Tom Jones (1963 film)

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,[3] 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 has an unusual comic style: the opening sequence is performed in the manner 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. Another unusual feature of the movie is the presence of an unseen narrator voiced by Micheál Mac Liammóir. Mock-serious commentaries between certain scenes deplore the action of several characters as well as the weaknesses in the human character and provides a poetic denouement for the movie.

Tom Jones
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
StarringAlbert Finney
Susannah York
Hugh Griffith
Edith Evans
Joan Greenwood
Diane Cilento
George Devine
David Tomlinson
Narrated byMicheál Mac Liammóir
Music byJohn Addison
CinematographyWalter Lassally
Edited byAntony Gibbs
Distributed byUnited Artists (UK)
Lopert Pictures Corporation (US)
Release date
  • 29 September 1963 (1963-09-29) (Venice)
Running time
128 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$1 million or £467,000[1][2]
Box office$37,600,000

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


The story begins with a silent film sequence during which the good Squire Allworthy returns home after a lengthy stay in London and discovers a baby in his bed. Thinking that his barber, Mr. Partridge, and one of his servants, Jenny Jones, 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, and Tom loves him like a father.

Tom 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 (Sophia "Sophy" in the novel), 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 and her father, Squire Western, try to coerce her to marry a more suitable man – a man whom she hates.

This young man is Blifil, the son of Squire Allworthy's widowed sister Bridget. 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 his uncle's eyes only. The letter's contents are not revealed; however, after his mother's funeral, Blifil and his two tutors, Mr. Thwackum and Mr. Square, 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, a promiscuous noblewoman over 40 years of age. She is rich, beautiful, and completely amoral, though 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.




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

Overall the production suffered from more than the usual disasters, near-disasters and squabbles caused by films being shot on location in English weather. Tony Richardson was dissatisfied with the final product. In his autobiography Richardson wrote 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 1749 novel The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, truncated and removed notable episodes and characters from the book. These included:

  • The Man of the Hill episode (VIII.10-15) is missing altogether, and the amateur highwayman Anderson (rendered Enderson in some editions) is conflated with Partridge.
  • Partridge himself is reintroduced into the story later in the film than the novel, and the ludic dialogues he has with Tom have been omitted.
  • Captain Blifil is only mentioned in passing by the narrator, and his brother the doctor is forgotten.
  • 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 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.[7]


The film was financially successful on its initial in 1963. It came third 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]


Tom Jones has received positive reviews from critics. It currently holds an 85% 'Fresh' rating on online review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 33 reviews with an average rating of 8 out of 10; its critics consensus reads: "A frantic, irreverent adaptation of the novel, bolstered by Albert Finney's courageous performance and arresting visuals."[11]

Time magazine's review commented: "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".[12] 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".[13]

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.[15] 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. Upon Lopert's death, the Best Picture Academy Award was passed on to Albert Finney.

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. Scott, A. O. (7 February 2005). "We're Sorry". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 May 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 28 September 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. 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. . Tom Jones (1963): Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  12. . "Cinema: John Bull in His Barnyard". Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  13. . Tom Jones|Variety. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  14. "NY Times: Tom Jones". NY Times. Retrieved 25 December 2008.
  15. "Tom Jones".
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