Film Review: Tom Jones
In 1963, Tony Richardson released Tom Jones, based on the 1794 novel The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding. Starring Albert Finney, Susannah York, Hugh Griffith, Edith Evans, Joan Greenwood, Diane Cilento, George Devine, David Tomlinson, Rosalind Atkinson, Wilfrid Lawson, Rosalind Knight, Jack MacGrowan, Freda Jackson, David Warner, Joyce Redman, James Cairncross, Rachel Kempson, and Peter Bull, the film grossed $37.6 million at the box office. Nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress (Diane Cilento), Best Supporting Actress (Edith Evans), Best Supporting Actress (Joyce Redman), and Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Color and the Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture Actor – Musical/Comedy, Best Motion Picture Director, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress, it won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Substantially Original Score, and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium and the Golden Globe Awards for Best English-Language Foreign Film, Best Motion Picture – Comedy, and Most Promising Newcomer – Male.
In an opening silent sequence, Squire Allworthy returns home after a stay in London and discovers a baby in his bed. After throwing out his barber and one of his servants, thinking they birthed the baby out of lust, Allworthy chooses to raise the child as if he were his own son and names him Tom Jones. Tom ends up growing into a young man with good looks and a kind heart which makes him very popular with the opposite sex. However, he truly loves only Sophie Western. While she returns his passion, Tom’s stigmatization as a bastard means he can’t marry someone of her high station.
A seemingly odd choice for Best Picture, Tom Jones is still a pretty decent film, presenting audiences with an interesting take on a plot that’s been seen countless times. Viewers have seen the story of a man whose lineage is of ill repute falling in love with a high class lady even though the two are of such different stations that they cannot be together, with the twist that he’s actually of noble lineage coming in at the end. However, the way the film carries itself is quite different than others that aren’t straight up lampooning the story, namely that it has fun with everything and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The way it does so is through its style. The film shows it’s not going to take itself all too seriously during the first few minutes when it begins as a silent film, complete with title cards. It’s pretty obvious from the way the actors are carrying on that they’re pretty much poking fun at the acting conventions found during the time period. There’s also the notable fourth wall breaks found within the film, making the film an early example of characters addressing the audience. There’s one interesting scene where Tom discovers that his money has been stolen and he starts shouting at the chambermaid if she was the one who robbed him and when he doesn’t get the answer he wants, he shouts to the camera and asks the viewer if they stole it. Other characters glance at the camera as well and Tom even covers the lens with his hat at one point.
As far as characters go, Tom is quite an interesting one. Though he’s incredibly popular with nearly every woman he comes across, the film shows that despite his popularity and his ability to choose from any woman that throws herself at him, he’s actually quite faithful and chooses to only love one woman. It’s this faithfulness to the woman he cannot be with that ultimately brings about happiness when the plot comes to a head and Tom realizes that his lineage is much more respectable than he thought.
At the same time, Sophie has good character as a leading lady and the object of Tom’s affections. Like Tom, she remarkably returns his affections despite what’s immediately known about his lineage and decides true love is more important than making her parents happy and marrying the hypocritical Bilfil, whom she despises. The intermingling of these two characters is what makes the film, considering that they both defiantly loved each other when it was impossible to have a future. In doing so, it confirms that when Tom’s true heritage comes out, they know that their relationship is worth fighting for.
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