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UK 1963
Directed by
Tony Richardson
129 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1.5 stars

Tom Jones

That Tony Richardson’s film was a huge hit in its day is more a reflection of the period taste for bawdy historical romps than any intrinsic merits. 

Adapted from the Henry Fielding novel of the same name by John Osborne whose classic 50s play, 'Look Back In Anger', Richardson had filmed in 1959, it tells of the adventures of its eponymous hero (Albert Finney), a foundling raised by the kindly Squire Allworthy (George Devine). Tom is cast out of the squire’s house as a result of the scheming of the squire’s villainous nephew (David Warner) and goes forth into the world on a series of high-spirited adventures before finally justice triumphs and he is restored to his rightful inheritance and wins the hand of the beautiful Sophie Western (Susannah York).

Buxom wenches flaunting their assets, oafish burghers stuffing themselves with greasy game, sycophantic tutors blustering with sham indignation, predatory matrons concocting drawing room schemes, redcoats carousing, piglets suckling etc., etc., etc., they’re all here, packaged in a supposedly fun-loving romp that moves along at an intentionally break-neck speed in the name of entertainment.  

The lusty spirit, compete with brawls and pratfalls and nudge-nudge lewdness, clearly worked in the early 1960s (amazingly enough it won Best Director and Best Picture Oscars although the competition was admittedly lack-lustre) but these days it comes across as tiresomely low-brow stuff, the quality of the production notwithstanding.  The only thing for which we have to thank the film is that it kick-started the screen career of Albert Finney who Richardson had directed in the "kitchen sink" classic, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, in 1960.




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