enfants, Kipperbang, 0 de de conduite. I can recall relatively few American films with school themes. One example is Toy Tiger. The American films tend to be less serious than the European school films. American school films often dealt with military schools, especially in the 1930s.


Although we do not always think of it, but children are terribly affected by wars and in many cases have played an important role in wars. Many films deal with wars or include scenes about wars. World War I was the first major war which occurred after the development of the movie industry, at leadt Hollywood. Film industries as they developed, hiwever, were free to create war filns set in historical periods. We know very little about World War I. Hollywood was already an important industry. One Hollywood film, "The Kaiser, Beast of Berlin" (1917) caused anti-German riots in American cities. The most famous early war film was a German film--'All quiet on the Western Front'. As it was a silent film, it could easily be shown in other countries. The NAZIs banned it when they seized power. Surely no other war has been the subject of more films than World war II. Films were made both during and after the War. We have done some work on World War II. So far we have done some work on English World War II films and American World War II films. The NAZIs of course began making propaganda films as soon as they seized power in Germany (1933), years before they launched World Wat II. We have little information on their Axis allies (Italy and Japan). We do know that the Japanese made prpaganda films, including some in English (for distribution in Malaya and the (Philippines). We also know very little about Soviet films. Just like after World War II, Hollywood after World War II began making films with an anti-War and often anti-military bias. This was particularly the case after the Vietnm War. The same phenomenon has occurred after President Bush became president. Despite the 9-11 attacks, Hollywood has been relucant to take on Islamo-Fascism. They have made films critical of the United States and the Iraq War. There have been no films decipting the Gulf War, Afgahistan War, or Iraq War in a favorable light.

Youth Group Movies

Some films have touched on youth groups. The largest and most important groups of course is the Scouts. But relatively few movies have been made about them. The most well known one that comes to mind is the American film Follow Me Boys. Pedrhaps more have been made in other countries. HBC knows of no filoms made about the Boys' Brigade or Camp Fire. This may be understandable today when there are a wide varieety of groups and activities for young people. Until after World War II, the Scouts or other uniforned group was one of the few organized activities open to many young people. On the other hand, a host of movies have been made about the Hitler Youth or have Hitler Youth boys involved in the plot.


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Created: September 8, 2000
Last updated: 9:37 AM 1/2/2016