The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938 film)
|The Adventures of Tom Sawyer|
UK DVD cover
|Directed by||Norman Taurog
H.C. Potter (fired, uncredited)
George Cukor (uncredited)
William A. Wellman (uncredited)
|Produced by||David O. Selznick|
|Written by||Mark Twain (novel)
John V.A. Weaver
Marshall Neilan (uncredited)
|Music by||Max Steiner (uncredited)|
|Cinematography||James Wong Howe|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a 1938 American literature adaption directed by Norman Taurog starring Tommy Kelly in the title role. The screenplay by John V.A. Weaver was based on the classic 1876 novel by Mark Twain. The picture was the first film version of the novel to be made in color. It was remade in 1973 as a musical.
The United Artists release includes most of the sequences familiar to readers of the book, including the fence-whitewashing episode; a wild raft ride down the Mississippi River; Tom and Huckleberry Finn's attendance at their own funeral, after the boys, who were enjoying an adventure on a remote island, are presumed dead; the murder trial of local drunkard Muff Potter; and Tom and Becky Thatcher's flight through a cave as they try to escape from Injun Joe, who is revealed to be the real killer.
- Tommy Kelly as Tom Sawyer
- Jackie Moran as Huckleberry Finn
- Ann Gillis as Becky Thatcher
- May Robson as Aunt Polly
- Walter Brennan as Muff Potter
- Victor Jory as Injun Joe
- Marcia Mae Jones as Mary Sawyer
- David Holt as Sid Sawyer
- Charles Richman as Judge Thatcher
- Olin Howland as Mr. Dobbins, school teacher
- Donald Meek as Sunday School Superintendent
- Cora Sue Collins as Amy Lawrence
- Mickey Rentschler as Joe Harper
- Philip Hurlic as Little Jim
- Margaret Hamilton as Mrs. Harper
- Nana Bryant as Mrs. Thatcher
- Victor Kilian as Sheriff
- Frank McGlynn, Sr. as the minister (uncredited)
- Roland Drew as Dr. Robinson (uncredited)
- Arthur Aylesworth as Muff's lawyer (uncredited)
- Spring Byington as Widow Douglas (uncredited)
- Jane Isbell (uncredited)
This was the fourth screen adaptation of the Twain novel, following versions released in 1907, 1917, and 1930, and the first filmed in Technicolor.
H.C. Potter originally was signed to direct but was fired and replaced by Taurog after George Cukor declined the assignment. Cukor directed some scenes, but received no on-screen credit for his contributions.
Tommy Kelly, a Bronx fireman's son, was selected for the title role through a national campaign waged by producer David O. Selznick, who later would conduct a similar search for an actress to portray Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. According to a 1937 memo he sent to story editor Katharine Brown, he originally hoped to cast an orphan as Tom, feeling such a stunt would receive "tremendous attention and arouse such a warm public feeling that it would add enormously to the gross of the picture." Kelly failed to achieve the star status of fellow child actor Freddie Bartholomew, and after an inconsequential career he retired and later became a school teacher.
After reading the comment cards completed by an audience at a sneak preview of the film, Selznick sent director Taurog a memo expressing concern about the climactic scene in the cave, which many viewers had described as "too horrible for children." He advised Taurog "this worried me, because we certainly want the picture to be for a family audience," and as a result he was cutting a close-up of Becky, in which her hysteria was "perhaps a shade too much that of a very ill woman, rather than that of a little girl," "with regrets."
Some exterior scenes were filmed at Big Bear Lake, Lake Malibu, Paramount Ranch in Agoura, California, and RKOs Encino movie ranch. Other scenes were filmed on recycled sets left over from A Star is Born (1937), such as the Boldgett family home interior (kitchen, living room, & bedroom), and a silhouette of a wolf howling at the moon. Mississippi River long shots from Tom Saywer would later be reused in MGMs 1951 musical Showboat.
Time Out London called the film "extraordinarily handsome to look at, with exquisite Technicolor camerawork by Wong Howe and some imaginative designs . . . [it] has its longueurs, but it does capture the sense of a lazy Mississippi summer and much of the spirit of the book, with Jory making a superbly villainous Injun Joe."
The film lost $302,000 at the box office.
- Memo from David O. Selznick, selected and edited by Rudy Behlmer, The Viking Press, 1972, pg. 168
- Memo from David O. Selznick, pp. 124-125
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer at Turner Classic Movies
- Memo from David O. Selznick, pg. 125
- Memo from David O. Selznick, pg. 156
- Time Out London review
- TV Guide review
- David Thomson, Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick, Abacus, 1993 p 268
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer at the American Film Institute Catalog
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer at the Internet Movie Database
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer at AllMovie
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer at the TCM Movie Database