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Behind the Camera - Tom Jones
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Behind The Camera on TOM JONES

Thursday July, 25 2019 at 10:15 PM
Wednesday September, 18 2019 at 12:45 AM

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Tony Richardson shot Tom Jones on location in the British countryside during the summer of 1962. Among the estates at which he shot were Nettlecoombe, which was a girls school at the time, and Cranborne, which included a garden labyrinth.

Among the places in which the cast and crew stayed during filming were a castle and estate that included England's first scientific pig farm and a haunted house in Wiltshire.

Because of his displeasure with his role, Albert Finney was sullen and withdrawn through most of the production. He would later say, "I just felt I was being used. I wasn't involved....I felt bored most of the time."

Wilfrid Lawson, who played the gamekeeper, and Hugh Griffith, who played Squire Western, were drinking buddies and inveterate troublemakers. During location shooting in the seaside resort of Weymouth, they dangled a barmaid outside a window upside down.

Griffith's drinking caused numerous production delays, particularly since for much of the shoot he commuted from London. Production assistants frequently had to track him down along the road to London, often finding him passed out.

After Griffith accidentally hit several cast and crew members with his riding crop, Richardson had it specially wired to diminish its sting.

It took two nights to film the sequence in which Squire Western chases after Tom. The second night, Griffith managed to undo the wiring on his riding crop, and actually hit Finney with it, drawing blood. In character, Finney turned on Griffith and said, "I can't abide to be whipped, Squire," then punched him in the face. Each stalked off the set, swearing never to work with the other again.

The hunting scene posed special problems because the local hunters refused to cooperate, assuming the film would take an anti-hunting approach. The crew had to comb the countryside to find hounds people were willing to sell or rent. Richardson wanted to show the dogs tearing into the deer at the end, so the crew tried to keep the hounds hungry, as is the custom in hunting. The local huntsmen, getting wind of the schedule, broke into the kennel the night before and fed the dogs heartily. When it came time to film the scene, all the dogs would do was sniff at the carcass of the dead deer the crew had bought. They had to re-shoot the scene three days later. Then the crew stuffed the carcass with beef liver to get the dogs to attack.

It took three hours to shoot the famous eating scene, in which Tom Jones (Finney) and Mrs. Waters (Joyce Redman), express their lust for each other by tearing into a huge feast. Buckets were conveniently placed out of camera range to accommodate the actors, who kept throwing up from all the eating.

Shooting on Tom Jones concluded with studio work in London. By that time, the cast and crew were overwhelmed by the hard work and too many cut corners. Richardson and his company believed Tom Jones was going to be a major disappointment. When the head of United Artists' British office saw the first cut, he predicted disaster.

The British Board of Film Censors cut twelve seconds from the film to delete a cockfighting scene. Depictions of that particular form of animal cruelty are illegal in British films.

Although the first reviews in London of Tom Jones were far from favorable, audiences discovered the film on their own and turned it into a huge hit before it opened in the U.S.

by Frank Miller

SOURCES:
Tony Richardson, The Long-Distance Runner: A Memoir
Susan Sackett, The Hollywood Reporter Book of Box Office Hits
IMDB

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