Albert Finney, Susannah York
Director Tony Richardson has recut his much-praised, much-adored 1963 film for this rerelease, snipping out seven minutes to reduce what he had come to believe were some overlong scenes.
The fact is that it still drags at times. And all the gamboling and coy asides to the camera, as well as a foolish speeded-up chase sequence, provoke aren’t-they-the-precious-ones notions.
Yet few films are so alive, so expansive, so devoted to enjoyment (or so unlikely to translate well to home video). Taken from Henry Fielding’s 1749 novel, it is set in 18th-century England, where a lower-upper-class brother and sister adopt a foundling who grows up to be Finney. He’s a lovable rascal, honest and honorable, but fatally vulnerable to a pretty face.
The plot revolves around his long courtship of the daughter of a boorish neighboring squire. The father is wild-eyed Hugh Griffith. The daughter is played with surpassing beauty by York, and when she is with Finney, then 27 and too good-looking to be true, the effect is surreal.
The famous scenes are still intact—the pound and sweep of the deer hunt, the blend of playfulness and flamboyant lust in the greasy, drippy eating scene involving Finney and Joyce Redman.
The film won Best Picture and Best Director Oscars. Richardson hasn’t made a film anywhere near as successful since—The Hotel New Hampshire is closest. If you have to be remembered for only one thing in life, though, being stuck with Tom Jones isn’t bad. (Unrated)