tom thumb


1h 38m 1958
tom thumb

Brief Synopsis

A six-inch-tall boy takes on a pair of comical crooks.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Family
Musical
Fantasy
Adaptation
Release Date
Dec 1958
Premiere Information
World premiere in London, England: 27 Nov 1958
Production Company
Galaxy Pictures, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Elstree, England, Great Britain; Endhoven,Holland; London, England, Great Britain; Mexico
Screenplay Information
Based on the fairy tale "Daumesdick (Thumbling)" in Kinder und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales) collected by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm (Germany, 1812--15).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 38m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Film Length
8,290ft (10 reels)

Synopsis

Long ago, near a small village by a stream surrounded by a large forest, honest Jonathan cuts firewood for the villagers. One day while chopping a large oak, the Forest Queen appears to Jonathan to plead with him to spare the tree, the oldest and fairest in the forest. Reluctantly, Jonathan agrees and in gratitude, the Queen offers him three wishes, cautioning him to consider carefully as the wishes will affect his wife Anna as well. When Jonathan expresses skepticism about the Queen's offer, she vanishes. Frightened, Jonathan returns home with his burro Charlie. At home, Anna doubts Jonathan's story until he wishes his dull cabbage meal would change into a hearty sausage. After the cabbage turns into a sausage, Anna wishes the sausage onto her husband's nose for his silliness, but then frets that they have wasted two of their wishes. Jonathan spends the third wish regaining his real nose and he and Anna realize they have lost their wishes.

On their way to bed, the couple pause at the empty, toy-filled nursery to lament their lack of children. Anna declares that she would love any child, even if it were no bigger than her thumb and Jonathan assures her there is still time for children. At the stroke of midnight, Jonathan and Anna are awakened by a knock at their front door. Investigating, Jonathan discovers a tiny boy, no bigger than his thumb, who declares that he is Jonathan and Anna's son. Realizing that the kind Forest Queen has granted their deepest wish, Jonathan welcomes his tiny son and presents him to Anna who names him tom. After celebrating tom's arrival, Anna puts him to bed in the nursery and sews him clothes. In the morning, tom awakens to a boisterous reception by the toys, who are grateful that tom's presence has brought them to life. After partying with the toys, tom joins Jonathan on his daily trip to the forest and surprises his father with his ability to communicate with Charlie. In the forest, Jonathan warns tom to stay away from the dangerous swamp area filled with large, evil animals. A little later, when rogues Ivan and Tony come across father and son, they are taken with tom's stature. Certain that the little fellow might be of invaluable help in their swindles, Ivan offers to buy tom. Incensed, Jonathan refuses.

That afternoon, tom overhears musician Woody proudly telling the Forest Queen that he has been hired as a member of the village band. The Queen, who is in love with Woody, longs to be made mortal by his kiss, but Woody promises to woo her respectably. When Woody is unable to accept tom's invitation to dinner, he promises to take the disappointed boy to the village fair that weekend. At the fair, the cobbler sells magic shoes that bewitch their wearers into endless dancing while music plays. Hoping to buy a pair for the Queen, Woody slips away from the band, but the cobbler informs him they are sold out. The cobbler offers a tiny pair to tom, who upon putting them on, excitedly dances away. Alarmed, Woody follows. When the band master notices Woody's absence, he fires him, then speeds up the music. Barely avoiding the wildly stomping feet of the crowd, an exhausted tom manages to throw off his shoes, then to avoid falling off a step, grabs a rope attached to a balloon that sweeps him into air. Moments later, tom floats over the city hall tower where Ivan and Tony are trying to break in. Shooting the balloon down with a slingshot, Ivan "rescues" tom, who in gratitude asks if he might be of assistance. Ivan asks tom to climb through the grate into the treasury storage to retrieve money that Ivan swears he and Tony will use to save orphans. Tom agrees and is lowered into the treasury, from which he helps bring up the largest bag of gold coins. Although Tony wants to do away with tom, Ivan advises caution and, presenting tom with a gold coin, leaves him at the forest crossroads that lead to the swamp.

Boldly walking into the swamp, tom is soon lost and falls into the murky water only to be rescued by the Forest Queen. Woody arrives moments later and, although relived to find tom safe, chastises him for being irresponsible. The Queen defends tom, insisting that Woody has been reckless. The two quarrel and when Woody declares he knows the Queen wants him to kiss her, the Queen vanishes in anger. Woody takes tom home, where he finds Jonathan angered over his late return. Upset at having distressed his parents, tom asks the leader of the toys, Con-fu-shon for advice, who then has the Yawning Man sing tom and the other toys to sleep. The following morning, soldiers arrive to question the family about the theft from the treasury. Anna invites the men in for breakfast, and one of the soldiers discovers a gold coin in one of Anna's fresh baked loaves. Unknown to everyone, tom's coin rolled into the bread dough the night before. The soldiers arrest Jonathan and Anna despite their protests. Tom, roused by the noise, gets help from the groggy toys to unlatch the door, but finds his parents gone. Determined to prove their innocence, tom resolves to find the real culprits.

Tom goes to the forest to enlist Woody's help and finds his friend lamenting the disappearance of the Queen, who listens while hidden nearby. Woody and tom track Ivan and Tony to an abandoned castle, where they are counting the treasury gold. After Ivan knocks Woody out, tom convinces the thieves that each one is cheating the other. They begin brawling with eachother, and when Woody revives, Tony knocks him out again. Meanwhile at the village, Jonathan and Anna are sentenced to a public whipping in the town square. After escaping from the castle, tom falls off a cliff into a water trough. Tony and Ivan ride away with the gold, and when Woody awakens, he follows them. Unknown to the thieves, tom is nestled in the horse's ear and gives him commands to go to the village. Tom, Tony, Ivan and Woody arrive in the village square just as Jonathan and Anna are to receive their punishment. When the bag of gold coins falls from Ivan's coat, the Kepellmeister orders them arrested and tom's parents freed. Woody captures the crooked pair and is delighted when the Forest Queen materializes to praise him. Embracing her, Woody then kisses her and the two disappear only to materialize moments later with the Queen now a full-blooded mortal. The village celebrates the happy couple's marriage and tom is thrilled to be paired with the pretty Thumbelina as a decoration on top of the wedding cake.

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Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Family
Musical
Fantasy
Adaptation
Release Date
Dec 1958
Premiere Information
World premiere in London, England: 27 Nov 1958
Production Company
Galaxy Pictures, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Elstree, England, Great Britain; Endhoven,Holland; London, England, Great Britain; Mexico
Screenplay Information
Based on the fairy tale "Daumesdick (Thumbling)" in Kinder und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales) collected by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm (Germany, 1812--15).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 38m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Film Length
8,290ft (10 reels)

Award Wins

Best Special Effects

1959

Articles

Tom Thumb - tom thumb


Once upon a time, prolific animator turned producer George Pal made it his mission to bring to life memorable flights of fancy. After cutting his teeth on films like When Worlds Collide (1951) and The War Of The Worlds (1953), George Pal took on the very big job of creating a five and a half inch screen hero.

A well known fairy-tale by the brothers Grimm, tom thumb (1958) is the story of a modest couple, Jonathan and Anna (Bernard Miles and Jessie Matthews) who wish for a son that Anna says she would "love with all my heart, even if he were no bigger than my thumb." That night, the couple discovers a tiny boy who reveals that he has been sent by the Forest Queen. Unfortunately this remarkable character soon runs afoul of two rogues (Peter Sellers and Terry-Thomas) who plot to exploit the tiny boy for their own nefarious purposes. But since this is a fairy tale, all ends happily in this unique entertainment which features songs by Sonny Burke and Peggy Lee, an array of amazing special effects, and an acrobatic performance by Russ Tamblyn as the title character.

For George Pal, the road to tom thumb was a long one, but his patience and persistence paid off. Originally a creator of animated films in Paris, Pal eventually carved a niche for himself in Holland with his famed "Puppetoons" - cartoons using molded or carved puppets instead of drawings. After making hundreds of these stop-motion films in Europe, Pal brought his Puppetoons to Paramount, where they remained wildly popular through the 1940s. Though he worked on a few other films, and was even the FX wizard behind The War Of The Worlds, Pal wanted more control over the scope and breadth of his projects so he eventually gravitated to the MGM studios.

Though it had always been a dream of Pal's to bring tom thumb to the screen, Hollywood had never shown any interest. Oddly enough, it was Donald O'Connor who rekindled the project. O'Connor had heard about the idea, and approached Pal, wanting the role of Tom for himself. Pal made a presentation to the MGM brass who were receptive to the idea, as long as they could fill Tom's tiny shoes with Russ Tamblyn. A respected young actor and dancer, Tamblyn had just received an Oscar nomination for his part in Peyton Place (1957), and welcomed the idea of playing tom thumb.

Convinced he could shoot tom thumb for under a million dollars, Pal moved the production to MGM's British studios, where, quite frankly, they needed the work. Because the success of the film would depend heavily on the effectiveness of its special effects, Pal also decided to direct tom thumb himself - a first for him. Arriving in England, the neophyte director immediately hired expert Tom Howard to supervise the optical work. (Howard would later add 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) to his resume.) Then Pal coordinated the daunting task of building oversized sets, scaled one foot to the inch, to give Tom his proper proportion. For one scene where tom dances on a bench, the bench had to be built 35 feet high, and 90 feet long. For scenes that required Tom to interact with other, standard sized characters, some fancy camerawork was employed. Other actors were filmed talking to a miniature figure of tom, while Tamblyn filmed his scenes alone. The footage of tom was then matted over the figure of the tiny hero, blending the two shots into a seamless conversation. To achieve the proper angles and perspective, the camera had to be placed extremely far from Tamblyn. For one scene, in fact, a hole had to be cut in the roof of the stage to get the right angle.

Pal was able to deliver tom thumb for around $900,000, which was slightly under budget and proof that good things come in small packages. Audiences of all ages loved tom thumb for its charm and freshness, and the Academy loved it for its painstaking and beautifully crafted special effects, honoring the picture with an Oscar for Best Special Effects.

Director/Producer: George Pal
Screenwriter: Ladislas Fodor
Cinematographer: Georges Perinal
Composer: Douglas Gamely, Kenneth Jones
Editor: Frank Clarke
Art Director: Elliot Scott
Songwriter: Peggy Lee, Kermit Goell, Fred Spielman, Janice Torre
Cast: Russ Tamblyn (Tom Thumb), Alan Young (Woody, the Piper), Terry-Thomas (Ivan), Peter Sellers (Tony), Jessie Matthews (Anna)
C-93m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.

by Bill Goodman
Tom Thumb - Tom Thumb

Tom Thumb - tom thumb

Once upon a time, prolific animator turned producer George Pal made it his mission to bring to life memorable flights of fancy. After cutting his teeth on films like When Worlds Collide (1951) and The War Of The Worlds (1953), George Pal took on the very big job of creating a five and a half inch screen hero. A well known fairy-tale by the brothers Grimm, tom thumb (1958) is the story of a modest couple, Jonathan and Anna (Bernard Miles and Jessie Matthews) who wish for a son that Anna says she would "love with all my heart, even if he were no bigger than my thumb." That night, the couple discovers a tiny boy who reveals that he has been sent by the Forest Queen. Unfortunately this remarkable character soon runs afoul of two rogues (Peter Sellers and Terry-Thomas) who plot to exploit the tiny boy for their own nefarious purposes. But since this is a fairy tale, all ends happily in this unique entertainment which features songs by Sonny Burke and Peggy Lee, an array of amazing special effects, and an acrobatic performance by Russ Tamblyn as the title character. For George Pal, the road to tom thumb was a long one, but his patience and persistence paid off. Originally a creator of animated films in Paris, Pal eventually carved a niche for himself in Holland with his famed "Puppetoons" - cartoons using molded or carved puppets instead of drawings. After making hundreds of these stop-motion films in Europe, Pal brought his Puppetoons to Paramount, where they remained wildly popular through the 1940s. Though he worked on a few other films, and was even the FX wizard behind The War Of The Worlds, Pal wanted more control over the scope and breadth of his projects so he eventually gravitated to the MGM studios. Though it had always been a dream of Pal's to bring tom thumb to the screen, Hollywood had never shown any interest. Oddly enough, it was Donald O'Connor who rekindled the project. O'Connor had heard about the idea, and approached Pal, wanting the role of Tom for himself. Pal made a presentation to the MGM brass who were receptive to the idea, as long as they could fill Tom's tiny shoes with Russ Tamblyn. A respected young actor and dancer, Tamblyn had just received an Oscar nomination for his part in Peyton Place (1957), and welcomed the idea of playing tom thumb. Convinced he could shoot tom thumb for under a million dollars, Pal moved the production to MGM's British studios, where, quite frankly, they needed the work. Because the success of the film would depend heavily on the effectiveness of its special effects, Pal also decided to direct tom thumb himself - a first for him. Arriving in England, the neophyte director immediately hired expert Tom Howard to supervise the optical work. (Howard would later add 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) to his resume.) Then Pal coordinated the daunting task of building oversized sets, scaled one foot to the inch, to give Tom his proper proportion. For one scene where tom dances on a bench, the bench had to be built 35 feet high, and 90 feet long. For scenes that required Tom to interact with other, standard sized characters, some fancy camerawork was employed. Other actors were filmed talking to a miniature figure of tom, while Tamblyn filmed his scenes alone. The footage of tom was then matted over the figure of the tiny hero, blending the two shots into a seamless conversation. To achieve the proper angles and perspective, the camera had to be placed extremely far from Tamblyn. For one scene, in fact, a hole had to be cut in the roof of the stage to get the right angle. Pal was able to deliver tom thumb for around $900,000, which was slightly under budget and proof that good things come in small packages. Audiences of all ages loved tom thumb for its charm and freshness, and the Academy loved it for its painstaking and beautifully crafted special effects, honoring the picture with an Oscar for Best Special Effects. Director/Producer: George Pal Screenwriter: Ladislas Fodor Cinematographer: Georges Perinal Composer: Douglas Gamely, Kenneth Jones Editor: Frank Clarke Art Director: Elliot Scott Songwriter: Peggy Lee, Kermit Goell, Fred Spielman, Janice Torre Cast: Russ Tamblyn (Tom Thumb), Alan Young (Woody, the Piper), Terry-Thomas (Ivan), Peter Sellers (Tony), Jessie Matthews (Anna) C-93m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video. by Bill Goodman

Quotes

There are two thieves here - and both of them are you!
- Ivan

Trivia

The head of MGM's British operations was so impressed that George Pal brought this film in under budget that he suggested that Pal submit a script for his favorite unproduced project. Pal chose Time Machine, The (1960)

Notes

The literary source credit card reads: "Based on a story from the pen of the Brothers Grimm." German writers Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm created their tale, "Daumesdick," around a well-known European folk character. An earlier use of the tiny man known as "tom thumb" was in the late 17th century fairy tale in French author Charles Perrault's collection Tales of Times Past: or Mother Goose Tales (Paris, 1697).
       The film differed somewhat from the popular Grimm's fairy tale,which featured tom convincing his father to sell him to two traveling men in order to have adventures. Tom experiences hiding in a hole with a mouse, being swallowed by a cow and later a wolf, yet he returns home safely. The Perrault story also took liberties with the original tale, featuring an Ogre that terrorized tom's family. In that story, tom was the youngest of seven children.
       A June 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that, in addition to Peggy Lee, Fred Spielman and Janice Torre, songs for tom thumb would be written by Dave Barbour. In August 1957, another Hollywood Reporter item added songwriters Clarence Wheeler and Irving Bibo, but their contribution, if any, to the released film has not been confirmed. Principal photography took place in England at M-G-M's British Studios in Boreham Wood, Elstree. Hollywood Reporter news items revealed that producer-director George Pal and several members of the production also shot a portion of the film in Endhoven, Holland in December 1957. According to Hollywood Reporter in May 1958, Pal photographed background shots in Mexico. As noted in an Los Angeles Times article, tom thumb marked the return to the screen, after a fifteen-year absence, of British music hall star Jessie Matthews. Her previous film appearance was in the 1944 British production, Candles at Nine. Following tom thumb, Matthews did not make another film until 1977 when she appeared in The Hound of the Baskervilles. The Los Angeles Times article also credited Matthews as singing the film's title song, but the music played over the opening and closing titles is instrumental. tom thumb marked the American film debut for famed British comedian Peter Sellers (1925-1980), who had previously acted in several British films.
       Hollywood Reporter casting lists added the following: Zack Matalon, Terry Skelton, Ann Delaney, Ann Lascelles, Peter Perkins, Tutte Lemkow, Ian Wilson and Sheldon Lovely, but their appearance in the finished film has not been confirmed. tom thumb won an Academy Award for Special Effects. Several films, both feature length, shorts and animated shorts feature the character of "tom thumb," including two French films from Pathé Freres, one released in 1906 and another in 1909. A July 1958 Daily Variety article noted that Mexico's Clasa Film Mundiales produced a film version of the Perrault fairy tale, Pulgarcito. That film was released in 1958 in foreign markets, but was not distributed in the U.S. until 1967.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1958

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1958