Literature / The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling
The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling
, also known as simply Tom Jones
, is a classic picaresque
novel by Henry Fielding, published in 1749, telling the adventures of the title protagonist
, a deeply honorable Handsome Lech
. It is full of social parody
both subtle and ham-handed. It has been adapted as a film (1963), a TV series (1997), and in opera form.
The 1963 film, titled simply Tom Jones
, starred Albert Finney
as Tom. It won four Oscars
, including Best Picture, Best Director for Tony Richardson, and Best Adapted Screenplay for John Osborne
of the actresses in the film got Best Supporting Actress nominations, but none of them won.
Not to be confused with Tom Jones
the singer—in fact, Tom Jones the singer took his stage name from the film.
The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling contains examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation: Both the 1960s film and the 1990s miniseries are very faithful to the spirit of the novel and to its content to a fairly large extent (more so in the latter). The latter arguably improves on the book in its presentation of Sophia and its decision to pair Partridge and Mrs. Honour.
- Abhorrent Admirer: Blifil and Lord Fellamar for Sophia, Lady Bellaston for Tom.
- Better Than a Bare Bulb: Fielding loves to comment on the tropes he is using.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Squire Western is a classic example, and played by BRIAN BLESSED no less in the 1990s series.
- Bowdlerization: The 1997 miniseries lost some very explicit sex when it was aired in the United States.
- Chick Magnet / Chivalrous Pervert / Handsome Lech: Ladies really love Tom Jones, and he usually returns the favors and, being a naturally kind-hearted fella, genuinely cares about them. At different times, he shows traits of all three tropes.
- Have a Gay Old Time: Hoo boy.... The amount of time spent touching, caressing, kissing, and talking about Sophie's muff.
- Heroic Bastard: Tom himself
- Hollywood Atheist: Inverted with Square who basically chooses atheism as an excuse for wrongdoing (because, you know, atheists are immoral) and admittedly, he reforms at the end with a death bed conversion. On the other hand, he's still always more likable than the Holier Than Thou Thwackum and it's clear that he could have been a perfectly good person following his atheistic philosophy.
- Hot-Blooded: Western.
- Incest Is Relative: Tom Jones, you need to be more careful about whom you sleep with...
- Meaningful Name: Oh, where to begin...
- Sophie = Wisdom (our hero is on a quest to...dare I say...acquire Sophie???)
- Mr. Square = Very severe and sharp edged.
- Squire Western = Is a pig (yes, this was intentional)
- Squire Allworthy = Is the kindest, nicest, and actively most-good character in the story.
- Mr. Thwackum = Need I spell it out?
- Really Gets Around: Most of the ladies in the novel are not averse to promiscuity.
- Roguish Poacher: Black George
- Sadist Teacher: Thwackum.
- Spiritual Successor: To Fielding's earlier novel Joseph Andrews.
- Stylistic Suck: Honour's letter and monologues.
- Take That, Critics!: Each of the novel's eighteen books has an introductory essay unrelated to the story. Two of them address how awful critics are.
- Twist Ending: Lampshadedly from tragedy to happy end for Jones, and the identity of Jones's mother.
Tropes particular to the 1963 film:
- Aside Comment: The 1963 film was one of the earliest movies for a character to directly address the audience. It actually happens several times.
- Mrs. Waters turns to the camera and narrates a crucial plot development near the end.
- In one scene, Tom finds that all his money had been stolen while he slept, and he shouts at the chambermaid, demanding to know if it was her who robbed him. Unsatisfied with her answers, he turns to the camera and shouts "DID YOU SEE HER?! DID YOU?!"
- Aside Glance: Sophie gets in on the Breaking the Fourth Wall action during her outings with Tom.
- Attempted Rape: Tom rescues Mrs. Waters from an attempted rape by the loathesome Northerton.
- Bedsheet Ladder: This is how Sophie escapes her father's house and the Arranged Marriage with Blifil.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Besides all the Aside Comments and Aside Glances, Tom puts his hat over the camera while he and Mrs. Waters are walking to town.
- Eating the Eye Candy: All the women in the film can't get enough of the handsome Tom Jones—of course, Albert Finney really was that handsome.
- Erotic Eating: Used in the scene with Tom and Mrs. Waters and famously filmed in the 1960s version.
- Falling in Love Montage: A charming one between Tom and Sophie, dancing about, riding on horseback, and kissing.
- The Grand Hunt: The local nobility go out on a massive deer-hunting expedition which comes off as gross and scary. See Gross-Up Close-Up below.
- Gross-Up Close-Up: A striking sequence in which the rich folk of this particular part of western England go out hunting a deer, in a large party on horseback, with a pack of hunting dogs. They come off like the Wehrmacht rampaging through Poland. The viewer is treated to closeups of a farmer's dead goose that the aristocrats trampled, closeups of spurs digging into horseflesh and gouging wounds, and a disturbing closeup to end the scene in which Squire Western displace the corpse of the deer, with its throat slit.
- Idiosyncratic Wipe / Iris Out / Wipe: Irises, diagonal wipes, and regular horizontal wipes are all used for scene transitions.
- Lemony Narrator: Micheál Mac Liammóir's deadpan delivery in the film.
- Masquerade Ball: Tom meets the lusty Lady Bellaston at one.
- A Minor Kidroduction: The first scene is baby Tom the foundling being discovered in the bed of Squire Allworthy.
- Only a Flesh Wound: In the movie: "Mr Jones, you've broken your arm!" "Indeed madame, but I have another to walk you home."
- Sexy Discretion Shot: "It shall be our custom to leave such scenes where taste, decorum, and the censor dictate."
- Silence Is Golden: The entire first scene is done in silent movie style, complete with title cards.
- Undercrank: Used in the scene where a jealous husband breaks in on Tom and Mrs. Waters, starting a madcap chase. (Tom turns to the camera and cries "Help!".)