Danny Lester (Audie Murphy) is an incorrigible, nasty young man who beats, shoots and robs and is nearly sentenced to a reformatory or prison. However Marshall Brown (Lloyd Nolan) is convinced, without any real basis, that Danny's anti-social tendencies stem from something that happened in his youth. [Danny acts like a sociopathic creep, so it's a question if what happened in his youth even matters, but in movies like Bad Boy there has to be some dubious psychological explanation.] Brown importunes Judge Prentiss (Selena Royle) to take Danny under his wing and bring him to the Variety Clubs Boys Ranch in Texas, where he steals, acts all bitter, and has the boys so mad at him that they all give him the silent treatment. Can this boy be saved...? In his first starring role Murphy, the most decorated soldier in WW2, proves not to be a "great" actor, but is more than competent, displaying charisma and surliness in equal measure; he would develop in time. Jimmy Lydon of the Henry Aldrich series plays another student, Ted, and is excellent, as is James Gleason [The Girl Rush] as Brown's more cynical associate, "Chief." Jane Wyatt [The Man Who Cheated Himself] is Brown's wife; Martha Vickers is Danny's half sister; and Rhys Williams [The Corn is Green] is his step-father. There are some fairly interesting developments in this but the movie never really amounts to much. Murphy would go on to better things. Murphy single-handedly held off a squadron of German soldiers while standing atop a tank that could have exploded at any second -- it's safe to say Hollywood couldn't have scared him that much!
Verdict: Half-baked melodrama. **1/2.