Huckleberry Finn


1h 57m 1974
Huckleberry Finn

Brief Synopsis

Mark Twain's famed tale of a Missouri bad boy who helps a runaway slave escape to the North.

Film Details

Also Known As
Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn: A Musical Adaptation
MPAA Rating
Genre
Adventure
Musical
Release Date
1974

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 57m
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

In the mid-nineteenth century, irrepressible outsider Huckleberry Finn escapes from his scheming father and along with his friend Jim, a runaway slave, sails down the Mississippi River on a raft. The two form a loyal friendship and live through frightening experiences and exciting adventures as they get Jim to a place where he cannot be sold and begin to live as a free man.

Film Details

Also Known As
Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn: A Musical Adaptation
MPAA Rating
Genre
Adventure
Musical
Release Date
1974

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 57m
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

Huckleberry Finn (1974)


Mark Twain's much beloved 1884 boys' adventure novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn becomes a spirited musical in the 1974 Readers Digest adaptation Huckleberry Finn. Mischievous but good-hearted Huck Finn (Jeff East) is fed up with the constraints of living with his prim and proper guardians, the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson, in small town Missouri. Following a frightening confrontation with his greedy, drunken father (Gary Merrill), Huck decides to leave town for good. Miss Watson's runaway slave Jim (Paul Winfield) later joins Huck to escape to Illinois on a raft down the Mississippi River. Along the way, Huck and Jim experience an assortment of adventures and encounter colorful characters including two con artists, the King (Harvey Korman) and the Duke (David Wayne), feuding well-to-do families, and the constant threat of Jim's recapture.

The screenplay adaptation for Huckleberry Finn was written by brothers Richard and Robert Sherman, who also wrote all the songs. The Sherman brothers were already a well-established songwriting team who had made a name for themselves penning tunes for Disney films including Mary Poppins (1964) (for which they won two Academy Awards), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). Huckleberry Finn was a follow up to 1973's Tom Sawyer for which the Shermans had also written the screenplay and songs. Tom Sawyer, which starred Johnny Whitaker and Jodie Foster, had been very popular and garnered three Oscar® nominations, including one for Best Musical Score. Based on Tom Sawyer's success, hopes were high that Huckleberry Finn would do just as well.

Unfortunately, the production of Huckleberry Finn ran into several setbacks. For instance, Robert Sherman was forced to have knee surgery in the middle of filming, putting him out of commission for a lengthy period of time. The director, J. Lee Thompson, was inexperienced at directing musicals or how to effectively stage the musical numbers. Also complicating matters was singer Roberta Flack who, according to the Shermans' 1998 book Walt's Time: From Before to Beyond, made it difficult to release an original soundtrack recording due to her creative demands regarding her opening song "Freedom". Additionally, producer Arthur Jacobs tragically suffered a heart attack and died halfway through the filming.

Though Huckleberry Finn didn't live up to box office expectations, it is often charming and engaging due to the personable cast. Jeff East, who went on to portray the teenage Clark Kent in Richard Donner's Superman (1978), reprises his role as Huck after first appearing in Tom Sawyer. Paul Winfield, fresh from his Oscar®-nominated performance in Sounder (1972), brings a quiet dignity to the role of Jim. Veteran actor Gary Merrill rants with devilish glee in his small but memorable part as Huck's father, and Carol Burnett Show alumnus Harvey Korman relishes his comic villain turn as The King.

Fans of Twain's book should enjoy seeing this unusual musical adaptation. Songs include "Cairo, Illinois", "Rotten Luck", "A Rose in a Bible" and "The Royal Nonesuch". Roberta Flack's "Freedom", sung over the opening credits, is particularly lovely.

Producer: Arthur P. Jacobs
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Screenplay: Robert B. Sherman, Richard M. Sherman; Mark Twain (novel "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn")
Cinematography: Laszlo Kovacs
Film Editing: Michael F. Anderson
Cast: Jeff East (Huckleberry Finn), Paul Winfield (Jim), Harvey Korman (The King), David Wayne (The Duke), Arthur O'Connell (Col. Grangerford), Gary Merrill (Pap), Natalie Trundy (Mrs. Loftus), Lucille Benson (Widder Douglas), Kim O'Brien (Maryjane Wilks).
C-116m. Letterboxed

by Andrea Passafiume
Huckleberry Finn (1974)

Huckleberry Finn (1974)

Mark Twain's much beloved 1884 boys' adventure novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn becomes a spirited musical in the 1974 Readers Digest adaptation Huckleberry Finn. Mischievous but good-hearted Huck Finn (Jeff East) is fed up with the constraints of living with his prim and proper guardians, the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson, in small town Missouri. Following a frightening confrontation with his greedy, drunken father (Gary Merrill), Huck decides to leave town for good. Miss Watson's runaway slave Jim (Paul Winfield) later joins Huck to escape to Illinois on a raft down the Mississippi River. Along the way, Huck and Jim experience an assortment of adventures and encounter colorful characters including two con artists, the King (Harvey Korman) and the Duke (David Wayne), feuding well-to-do families, and the constant threat of Jim's recapture. The screenplay adaptation for Huckleberry Finn was written by brothers Richard and Robert Sherman, who also wrote all the songs. The Sherman brothers were already a well-established songwriting team who had made a name for themselves penning tunes for Disney films including Mary Poppins (1964) (for which they won two Academy Awards), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). Huckleberry Finn was a follow up to 1973's Tom Sawyer for which the Shermans had also written the screenplay and songs. Tom Sawyer, which starred Johnny Whitaker and Jodie Foster, had been very popular and garnered three Oscar® nominations, including one for Best Musical Score. Based on Tom Sawyer's success, hopes were high that Huckleberry Finn would do just as well. Unfortunately, the production of Huckleberry Finn ran into several setbacks. For instance, Robert Sherman was forced to have knee surgery in the middle of filming, putting him out of commission for a lengthy period of time. The director, J. Lee Thompson, was inexperienced at directing musicals or how to effectively stage the musical numbers. Also complicating matters was singer Roberta Flack who, according to the Shermans' 1998 book Walt's Time: From Before to Beyond, made it difficult to release an original soundtrack recording due to her creative demands regarding her opening song "Freedom". Additionally, producer Arthur Jacobs tragically suffered a heart attack and died halfway through the filming. Though Huckleberry Finn didn't live up to box office expectations, it is often charming and engaging due to the personable cast. Jeff East, who went on to portray the teenage Clark Kent in Richard Donner's Superman (1978), reprises his role as Huck after first appearing in Tom Sawyer. Paul Winfield, fresh from his Oscar®-nominated performance in Sounder (1972), brings a quiet dignity to the role of Jim. Veteran actor Gary Merrill rants with devilish glee in his small but memorable part as Huck's father, and Carol Burnett Show alumnus Harvey Korman relishes his comic villain turn as The King. Fans of Twain's book should enjoy seeing this unusual musical adaptation. Songs include "Cairo, Illinois", "Rotten Luck", "A Rose in a Bible" and "The Royal Nonesuch". Roberta Flack's "Freedom", sung over the opening credits, is particularly lovely. Producer: Arthur P. Jacobs Director: J. Lee Thompson Screenplay: Robert B. Sherman, Richard M. Sherman; Mark Twain (novel "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn") Cinematography: Laszlo Kovacs Film Editing: Michael F. Anderson Cast: Jeff East (Huckleberry Finn), Paul Winfield (Jim), Harvey Korman (The King), David Wayne (The Duke), Arthur O'Connell (Col. Grangerford), Gary Merrill (Pap), Natalie Trundy (Mrs. Loftus), Lucille Benson (Widder Douglas), Kim O'Brien (Maryjane Wilks). C-116m. Letterboxed by Andrea Passafiume

TCM Remembers - J. Lee Thompson


TCM REMEMBERS J. LEE THOMPSON, 1914 - 2002

Oscar-nominated director J. Lee Thompson died August 30th at the age of 88. Though he worked in several genres, Thompson was best-known for his action films. Thompson was born in Bristol England on August 1, 1914. After graduating from college he became a playwright and it was the appearance of one of his plays on London's famous West End that got him noticed by the British film studio, Elstree. His first filmed script was The Pride of Folly in 1937 and others appeared sporadically until his career was side-tracked during the war when Thompson served in the RAF as a B-29 tail gunner. (He also reportedly worked as a dialogue coach on Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn, 1939.) Thompson's directorial debut came in 1950 when he adapted his own play Double Error to the screen as Murder Without Crime. Throughout the decade he directed a variety of dramas and comedies until hitting it big in 1958 with Ice Cold in Alex (released in the US minus 50 minutes under the title Desert Attack). It was nominated for three BAFTAs and was enough of a commercial success that Thompson landed the film that made his career: The Guns of Navarone (1961). This enormous international hit snagged Thompson an Oscar nomination for Best Director. He immediately followed that with the original Cape Fear (1962) and his reputation was set. Though Thompson remained active almost three more decades he didn't reach that level again. He worked on Westerns (Mackenna's Gold, 1969), horror films (Eye of the Devil, 1967), literary adaptations (Huckleberry Finn, 1974) and others. During this time, Thompson directed two Planet of the Apes sequels but was kept most busy working with Charles Bronson, for whom he directed nine films. Thompson's last film was in 1989.

KATRIN CARTLIDGE, 1961 - 2002

The news of actress Katrin Cartlidge's death at the age of 41 has come as a shock. It's not just the age but the thought that even though Cartlidge was already a major actress--despite a slender filmography--she held out the promise of even greater work, a promise that so few artists of any type can make. "Fearless" is perhaps the word most often used to describe Cartlidge but emotions are never enough for an actor; much more is required. Director Mike Leigh said she had "the objective eye of an artist" while remarking on her "her deep-seated suspicion of all forms of woolly thinking and received ideas."

Cartlidge was born in London on May 15, 1961. Her first acting work was on the stage, in tiny independent theatres before she was selected by Peter Gill for the National Theatre. Cartlidge also worked as a dresser at the Royal Court where she later made one of her final stage appearances. She began appearing in the popular British TV series Brookside before making her first film in 1985, Sacred Hearts. A small role in the Robbie Coltrane-Rik Mayall vehicle Eat the Rich (1987) followed before Cartlidge had her first leading role in Mike Leigh's scathing Naked (1993).

Cartlidge never took a safe approach in her films. She told The Guardian that "I try to work with film-makers who I feel will produce something original, revealing and provoking. If something provokes a reaction, it's well worth doing." You can see this in her choice of projects. Before the Rain (1994) dramatized violence in Macedonia in the wake of the Yugoslavian break-up and made Cartlidge something of a star in the area. She appeared in Lars Von Trier's controversial look at redemption, Breaking the Waves (1996), Leigh's sharply detailed story of aging friends Career Girls (1997), as one of Jack the Ripper's victims in From Hell (2001), as a call girl trying to leave the business in Clair Dolan (1998) and in the Oscar-winning film about Bosnia-Herzegovina, No Man's Land (2001). Her last work included a BBC adaptation of Crime and Punishment (2002), playing Salvador Dali's wife Gala in the BBC comedy-drama Surrealissimo (2002) and an appearance in Rosanna Arquette's directorial debut, Searching for Debra Winger (also 2002), a documentary about women in the film industry.

Cartlidge died September 7th from septicaemia brought on by pneumonia.

TCM REMEMBERS LEO MCKERN, 1920-2002

The recent death of Leo McKern, 82, marked the passing of one of Britain's finest and most respected character actors. He was suffering from ill health in recent years and was moved to a nursing home a few weeks before his death on July 23 2002 in Bath, England. An actor of commanding presence with a deep-throated voice, the portly, bulbous-nosed McKern had a long, distinguished career spanning more than half a century, earning numerous plaudits along the way in all major mediums: theatre, film and television.

Born Reginald McKern on March 16, 1920 in Sydney, Australia; he served with the Australian Army during World War II and worked in regional theatre in his native Sydney before immigrating to England in 1946. It was a slow start, but after a three-year apprenticeship of painting scenery, stage-managing and acting, McKern eventually joined the celebrated Old Vic theatrical company in 1949 and proved one of the more versatile actors in the troupe tackling diverse roles in comedy, the classics and serious contemporary parts.

His film debut came in Murder in the Cathedral (1952) but it took a few years before he made his mark in cinema. Some of his best film work included roles as Peter Sellers' comic henchman in the classic satire The Mouse That Roared (1959); a bungling train robber in the charming Disney film The Horse Without a Head (1963); a nefarious professor who kills off his colleagues for amusement in the brilliant black comedy A Jolly Bad Fellow (1964); Clang, a cartoonish villain in the Beatles' pop film Help! (1965); Cromwell, the persecutor of Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons (1966) and as Thomas Ryan in the David Lean drama, Ryan's Daughter (1970).

Yet despite all the accolades McKern earned in theatre and films, it was television where he foundinternational fame as the wily, irascible barrister Horace P. Rumpole in John Mortimer's Rumpole of the Bailey in 1975. Infusing the character with beguiling skill and energy, McKern made the acerbic, wine swilling, Tennyson-quoting Rumpole a much loved figure that was adored by critics, audiences and even its creator Mortimer. Perhaps Mortimer offered the most fitting tribute when he once referred to McKern - "His acting exists where I always hope my writing will be: about two feet above the ground, a little larger than life, but always taking off from reality." Enough said.

By Michael T. Toole

TCM Remembers - J. Lee Thompson

TCM REMEMBERS J. LEE THOMPSON, 1914 - 2002 Oscar-nominated director J. Lee Thompson died August 30th at the age of 88. Though he worked in several genres, Thompson was best-known for his action films. Thompson was born in Bristol England on August 1, 1914. After graduating from college he became a playwright and it was the appearance of one of his plays on London's famous West End that got him noticed by the British film studio, Elstree. His first filmed script was The Pride of Folly in 1937 and others appeared sporadically until his career was side-tracked during the war when Thompson served in the RAF as a B-29 tail gunner. (He also reportedly worked as a dialogue coach on Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn, 1939.) Thompson's directorial debut came in 1950 when he adapted his own play Double Error to the screen as Murder Without Crime. Throughout the decade he directed a variety of dramas and comedies until hitting it big in 1958 with Ice Cold in Alex (released in the US minus 50 minutes under the title Desert Attack). It was nominated for three BAFTAs and was enough of a commercial success that Thompson landed the film that made his career: The Guns of Navarone (1961). This enormous international hit snagged Thompson an Oscar nomination for Best Director. He immediately followed that with the original Cape Fear (1962) and his reputation was set. Though Thompson remained active almost three more decades he didn't reach that level again. He worked on Westerns (Mackenna's Gold, 1969), horror films (Eye of the Devil, 1967), literary adaptations (Huckleberry Finn, 1974) and others. During this time, Thompson directed two Planet of the Apes sequels but was kept most busy working with Charles Bronson, for whom he directed nine films. Thompson's last film was in 1989. KATRIN CARTLIDGE, 1961 - 2002 The news of actress Katrin Cartlidge's death at the age of 41 has come as a shock. It's not just the age but the thought that even though Cartlidge was already a major actress--despite a slender filmography--she held out the promise of even greater work, a promise that so few artists of any type can make. "Fearless" is perhaps the word most often used to describe Cartlidge but emotions are never enough for an actor; much more is required. Director Mike Leigh said she had "the objective eye of an artist" while remarking on her "her deep-seated suspicion of all forms of woolly thinking and received ideas." Cartlidge was born in London on May 15, 1961. Her first acting work was on the stage, in tiny independent theatres before she was selected by Peter Gill for the National Theatre. Cartlidge also worked as a dresser at the Royal Court where she later made one of her final stage appearances. She began appearing in the popular British TV series Brookside before making her first film in 1985, Sacred Hearts. A small role in the Robbie Coltrane-Rik Mayall vehicle Eat the Rich (1987) followed before Cartlidge had her first leading role in Mike Leigh's scathing Naked (1993). Cartlidge never took a safe approach in her films. She told The Guardian that "I try to work with film-makers who I feel will produce something original, revealing and provoking. If something provokes a reaction, it's well worth doing." You can see this in her choice of projects. Before the Rain (1994) dramatized violence in Macedonia in the wake of the Yugoslavian break-up and made Cartlidge something of a star in the area. She appeared in Lars Von Trier's controversial look at redemption, Breaking the Waves (1996), Leigh's sharply detailed story of aging friends Career Girls (1997), as one of Jack the Ripper's victims in From Hell (2001), as a call girl trying to leave the business in Clair Dolan (1998) and in the Oscar-winning film about Bosnia-Herzegovina, No Man's Land (2001). Her last work included a BBC adaptation of Crime and Punishment (2002), playing Salvador Dali's wife Gala in the BBC comedy-drama Surrealissimo (2002) and an appearance in Rosanna Arquette's directorial debut, Searching for Debra Winger (also 2002), a documentary about women in the film industry. Cartlidge died September 7th from septicaemia brought on by pneumonia. TCM REMEMBERS LEO MCKERN, 1920-2002 The recent death of Leo McKern, 82, marked the passing of one of Britain's finest and most respected character actors. He was suffering from ill health in recent years and was moved to a nursing home a few weeks before his death on July 23 2002 in Bath, England. An actor of commanding presence with a deep-throated voice, the portly, bulbous-nosed McKern had a long, distinguished career spanning more than half a century, earning numerous plaudits along the way in all major mediums: theatre, film and television. Born Reginald McKern on March 16, 1920 in Sydney, Australia; he served with the Australian Army during World War II and worked in regional theatre in his native Sydney before immigrating to England in 1946. It was a slow start, but after a three-year apprenticeship of painting scenery, stage-managing and acting, McKern eventually joined the celebrated Old Vic theatrical company in 1949 and proved one of the more versatile actors in the troupe tackling diverse roles in comedy, the classics and serious contemporary parts. His film debut came in Murder in the Cathedral (1952) but it took a few years before he made his mark in cinema. Some of his best film work included roles as Peter Sellers' comic henchman in the classic satire The Mouse That Roared (1959); a bungling train robber in the charming Disney film The Horse Without a Head (1963); a nefarious professor who kills off his colleagues for amusement in the brilliant black comedy A Jolly Bad Fellow (1964); Clang, a cartoonish villain in the Beatles' pop film Help! (1965); Cromwell, the persecutor of Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons (1966) and as Thomas Ryan in the David Lean drama, Ryan's Daughter (1970). Yet despite all the accolades McKern earned in theatre and films, it was television where he foundinternational fame as the wily, irascible barrister Horace P. Rumpole in John Mortimer's Rumpole of the Bailey in 1975. Infusing the character with beguiling skill and energy, McKern made the acerbic, wine swilling, Tennyson-quoting Rumpole a much loved figure that was adored by critics, audiences and even its creator Mortimer. Perhaps Mortimer offered the most fitting tribute when he once referred to McKern - "His acting exists where I always hope my writing will be: about two feet above the ground, a little larger than life, but always taking off from reality." Enough said. By Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1974

Released in United States 1974