Tom Jones (1963)

Tom Jones (1963), produced and directed by Tony Richardson.

Despite what everyone says, Tom, foster son of the kindly Squire Allworthy, is not a bad fellow. He likes riding and hunting and is it his fault that the women chase him, and he doesn't mind being caught? It is true that young people don't weigh the consequences of young love, but his devotion to his true love, neighbor Sophia Western (Susannah York), is sincere and noble. When she is near by. If you can't be with the one you love...

It actually follows the novel pretty closely. Although everyone agrees that Tom "was born to be hung" I don't remember his last-minute rescue from execution at the end of the book. (In both book and film it is a happy ending for all except the oily Blifil, played by a young spotty David Warner).

The 1749 novel is a landmark in English literature, preemptively satirizing thousands of novels to come after it. It was considered too risque for young women a century later, not so objectionable in the 20th century. (That's not always true: Fanny Hill of the year before is pornographic even by today's standards).

The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Voters must have been in the mood for slapstick slightly bawdy comedy. It hasn't aged as well as I had hoped. Great ensemble cast, but it is mostly too cute and often silly. They mug for the camera and sometimes break into silent-movie style. A long middle section doesn't do much to advance the story.


Comic score by John Addison.

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion. The film is often dark and shot through gauze filters, so the image is not spectacular on home video. Both the theatrical and a shorter director's cut are included on separate discs; my thumbnails are from the theatrical version.

I heard years ago that it could not be restored because the original elements were in such bad shape. Perhaps they found good copies because this is certainly an acceptable edition, without being terribly exciting.