Tom Jones (1963 Film)
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Tom Jones 1963 Film

Tom Jones
Poster - Tom Jones 01.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed byTony Richardson
Produced byTony Richardson
Michael Holden
Oscar Lewenstein
Michael Balcon (uncredited)
Screenplay byJohn Osborne
Based onThe History of Tom Jones, a Foundling
by Henry Fielding
Narrated byMicheál Mac Liammóir
Music byJohn Addison
CinematographyWalter Lassally
Edited byAntony Gibbs
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • 29 September 1963 (1963-09-29) (Venice)
Running time
128 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$1 million (£467,000)[1][2]
Box office$37.6 million

Tom Jones is a 1963 British comedy film, an adaptation of Henry Fielding's classic novel The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749), starring Albert Finney as the titular hero. It was one of the most critically acclaimed and popular comedies of its time,[3] and won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The film was produced and directed by Tony Richardson and the screenplay was adapted by playwright John Osborne.

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 ranked it as the 51st greatest British film of the 20th Century.


The film begins with a silent film sequence, with subtitles, during which Squire Allworthy returns to his estate after a lengthy stay in London and discovers a baby in his bed. Thinking that one of his maids, Jenny Jones, and his barber, Mr. Partridge, conceived the illegitimate baby out of lust, the squire banishes them. He names the infant Tom Jones and chooses to raise him as if he were his own son; Tom grows up loving him like a father.

Tom becomes a lively young man whose good looks and kind heart make him very popular with girls and women. He truly loves only the gentle Sophie Western (Sophia "Sophy" in the novel), daughter of a neighbor, who returns his passion. Tom is stigmatized as a "bastard" and cannot wed a young lady of her class. Sophie, too, must hide her feelings while her aunt and her father, Squire Western, try to coerce her to marry someone they think more suitable, the nephew of Squire Allworthy.

This young man is Mr. Blifil, the son of Squire Allworthy's widowed sister Bridget. Although of legitimate birth and appropriate class, he is an ill-natured, prig with plenty of hypocritical 'virtue.' When Bridget dies unexpectedly, Blifil intercepts a letter, which his mother intended for his uncle's eyes only. The letter's contents are not revealed until late in the film. But after his mother's funeral, Blifil and his two tutors, Mr. Thwackum and Mr. Square (who also tutored Tom), 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 odyssey on the roads, Tom is knocked unconscious while defending the good name of his beloved Sophie and robbed of his small legacy. He also flees from a jealous Irishman who falsely accuses him of having an affair with his wife, Sophie's cousin; engages in deadly sword fights, saves a Mrs. Waters from an evil British Redcoat officer, and later beds her. Before that occurs, Tom and Mrs. Waters have a celebrated scene in which they wordlessly and voraciously consume an enormous meal while gazing lustfully at each other. Later Tom learns that Mrs. Waters is allegedly his mother, and meets Partridge, his alleged biological father.

Meanwhile, Sophie runs away from home soon after Tom is banished, in order 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 noblewoman over 40 years of age who is attracted to the "pretty boy". She is rich, beautiful, and completely amoral. 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 Jones's child, but his sister Bridget's illegitimate son and thus Allworthy's nephew. Since Blifil knew this, concealed it, and tried to destroy his half-brother, Allworthy disinherits him. Allworthy uses this knowledge to get Tom a pardon, but Tom has been conveyed to the gallows; the noose is around his neck. Squire Western, who has been apprised of his true status, cuts him down and takes him to Sophie. Tom has permission to court Sophie, and all ends well with Tom embracing Sophie with both Squire Western's and his uncle's blessings.




While the British production company, Bryanston Films was hesitating over whether to make the film in colour, it went bankrupt. United Artists stepped in to finance the film and make it a colour production.[4]

Overall the production faced challenges of disasters, near-disasters and squabbles caused by films being shot on location in the spotty English weather. The film has an unusual comic style: the opening sequence has subtitles and brisk action in the manner of a silent film. Later in the film, characters sometimes break the fourth wall, often by looking directly into the camera and addressing the audience. In one scene the character of Tom Jones suddenly appears to notice the camera and covers the lens with his hat. Another unusual feature is an unseen narrator, voiced by Micheál Mac Liammóir. His mock-serious commentaries between certain scenes deplore the action of several characters as well as the weaknesses in human character, and he provides a poetic denouement for the film.

Despite its success, director Tony Richardson said that he was dissatisfied with the final product. In his autobiography Richardson wrote that 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."[5]


John Osborne, in adapting the screenplay from Henry Fielding's novel The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749), truncated and removed notable episodes and characters from the book. He ends the film ends with the narrator, Micheál Mac Liammóir, quoting from a portion of John Dryden's poetic translation of Horace's 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."[6]


Castle Street in Bridgwater, Somerset was used as a location in several scenes. Cinematographer Walter Lassally has said that he thought 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.[7]


The film was financially successful on its initial release in 1963. It came third for the year in British box office receipts,[8] 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,[9][10] and another $4 million in markets other than the UK and US.[9]

The film was reissued in 1989 by The Samuel Goldwyn Company. For this release, Richardson trimmed the film by seven minutes.[3] It is available through the Criterion Collection.


Time magazine's review said: "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".[11]

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 Osborne's screenplay with verve, though, occasionally, he falls back on camera tricks and editing which are disconcerting".[12]

On Rotten Tomatoes (an aggregate website developed much later than the film), the film has an approval rating of 86% based on historic reviews from 35 critics, with an average rating of 7.86 out of 10. The site's consensus states: "A frantic, irreverent adaptation of the novel, bolstered by Albert Finney's courageous performance and arresting visuals."[13] On Metacritic it has a score of 77 out of 100, based on reviews from 15 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[14]


Academy Awards


Ilya Lopert accepted the Academy Award for Best Picture on behalf of the producers. After her death, the Best Picture Academy Award was given by her estate to Albert Finney.

Tom Jones is the only film in the history of the Academy from which three actresses were nominated for Best Supporting Actress Oscar.[16]Dame Margaret Rutherford won the award for her role in The V.I.P.s.

Tom Jones's five acting nominations and no wins matched the record set for nominations for Peyton Place at the 30th Academy Awards. It was the last film to match this record.

BAFTA Awards

  • Best British Actor (Albert Finney)
  • Best British Actor (Hugh Griffith)
  • Best British Actress (Edith Evans)

Golden Globe Awards

  • Best English-Language Foreign Film
  • 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 Motion Picture Actor - Musical/Comedy (Albert Finney)
  • Best Motion Picture Director (Tony Richardson)
  • Best Supporting Actor (Hugh Griffith)
  • Best Supporting Actress (Joan Greenwood)

Other awards

New York Film Critics Circle Awards

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

See also


  1. ^ Film giants step into finance The Observer 19 Apr 1964: 8.
  2. ^ Petrie, Duncan James (2017). "Bryanston Films : An Experiment in Cooperative Independent Production and Distribution" (PDF). Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television: 13. ISSN 1465-3451.
  3. ^ a b Bosley Crowther (30 September 2003). "Tom Jones". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 1 October 2003. Retrieved 2010.
  4. ^ Mayer, Geoff (2003). Guide to British Cinema. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. xiv.
  5. ^ Richardson, Tony (1993). Long Distance Runner - A memoir. London: Faber & Faber. p. 136. ISBN 0-571-16852-3.
  6. ^ "The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Works of John Dryden vol 12, by Walter Scott, page 349". Retrieved 2018.
  7. ^ "Tom Jones: the editing and Tony Richardson's generosity".
  8. ^ "Most Popular Films of 1963." The Times [London, England] 3 January 1964: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
  9. ^ a b Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p. 230, 239-240
  10. ^ "All-Time Top Grossers", Variety, 6 January 1963 p 39. Please note this figure is rentals accruing to distributors not total gross.
  11. ^ "Cinema: John Bull in His Barnyard". Time. 18 October 1963.(subscription required)
  12. ^ Variety Staff (22 December 1998). "Tom Jones". Variety.
  13. ^ "Tom Jones (1963)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2020.
  14. ^ "Tom Jones". Metacritic. Retrieved 2020.
  15. ^ "NY Times: Tom Jones". NY Times. Retrieved 2008.
  16. ^ "Tom Jones".

External links

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