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TOM JONES (director: Tony Richardson; screenwriter: from the lovel by Henry Fielding/John Osborne; cinematographer: Walter Lassally; editor: Antony Gibbs; music: John Addison; cast: Albert Finney (Tom Jones), Susannah York (Sophie Western), Hugh Griffith (Squire Western), Edith Evans (Miss Western), Joan Geenwood (Lady Bellaston), Diane Cilento (Molly Seagrim), George Devine (Squire Allworthy), David Tomlinson (Lord Fellamar), Rosalind Atkinson (Mrs. Miller), Angela Baddeley (Mrs. Wilkins), Jack MacGowran (Partridge), Wilfrid Lawson (Black George), Joyce Redman (Mrs. Waters/Jenny Jones), David Warner (Blifil), Lynn Redgrave (Susan, Upton Inn), Michael MacLiammoir (Narrator); Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Tony Richardson; MGM Home Entertainment; 1963-UK)
“Irreverent comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

One of cinema’s biggest box office hits and the winner of four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, was financed by American money courtesy of United Arists. Tony Richardson (“Look Back In Anger”/”The Entertainer”/”A Taste Of Honey”) directs this costumed historical work as a lighthearted bawdy romp through 18th-century Somerset and London (it was shot on location in the West Country). Richardson uses misplaced French New Wave filming techniques that include gimmicky stop-motion camera movements, jump cuts, and there are even occasional asides to the audience. It’s narrated by Brit stage actor Michael MacLiammoir. John Osborne clips away at the 1,000 pages of Henry Fielding’s classic novel and manages to keep the spirit of the book and keep it as an irreverent comedy though it’s far removed in story content from the novel. My problem was that despite its energetic undertaking, the lushness of its photography of the beautiful English countryside and the fitting performance of Albert Finney as the rascal Tom Jones and the fine performances from the supporting cast members Susannah York, Hugh Griffith, Edith Evans and Joyce Redman, I was turned off by its lack of good taste in the romance department, crude and rather unfunny comedy and what once seemed fresh now seems stale and unexciting. It also marks the film debut of Lynn Redgrave. John Addison’s aggressively jaunty score is not only obtrusive but lacks the period’s style.

It follows the adventures of Tom Jones (Albert Finney), that begins when the Squire Allworthy (George Devine) returns to his manor house to find a smiling baby boy abandoned in his bed and accuses the maid Jenny Jones (Joyce Redman) of being the infant’s unwed mother. It results in her dismissal, the squire naming the child Tom Jones and then raising him alongside his legitimate heir Blifil (David Warner).

The countryboy grows up to be a wild bloke with a ravenous taste for women, food, and adventures. Tom falls madly in love with Sophie Western (Susannah York), the daughter of a neighboring squire (Hugh Griffith), but he falls into disgrace because of his amorous adventures with the local trollop Molly (Diane Cilento). His bawdy behavior causes him to be sent away from his adopted family and from the only woman he ever loved. But Tom refuses to learn any lessons from his bad behavior, and continues on his wicked path and gets into further trouble when he falls in with a bunch of scoundrels. It leads to more bed-hopping and even a stay in jail, as Blifil, his jealous rival for the hand of Sophie, has him framed for robbery. The film asks the uninteresting question: Will Tom’s charm save him from the gallows?


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”