Tom Jones (1963 film)

Tom Jones

Theatrical poster
Directed by Tony Richardson
Produced by Tony Richardson
Michael Holden
Oscar Lewenstein
Michael Balcon (uncredited)
Written by John Osborne
Based on The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling
by Henry Fielding
Starring Albert Finney
Susannah York
Hugh Griffith
Edith Evans
Diane Cilento
Joyce Redman
Narrated by Micheál Mac Liammóir
Music by John Addison
Cinematography Walter Lassally
Edited by Antony Gibbs
Distributed by United Artists (UK)
Lopert Pictures Corporation (USA)
Release dates
  • 29 September 1963 (1963-09-29) (Venice)
Running time
128 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $1 million or £467,000[1]
Box office $37,600,000

Tom Jones is a 1963 British adventure 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,[2] 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 is notable for its unusual comic style: the opening sequence is performed in the style 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.


The story begins with a silent film sequence during which the good Squire Allworthy (George Devine) returns home after a lengthy stay in London and discovers a baby (played by a girl, Lynn Goldsworthy) in his bed. Thinking that his barber, Mr. Partridge (Jack MacGowran), and one of his servants, Jenny Jones (Joyce Redman), 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.

Tom (Albert Finney) 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 (Susannah York), 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 (Edith Evans) and her father, Squire Western (Hugh Griffith) try to coerce her to marry a more suitable man – a man whom she hates.

This young man is Blifil (David Warner, in his film debut), the son of the Squire's widowed sister Bridget (Rachel Kempson). Although he is of legitimate birth, he is an ill-natured fellow with plenty of hypocritical 'virtue' but none of Tom's warmth, honesty, or high spirits. When Bridget dies unexpectedly, Blifil intercepts a letter, which his mother intended for her brother's eyes only. What this letter contains is not revealed until the end of the movie; however, after his mother's funeral, Blifil and his two tutors, Mr. Thwackum (Peter Bull) and Mr. Square (John Moffatt), 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 Tom's 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 (Joan Greenwood), a promiscuous noblewoman over 40 years of age. She is rich, beautiful, and completely amoral, though it is worth noting that 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 Bridget's illegitimate son and Allworthy's 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 Western's blessing.

In its original release, the film ran 2 hours and 7 minutes.



Bridgwater's Castle Street was used as a location in several scenes. Bryanston Films hesitated to make the film in colour and shortly went bankrupt. The film was financed by American production money through United Artists.[3]

The production suffered from more than the usual disasters, near-disasters and squabbles attending films shot on location in English weather. Tony Richardson was dissatisfied with the final product, notwithstanding its acclaim by others. In his autobiography[4] Richardson wrote:

"I 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."

Cinematographer Walter Lassally has said[5] 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.

Several of the sequences are regarded as brilliantly photographed by Lassally, such as the hunt scene and the village square scene.

Box office

The film was highly successful financially, becoming the third most popular at the British box office in 1963,[6] and the 4th most popular in the United States. Produced on a budget of $1 million, it grossed $37,600,000 domestically,[7] earning $16 million in rentals in North America[8][9] and $4 million in the rest of the world.[8]


The film was reissued in 1989; for this release, Richardson trimmed the film by seven minutes.[2]

Awards and nominations

Academy Awards


Tom Jones is the only film in the history of the Academy in which three actresses were nominated for Best Supporting Actress Oscar.[11] 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.

BAFTA Awards


Golden Globe Awards


Other awards

New York Film Critics Circle Awards

Venice Film Festival

Writers' Guild of Great Britain

Grammy Awards

See also


  1. Film giants step into finance The Observer (1901- 2003) [London (UK)] 19 Apr 1964: 8.
  2. 1 2 Scott, A. O. (7 February 2005). "We're Sorry". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  3. p.xiv Mayer, Geoff Guide to British Cinema Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003
  4. Richardson, Tony (1993). Long Distance Runner – A memoir. London: Faber & Faber. p. 136. ISBN 0-571-16852-3.
  5. "Web of Stories: Tom Jones: the editing and Tony Richardson's generosity." The generosity was Richardson's decision to give Lassally and other crew members a percentage of the film's revenue, a highly unusual arrangement.
  6. "Most Popular Films of 1963." The Times [London, England] 3 January 1964: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
  7. Box Office Information for Tom Jones. The Numbers. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  8. 1 2 Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p. 230, 239–240
  9. "All-Time Top Grossers", Variety, 6 January 1963 p 39. Please note this figure is rentals accruing to distributors not total gross.
  10. "NY Times: Tom Jones". NY Times. Retrieved 25 December 2008.
  11. Tom Jones Movie Reviews, Pictures – Rotten Tomatoes
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