WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) -
When I first decided to watch this film I thought it was one of the few best picture (Oscar) winners from the sixties I hadn’t seen. But then I looked at the list, and realized there are quite a few I hadn’t seen, or at least in their entirety in one sitting. Could it be, because they were movie musicals: My Fair Lady (64), The Sound of Music (65) and Oliver! (68) – Although I have sat through some of The Sound of Music – good luck getting me to sit through all of it. I don’t have an aversion to movie musicals now, but during my formative movie going and movie education years I did. I find it interesting that in a decade when Hollywood was on the verge of “the revolution” in filmmaking that so many traditional looking musicals won best picture. The one musical best picture winner from the decade that I have seen several times, and do love, is the sublime West Side Story (61). However, the decade opened and closed with two great best picture winners-both on my favorite movie list – The Apartment (60) and Midnight Cowboy (69). Both films hold up remarkably well. I still have yet to see A Man for All Seasons (66). Sigh – what am I doing with all my free time, if not watching movies?
The Brits were ahead of Hollywood in the so called revolution and Tom Jones (1963), directed by Tony Richardson, is a delicious romp, full of sixties stylish cinematic flourishes. These include characters talking directly to the camera, transitional wipes, fast jump cut editing, disembodied random and ironic narration and the ubiquitous freeze frame. The handsome young Albert Finney (not even thirty) plays the titular character who’s good nature, dashing looks and healthy libido get him into entanglements and adventures in mid eighteenth century England. Surrounded by a great supporting cast -four of which received Oscar nominations, Finney is fleet and immensely charismatic—creating incredible empathy for a character that is actually underdeveloped.
There is such confidence and energy in the film-making of Tom Jones. It is just so much fun to watch. The film dates very well-perhaps because the story was set in the 1700’s but executed through a swinging 1960’s eye. British films of this period were particularly inventive and interesting.
Look for the very young Lynn Redgrave in the Upton Inn sequence-she was not even twenty when the film was in production, director Richardson would have been her brother-in law at that time. He was married to her older sister Vanessa. This was Tony Richardson’s most successful film; he was a famed theater director in England and a very complicated person, who left Redgrave for French Actress Jeanne Moreau. Richardson was a victim of the AIDS plague, dying in 1991 from complications of the disease.