Arguably the least stuffy costumer ever filmed, Albert Finney stars as TOM JONES (1963), Henry Fielding’s classic bastard of ignoble birth. With a countryside estate’s worth of raucous performances–including Susannah York, Hugh Griffith, and Dame Edith Evans–Tony Richardson’s disarming direction and John Osborne’s witty screenplay utilize camera tricks, voiceovers, and asides directly to the audience. The effect is cinematic vaudeville and Oscar gold.
The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, as well as statues for Richardson and Osborne. John Addison’s Oscar-winning score, newly released on CD by Kritzerland, provides the perfect musical bedmate to this delightful comedic romp.
The prologue plays out like a silent movie farce, complete with dialogue cards and sped-up photography. Addison underscores the scene with a Baroque harpsichord concerto and a movie palace out-of-tune piano as accompaniment. A trumpet fanfare announces the opening credits and Addison serves up the overture (and Tom’s birth) with Tom’s theme played out on accordion.
The love theme between Tom and Sophie (York) is a listing, lilting waltz on that same out-of-tune piano. Add Tom’s devil-may-care saxophones and banjo to the orchestral mix and you have a delightful hodgepodge of 17th-Century musical sensibilities that sounds delightfully contemporary.
Addison was sure to be nominated along with the other elements of the film. Surprisingly, the score beat out heavier fare by the likes of Alex North, Dimitri Tiomkin, and Alfred Newman, all of whom were nominated for scores from big epic films, the type the Academy generally favors.
For the CD release, producer Bruce Kimmel included not only the original soundtrack LP, but those tracks re-edited and placed in film order as well. The film’s end titles, which were not included on the original album, have also been added.
After all these years of familiarity with the original LP order, it’s refreshing to hear both versions. I wish Kimmel had placed the prologue leading directly into the main titles as it plays out in the film. But that’s a minor quibble in this welcome release.