Tony Richardson’s rousing adaptation of Fielding’s classic comic novel, a sharp change of pace for a director of choleric contemporary fare, stars Albert Finney as the eponymous swordsman. A foundling whose mother is thought to be a housemaid (Joyce Redman), he’s raised by her employer, the aptly named Squire Allworthy (George Devine). He grows up to be a lively young man, loved by all except Allworthy’s legitimate heir, the dour, envious Blifil (David Warner). Although Tom is in love with Sophie Western (Susannah York), his unusual susceptibility to the sight of a pretty foot leads him into a dalliance with the accommodating Molly Seagrim (Diane Cilento). Despite this lapse, Sophie still rejects the efforts of her father (Hugh Griffith) and Allworthy to arrange a marriage with Blifil because of her love for Tom. Thus, Allworthy feels obliged to send the lad away, which only briefly dampens Tom’s spirits, since he’s soon at a country inn, engaging in a famously libidinous eating scene with a woman met en route, who may or may not be a relative. Perhaps the director’s finest two hours, despite its enormous critical and commercial success he considered it a failure. While its excellent cast, lively score, and unusually realistic art direction deserve praise, it’s likely that Richardson saved the film in the editing room, emphasizing the farcical elements of the story with rapid intercutting, and adding amusingly ironic voice-over narration, ending up with one of the most entertaining costume dramas ever put on celluloid.



December 11, 1963


Tony Richardson


Henry Fielding (novel) John Osborne (screenplay)


United Artists Corporation


Adventure, Comedy, Romance




128 minutes