Tom Thumb (film)

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Tom Thumb
Theatrical release poster by Reynold Brown
Directed byGeorge Pal
Written byLadislas Fodor
Based onDaumesdick (Thumbling)
1812 fairy tale
by Jacob Grimm
Wilhelm Grimm
Produced byGeorge Pal
StarringRuss Tamblyn
Alan Young
Peter Sellers
June Thorburn
CinematographyGeorges Périnal
Edited byFrank Clarke
Music byDouglas Gamley
Ken Jones
Galaxy Pictures Limited
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • 4 December 1958 (1958-12-04) (U.K.)
  • 22 December 1958 (1958-12-22) (U.S.)
Running time
98 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States
Box office$3,250,000[1]

Tom Thumb (stylised as tom thumb) is a 1958 fantasy-musical film produced and directed by George Pal and released by MGM. The film, based on the fairy tale "Thumbling" by the Brothers Grimm, is about a tiny youth who manages to outwit two thieves determined to make a fortune from him.

It stars Russ Tamblyn in the title role, with a largely British supporting cast (it was filmed in both Hollywood and London), including Bernard Miles and Jessie Matthews as Tom Thumb's adoptive parents, June Thorburn as the Forest Queen and comic actors Terry-Thomas and Peter Sellers as the villainous duo who try to exploit the tiny hero for profit.

Director Pal worked with cinematographer Georges Périnal, animators Wah Chang and Gene Warren, art director Elliot Scott and special effects artist Tom Howard to create the animated and fantasy sequences. Peggy Lee wrote the songs, and Douglas Gamley and Ken Jones wrote the music.

The film is referenced in The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962) and Pinkeltje (1978). The film is also featured in That's Dancing! (1985)

The filming locations for the movie were in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S. and London, England.


Jonathan, a poor but honest lumberjack, lives in the forest with his loving wife Anne. One day, while chopping down a tree, the mystical Forest Queen appears before Jonathan and begs him to spare the tree as it is a home to a family of birds. As selling wood is his livelihood, Jonathan is initially reluctant, but after the Queen demonstrates her magic powers, Jonathan agrees. In gratitude, the Queen tells Jonathan she will grant Jonathan and his wife three wishes. Jonathan races home to tell Anne about the incredible encounter.

Unfortunately, Jonathan and Anne accidentally squander the wishes while bickering over dinner. As they turn in for bed that night, they look over the second bedroom of their cottage, which is fully stocked with toys for the child that they dearly wanted but were never able to have. Anne laments their previous squandering of their magic wishes, which they could have used to wish for a child, but Jonathan consoles her that the Forest Queen may yet show them kindness and grant them one more wish. Anne remarks that she would love any child that they would have had "even if he was no bigger than her thumb."

Later, they are roused by a soft knocking at the door and find before them a boy who is literally the size of a thumb, who addresses Jonathan and Anne familiarly as "Father" and "Mother". Anne instinctively knows that the boy's name is Tom.

In the following days, best-family-friend Woody takes Tom into town, where a carnival is being held. Tom is carried off by a balloon up to the top of the nearby castle's treasury tower, where two thieves, Ivan and Antony, are conspiring to steal the gold. They realize that due to his size, Tom will easily be able to slip between the bars of the grill on the treasury roof and trick him into believing that they need the gold to help poor orphans. As a reward for his assistance, Ivan gives Tom a single gold sovereign from the stolen loot. Tom returns home late at night, to find his parents distraught over his disappearance from the carnival. While he sneaks in through the window, he accidentally drops his sovereign into a cake that his mother has been baking.

By the next morning, the robbery has been discovered and guards are scouring the countryside searching for the thieves. A unit stops at Jonathan's cottage to ask if he or Anne have seen anyone suspicious in the area. Anne offers the guards some cake and one guard bites into the slice containing the sovereign, instantly recognizing it as part of the stolen treasure. Jonathan and Anne are wrongly accused of theft, arrested and taken away to be flogged in the town square.

With Woody's help, Tom tracks down the real thieves and, thanks to his ability to control animals, especially donkeys and horses, eventually manages to bring them back to the town square, along with their loot, thereby exonerating his parents. Ivan and Antony are arrested and the gold is returned to the treasury. The movie concludes with Woody marrying Queenie, whom he has been clumsily romancing throughout the movie and who has been transformed into a mortal by his long-awaited kiss.




Pal said he had the idea to make a film out of Tom Thumb in the late 1940s when making Puppetoons for Paramount. In June 1947 he announced he would make the movie as his first feature, using a combination of actors, animation and animals.[2] He signed a deal with United Artists to make the movie for a reported $2 million with Woody Herman and Peggy Lee to star.[3] Buddy Kaye and Sam Kiberg signed to make songs. In November Pal was reported as filming Sierra backgrounds.[4] In January 1948 Pal said Buster Keaton and Thomas Mitchell would appear in the film.[5]

In May 1948 Pal announced he had hired Laslo Vadnay to make Miklos and the Dancing Bear.[6] In October Dick Haymes was announced for a lead role in Tom Thumb.[7] Tom Neal signed to play Jan the Hunter.[8] However the project kept being delayed.[9]

In October 1952 the film had still yet to be made. Pal said he wanted Laurel and Hardy to play the thieves.[10]

Eventually in June 1957 Pal signed a deal to make the film with MGM; he would use his company, Galaxy Productions and the movie would be made in England.[11] In November 1957 Pal announced he would direct as well as produce and the Russ Tamblyn would star.[12]


He filmed scenes in England in early 1958, taking over every one of the seven sound stages at MGM's London studios, and using two crews. He moved his unit to Los Angeles in April 1958.[13][14]

In November 1958 Pal announced plans to make three more tom thum movies each starring Tamblyn, to be released once a year.[15]


  • "Tom Thumb's Tune"
Music and Lyrics by Peggy Lee
Sung and danced by Russ Tamblyn and the Puppetoons
  • "After All These Years"
Music by Fred Spielman
Lyrics by Janice Torre
Sung by Jessie Matthews (dubbed by Norma Zimmer)
  • "Talented Shoes"
Music by Fred Spielman
Lyrics by Janice Torre
Sung by Ian Wallace
  • "The Yawning Song"
Music by Fred Spielman
Lyrics by Kermit Goell
Sung by Stan Freberg
  • "Are You a Dream"
Music and Lyrics by Peggy Lee
Sung by Alan Young


Variety wrote, "film is top-drawer, a comic fairy tale with music that stacks up alongside some of the Disney classics";[16] and Time called it "unusually fresh and appealing; it is kid stuff, but it will probably sell a lot of popcorn to the grownups, too."[17]

Box Office[edit]

The film was the 8th most popular movie at the British box office in 1959.[18]

According to MGM records the film earned $1,800,000 in the US and Canada and $1,450,000 elsewhere, making a profit of $612,000.[1]

In 1961 Pal said the film was a personal favorite because "it was a wholesome picture which made people smile, especially the children."[19]


At the 1959 Academy Awards, the film won an Oscar for Tom Howard in the category of Best Effects, Special Effects.

At the 1959 BAFTA Awards, Terry Thomas was Nominated for a BAFTA Film Award in the category of Best British Actor.

At the 1959 Golden Globes, the film was nominated for Best Motion Picture - Musical.

At the 1959 Laurel Awards, the film was nominated for Top Musical, while Russ Tamblyn was nominated for a Golden Laurel for Top Male Musical Performance.

At the 1959 Writers Guild of America Ladislas Fodor was nominated for a WGA Award (Screen) for Best Written American Musical.

Home video[edit]

Tom Thumb has been released as a DVD for all regions and to VHS.[20][21][22]

Comic book adaption[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c 'The Eddie Mannix Ledger’, Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study, Los Angeles
  2. ^ Movies Sign Tom Thumb As a 'Star' The Washington Post 8 June 1947: L1.
  3. ^ DRAMA AND FILM: La Jolla Stars Pacted; 'Tom Thumb' Pal Project Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 17 June 1947: A3.
  4. ^ DRAMA AND FILM: Italy Movie Mecca; Al Capone 'Lives' Anew Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 8 Nov 1947: A5.
  5. ^ METRO ACQUIRES J.D. BROWN NOVEL: pecial to THE NEW YORK TIMES.31 Jan 1948: 14.
  6. ^ DISNEY SET TO FILM STORY ON HIAWATHA: New York Times 25 May 1948: 33.
  7. ^ 'Battleground' Deal Set; Henreid Slates Thriller; Jourdan Joins 'Bovary' Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 6 Oct 1948: B7.
  8. ^ Foster to Direct Rita; Allied Artists Captures Marston From Television Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]09 Oct 1948: 9.
  9. ^ BUSY HOLLYWOOD: Production and Employment Upswing End Studio 'Depression' -- Other Items By THOMAS F. BRADY HOLLYWOOD. New York Times 10 July 1949: X3.
  10. ^ Looking at Hollywood: Duff to Go Auto Racer to Space Ship HEDDA HOPPER'S STAFF. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963); Chicago, Ill. [Chicago, Ill]21 Oct 1952: a4.
  11. ^ HORROR STORIES WILL BE FILMED: Kaufman Obtains Rights to Grand Guignol Tales for Screen and Stage Use 'Tom Thumb' on Way Of Local Origin Husband Sues Ina Ray Hutton By THOMAS M. PRYOR Special to The New York Times. New York Times 18 June 1957: 38.
  12. ^ Stage Calls Errol Flynn: Burton Likely 'Rifleman Dodd' Star; Caron, Reynolds May Team Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 8 Nov 1957: A9.
  13. ^ THE SECRET 'LIFE' OF 'TOM THUMB' By JOHN H. ROTHWELL New York Times 19 Oct 1958: X8.
  14. ^ Tom Thumb Tale for Screen: Hollywood Letter By Richard Dyer MacCann. The Christian Science Monitor 15 July 1958: 5.
  15. ^ FILM EVENTS: Three More 'tom thumb' Films Set Los Angeles Times 29 Nov 1958: B3.
  16. ^ Variety Staff (1 January 1958). "Tom Thumb".
  17. ^ "Cinema: The New Pictures, Jan. 5, 1959". 5 January 1959 – via
  18. ^ "Year Of Profitable British Films." Times [London, England] 1 January 1960: 13. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
  19. ^ GEORGE PAL PLANS MOVIE ON GRIMMS: Master of Fantasy Says Film Will 'Use Every Trick' By HOWARD THOMPSON. New York Times (22 Apr 1961: 18.
  20. ^ "tom thumb". Warner Archive. Retrieved 27 February 2013. Produced to order.
  21. ^ Tom Thumb (DVD (region 1)). Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 3 October 2000. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  22. ^ Tom Thumb (VHS videotape). Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 7 December 1994.
  23. ^ "Dell Four Color #972". Grand Comics Database.
  24. ^ Dell Four Color #972 at the Comic Book DB (archived from the original)

External links[edit]