ⓘ Tom Jones (1963 film)


ⓘ Tom Jones (1963 film)

Tom Jones is a 1963 British adventure-comedy film, an adaptation of Henry Fieldings classic novel The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, starring Albert Finney as the titular hero. It was one of the most critically acclaimed and popular comedies of its time, winning four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The film was directed by Tony Richardson and the screenplay was adapted by playwright John Osborne. The film has an unusual comic style: the opening sequence is performed in the manner of a silent film, and characters sometimes break the fourth wall, often by looking directly into the camera and addressing the audience, and going so far as to have the character of Tom Jones suddenly appearing to notice the camera and covering the lens with his hat. Another unusual feature of the film is the presence of an unseen narrator voiced by Micheal Mac Liammoir. Mock-serious commentaries between certain scenes deplore the action of several characters as well as the weaknesses in the human character and provides a poetic denouement for the film.

Tom Jones was a success both critically and at the box-office. At the 36th Academy Awards, it was nominated for ten Oscars, winning four: Best Picture, Best Director for Richardson, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score. It also won two Golden Globe Awards including Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, and three BAFTA Awards including Best Film and Best British Film.

In 1999 the British Film Institute named it the 51st greatest British film of the 20th Century.


1. Plot

The story begins with a silent film sequence during which the good Squire Allworthy returns home after a lengthy stay in London and discovers a baby in his bed. Thinking that his barber, Mr. Partridge, and one of his servants, Jenny Jones, have "birthed" the infant out of lust, the squire banishes them and chooses to raise little Tom Jones as if he were his own son, and Tom loves him like a father.

Tom grows up to be a lively young man whose good looks and kind heart make him very popular with the opposite sex. However, he truly loves only one woman, the gentle Sophie Western Sophia "Sophy" in the novel, who returns his passion. Sadly, Tom is stigmatized as a "bastard" and cannot wed a young lady of her high station. Sophie, too, must hide her feelings while her aunt and her father, Squire Western, try to coerce her to marry a more suitable man – a man whom she hates.

This young man is Blifil, the son of Squire Allworthys widowed sister Bridget. Although he is of legitimate birth, he is an ill-natured fellow with plenty of hypocritical virtue but none of Toms warmth, honesty, or high spirits. When Bridget dies unexpectedly, Blifil intercepts a letter, which his mother intended for his uncles eyes only. The letters contents are not revealed; however, after his mothers funeral, Blifil and his two tutors, Mr. Thwackum and Mr. Square, join forces to convince the squire that Tom is a villain. Allworthy gives Tom a small cash legacy and sorrowfully sends him out into the world to seek his fortune.

In his road-travelling odyssey, Tom is knocked unconscious while defending the good name of his beloved Sophie and robbed of his legacy. He also flees from a jealous Irishman who falsely accuses him of having an affair with his wife, engages in deadly sword fights, meets his alleged father and his alleged mother, a certain Mrs. Waters, whom he saves from an evil Redcoat Officer, and later beds the same Mrs. Waters. In a celebrated scene, Tom and Mrs. Waters sit opposite each other in the dining room of the Upton Inn, wordlessly consuming an enormous meal while gazing lustfully at each other.

Meanwhile, Sophie runs away from home soon after Toms banishment to escape the attentions of the loathed Blifil. After narrowly missing each other at the Upton Inn, Tom and Sophie arrive separately in London. There, Tom attracts the attention of Lady Bellaston, a promiscuous noblewoman over 40 years of age. She is rich, beautiful, and completely amoral, though Tom goes to her bed willingly and is generously rewarded for his services. Eventually, Tom ends up at Tyburn Gaol, facing a boisterous hanging crowd after two blackguardly agents of Blifil frame him for robbery and attempted murder. Allworthy learns the contents of the mysterious letter: Tom is not Jenny Joness child, but Bridgets illegitimate son and Allworthys nephew. Furthermore, since Blifil knew this, concealed it, and tried to destroy his half-brother, he is now in disgrace and disinherited. Allworthy uses this knowledge to get Tom a pardon, but Tom has already been conveyed to the gallows; his hanging is begun, but is interrupted by Squire Western, who cuts him down and takes him to Sophie. Tom now has permission to court Sophie, and all ends well with Tom embracing Sophie with Squire Westerns blessing.


2.1. Production Development

While the British production company, Bryanston Films was hesitating over whether to make the film in colour, it shortly went bankrupt. United Artists then stepped in to finance the film and make it a colour production.

Overall the production suffered from more than the usual disasters, near-disasters and squabbles caused by films being shot on location in English weather. Tony Richardson was dissatisfied with the final product. In his autobiography Richardson wrote he "felt the movie to be incomplete and botched in much of its execution. I am not knocking that kind of success – everyone should have it – but whenever someone gushes to me about Tom Jones, I always cringe a little inside."


2.2. Production Writing

John Osborne, in adapting the screenplay from Henry Fieldings 1749 novel The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, truncated and removed notable episodes and characters from the book. These included:

  • Captain Blifil is only mentioned in passing by the narrator, and his brother the doctor is forgotten.
  • The film ends with the narrator, Micheal Mac Liammoir, quoting from a portion of John Drydens poetic translation of Horaces Ode: To Maecenas: "Happy the man, and happy he alone, He who can call today his own: He who, secure within, can say, Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today."
  • The Man of the Hill episode VIII.10-15 is missing altogether, and the amateur highwayman Anderson rendered Enderson in some editions is conflated with Partridge.
  • Partridge himself is reintroduced into the story later in the film than the novel, and the ludic dialogues he has with Tom have been omitted.

2.3. Production Filming

Castle Street in Bridgwater, Somerset was used as a location in several scenes. Cinematographer Walter Lassally has said that in his opinion the location unit got on very well together under the circumstances, and that the experience was satisfying. He thought Richardson rather lost his way in post-production, endlessly fixing what was not really broken.


3. Release

The film was financially successful on its initial in 1963. It came third in British box office receipts, and was the 4th most popular in the United States. Produced on a budget of $1 million, it earned $16 million in rentals in North America and another $4 million in markets other than the UK and US.

The film was reissued in 1989 by The Samuel Goldwyn Company. For this release, Richardson trimmed the film by seven minutes.


4. Reception

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 86% based on reviews from 35 critics, with an average rating of 7.86 out of 10. The sites consensus states: "A frantic, irreverent adaptation of the novel, bolstered by Albert Finneys courageous performance and arresting visuals." On Metacritic it has a score of 77 out of 100, based on reviews from 15 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".

Time magazines review commented: "The film is a way-out, walleyed, wonderful exercise in cinema. It is also a social satire written in blood with a broadaxe. It is bawdy as the British were bawdy when a wench had to wear five petticoats to barricade her virtue". Rich Gold of Variety wrote: "Though Tom Jones is a period piece and very different it has the same lustiness and boisterous content with which to project the star. It should breeze its way cheerfully through the box office figures. It has sex, Eastmancolor, some prime performers and plenty of action. Tony Richardson has directed John Osbornes screenplay with verve, though, occasionally, he falls back on camera tricks and editing which are disconcerting".


5.1. Accolades Academy Awards

  • Best Director Tony Richardson
  • Best Picture Tony Richardson, producer
  • Best Substantially Original Score John Addison
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium John Osborne
  • Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color.
  • Best Supporting Actress – Edith Evans
  • Best Supporting Actor – Hugh Griffith
  • Best Actor – Albert Finney
  • Best Supporting Actress – Diane Cilento
  • Best Supporting Actress – Joyce Redman

Tom Jones is the only film in the history of the Academy in which three actresses were nominated for Best Supporting Actress Oscar. All three nominations were unsuccessful, however, as the Award went to Dame Margaret Rutherford for her role in The V.I.P.s. Tom Jones s five unsuccessful acting nominations matched the record set by Peyton Place at the 30th Academy Awards, the last film to date to do so.

Ilya Lopert accepted the Academy Award for Best Picture on behalf of the producers. Upon Loperts death, the Best Picture Academy Award was passed on to Albert Finney.


5.2. Accolades BAFTA Awards

  • Best Film from any source
  • Best British Film
  • Best British Screenplay John Osborne
  • Best British Actor Hugh Griffith
  • Best British Actress Edith Evans
  • Best British Actor Albert Finney

5.3. Accolades Golden Globe Awards

  • Best Motion Picture – Comedy
  • Most Promising Newcomer – Male Albert Finney tied with Stathis Giallelis for America, America 1963 and Robert Walker Jr. for The Ceremony 1963.
  • Best English-Language Foreign Film
  • Best Motion Picture Director Tony Richardson
  • Best Supporting Actress Joan Greenwood
  • Best Supporting Actor Hugh Griffith
  • Best Motion Picture Actor – Musical/Comedy Albert Finney

5.4. Accolades Other awards

New York Film Critics Circle Awards

  • Best Picture
  • Best Actor Albert Finney
  • Best Director Tony Richardson

Venice Film Festival

  • Volpi Cup: Best Actor Albert Finney
  • Golden Lion: Tony Richardson nom

Writers Guild of Great Britain

  • Best British Comedy Screenplay John Osborne

Grammy Awards

  • Best Original Score from a Motion Picture John Addison
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