Tom Jones (1963)

tom jones poster 1963 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Fun romp

Not everyone likes period pieces

Movie Info

Movie Name: Tom Jones

Studio:  Woodfall Film Productions

Genre(s): Comedy/Romance

Release Date(s):  June 27, 1963 (UK)/October 6, 1963 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

tom jones albert finney susannah york

Oh…the torments of life and watching the river and the swans swim by

Tom Jones (Albert Finney) was raised as the bastard ward of Squire Allworthy (George Devine) and has lived a life of affluence and nonchalant adventures.  When the tides turn against Tom, he finds himself on the road and dreaming of the day he can be with his love Sophie Western (Susannah York), but he isn’t going to let true love get in the way of having fun.  With so many women in the world and much mischief to make, people will know the name of Tom Jones…and they might just curse it.

Directed by Tony Richardson, Tom Jones is a period piece comedy-romance.  The film adapts the 1749 picaresque novel by Henry Fielding The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling.  The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score with nominations for Best Actor (Albert Finney), Best Supporting Actor (Hugh Griffith), Best Supporting Actress (Diane Cilento, Edith Evans, Joyce Redman), and Best Art Direction—Color.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #910).

Approaching Tom Jones and movies like Barry Lyndon, the picaresque thing is something that has to be understood because it generally seems to outweigh the period piece aspect of the films.  The roguish nature of the lead character can be off-putting, but the story has to make him likeable…and Tom Jones succeeds.

tom jones albert finney eating scene hd

Oh yeah…I’m going to make eating this bowl of fruit look hot

The movie is very tongue-in-cheek.  The narrator has fun telling Tom’s story, and Tom has fun living it.  The humor at points borders on Monty Python-esque humor (pre-Monty Python) but very English.  Jones occasionally even breaks the fourth wall to address the audience (or ask for help).  It feels different and fresh for the style of the movie, and considering when the film was made, the movie was fresh.

Albert Finney has a lot to pull off in the title role.  He has to ooze charm that would work on the female characters but also would anger their fathers.  He does this successfully, but he is aided by a night strong supporting cast.  Susannah York plays the woman always willing to give Tom a chance in spite of his bad behavior while David Warner (in his film debut) is the scuzzy upper class man who hates Tom’s actions.  Hugh Griffith and Finney got in a fight on set after Griffith actually hit Finney during a scene.  George Devine, David Tomlinson, Edith Evans, and Jack MacGowran all back up Finney nicely, and Joyce Redman has the great eating scene with Finney that required buckets to accommodate the actors getting sick from all the eating.

tom jones hanging ending albert finney hd

Oh, Tom, you rapscallion…how will you get out of this one?

Stylistically, the movie looks like a very good period piece.  Much of the film is set in courtyards and homes, but the movie does get out into the cities and countryside.  The settings and many of the bigger open scenes add depth to the story though in comparison to something like Barry Lyndon, the movie isn’t as strong.

Tom Jones is a worthwhile movie to seek out.  Unlike a lot of other Best Pictures from the time, it seems like it is often forgotten and overlooked.  Director Tony Richardson himself felt he made mistakes in the movie and the movie initially made little buzz during its early run.  Tom Jones however (like the character) succeeded in spite of its troubles…everyone can love Tom Jones.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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