The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Cast & Crew
In the summer of 1851, young Huckleberry Finn watches excitedly as a huge steamboat docks in his town of Hannibal, Missouri. Huck's daydream of continuing down the Mississippi to New Orleans, and from there to South America, is interrupted by Jim, a slave whose master, the kindly Widow Douglas, has looked after Huck since the disappearance of his widowed, alcoholic father. Jim worriedly reports that Huck's father, a brutal man whom Huck calls "Pap," has come looking for his son, and sure enough, Pap appears in Huck's room that night and drags the child to his shack near the river. Pap declares that if the widow gives him $5,000, he will return Huck to her care, and when she considers selling Jim in order to secure the money, the slave runs away. After Pap nearly kills Huck in a drunken rage, the boy makes it appear that he has been murdered and then paddles away in a stolen canoe. The townspeople assume that it is Jim, the runaway slave, who has killed Huck, and this prompts the boy to join forces with Jim in an attempt to reach the free state of Illinois. The two use Jim's raft to put some distance between them and Hannibal, but eventually, they go ashore in search of food. There they meet with two grifters, who introduce themselves as the King of France and the Duke of Bilgewater. The swindlers want Huck to join them in a scheme to impersonate the long-lost English relatives of the recently deceased Peter Wilkes, a wealthy businessman whose daughters live in nearby Packsville. Jim is against the plan, but Huck is intrigued, and soon the King, impersonating "Uncle Harvey" Wilkes, is introducing his little nephew "Percy" to the grieving Wilkes daughters, Mary Jane and Joanna. The younger girl immediately suspects that her visitors are impostors, but the gullible Mary Jane offers the King $3,000 as his part of the Wilkes inheritance. Huck finally tells the Wilkes sisters the truth, or something close to the truth, and the sheriff arrests the two con men. Huck then returns to the river with Jim, whose dreams of life as a free man include finding a job, saving his money, and someday buying the freedom of his wife and children. After seeing Pap's drowned corpse in a wrecked houseboat, a fact Jim hides from Huck, Jim is nearly caught by slave hunters. He and Huck are taken aboard a steamboat, but because the King and the Duke are also on board, they are forced to escape into the river as the boat approaches Cairo. Once on shore, Huck and Jim try to masquerade as performers in the Carmody circus, but the King appears and has Jim arrested. As he awaits the $200 reward for Jim's capture, however, Huck, impersonating a young girl, manages to obtain the keys and free Jim, even though Jim has revealed that Pap is dead. Jim swims to freedom, and after the two friends bid each other a heartfelt goodbye, the now former slave heads north while Huck paddles toward a New Orleans-bound steamboat.
George W. Davis
A. Arnold Gillespie
Thomas F. Goldrick
Samuel Goldwyn Jr.
Samuel Goldwyn Jr.
Charles K. Hagedon
L. V. Mccardle Jr.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960)
The story has proved enduring enough to be the basis for several film versions, beginning with a 1920 silent by famed director William Desmond Taylor. Paramount filmed it again in 1930, departing from the novel by having Huck's friend Tom Sawyer, played by child star Jackie Coogan, accompany Huck and Jim, an escaped slave, down the Mississippi on a raft. MGM gave it A-picture treatment in 1939 as a vehicle for one of its top stars of the time, Mickey Rooney, with venerated actor Rex Ingram, who had great success playing "De Lawd" in The Green Pastures (1936), as Jim.
Among the recent film versions was a 1993 Walt Disney picture with Elijah Wood, Courtney B. Vance, Robbie Coltrane, and Jason Robards. The character has also appeared many times, either animated or live action, often in screen versions of the Tom Sawyer story, played by Donald O'Connor and Anthony Michael Hall, among others. Huck has been adapted for television several times, including one made in France featuring such talents as Lillian Gish, Butterfly McQueen, Geraldine Page, Jack Elam, Merle Haggard, and future director Ron Howard and his Happy Days co-star Donny Most as Huck and Tom. There was also a 1974 musical version with Paul Winfield as Jim, Gary Merrill as Pap, and Harvey Korman and David Wayne as the con men The King and The Duke.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960) was the first color version, and once again MGM lavished great care and money on it, bringing on board noted director Michael Curtiz and a cast of many of Hollywood's best character actors and supporting players, including Tony Randall, Neville Brand, Andy Devine, Judy Canova, Josephine Hutchinson, John Carradine, and light-heavyweight world boxing champion Archie Moore as Jim. Buster Keaton, whose once illustrious silent career had died at MGM after a string of lackluster movies in the early days of sound, returned to work at the studio for the first time since In the Good Old Summertime (1949). In his first feature film role since a brief bit in Around the World in Eighty Days (1956), Keaton played a lion tamer, a character not in Twain's original novel, although the circus where he works was one of the book's settings. In later years, the actor surmised his role was written in order to create the scene of The King and The Duke falling into the lion's cage.
Eddie Hodges, the child actor who played Huck, remembers Keaton with fondness. "I had had my fill of I-hate-kids types and could smell 'em a mile away," Hodges is quoted in Marion Meade's biography Buster Keaton: Cut to the Chase (HarperCollins, 1995). "Mr. Keaton treated me as an equal. He was kind and very gentle with this young and thirsty skill of mine."
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was Michael Curtiz's first film for MGM after a highly successful career of about 30 years directing some of the biggest hits at Warner Brothers. The Oscar®-winning director of Casablanca (1942) only released two more pictures after this. The first was the religious bio-pic Francis of Assisi (1961). During production of his final film, The Comancheros (1961), Curtiz was gravely ill with cancer and unable to work much of the time. The picture's star, John Wayne, did most of the directing himself, although he insisted Curtiz retain the sole credit. Curtiz died about six months after the film's release. Although not usually included in the pantheon of great cinema auteurs, Curtiz made dozens of movies that are now considered classics, including 12 with Errol Flynn during that star's glory days of the late 1930s and early 40s, and eight with Humphrey Bogart. In spite of his often contentious relationships with his casts, he guided a number of the studio's biggest stars to Oscar®-nominated performances and two of them to wins: James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) and Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce (1945). Perhaps he had mellowed by the time he made The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because there were no reports of his typically volatile and dictatorial behavior during this production.
Huck wasn't the only role Eddie Hodges shared with fellow carrot-topped child star Ron Howard. In 1957, at the age of 10, Hodges split the grand prize on the TV game show Name That Tune with his teammate John Glenn (the future astronaut and senator). Broadway composer Meredith Willson's wife saw him on that show and suggested to her husband that the boy be cast in his new stage musical The Music Man. When the play was made into a film in 1962, Hodges was too old for the part of Winthrop, so it was given to eight-year-old Howard.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was shot on location in the Sacramento River Valley and the Stockton Deepwater Channel in northern California, standing in for the Mississippi. Buster Keaton's silent classic Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) had also been filmed there, as well as the 1920 version of Twain's story. Mickey Rooney's 1939 version had been shot nearby in the San Joaquin River Delta.
A life story to rival any of the artists involved in this picture belongs to the Delta King, a riverboat that worked the route between San Francisco and Sacramento from 1927 to 1940. The ship was sold in 1947 to serve as a fish cannery near Seattle and five years later was set to be shipped to British Columbia as a home for workers of Canada's Alcan company. For several reasons, the ship never actually left the Sacramento area, and the near derelict vessel was commissioned for use in this production's 1959 location shoot. Fake smokestacks were added and a tugboat was used to move the boat along, since it could no longer operate on its own power. Clever camera angles kept audiences from suspecting the Delta King was not as it appears on screen. After a number of other sales and moves put the vessel in jeopardy of complete destruction and years of neglect, it was restored in 1985 and is now a famous hotel and restaurant on the Sacramento River, highly sought after for weddings and special events.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn includes four songs by Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner that were originally commissioned for a musical version MGM planned to make in 1952. It was meant to star Dean Stockwell as Huck, William Warfield, fresh off his success in Show Boat (1951), as Jim, and Gene Kelly and Danny Kaye as The King and The Duke. The film was never made.
Other notable trivia: As The King in this movie, Tony Randall was nominated for a supporting actor Laurel Award presented by Motion Picture Exhibitor magazine.
Director: Michael Curtiz
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn, Jr.
Screenplay: James Lee, from the novel by Mark Twain
Cinematography: Ted McCord
Editing: Fredric Steinkamp
Art Direction: McClure Capps, George W. Davis
Original Music: Jerome Moross, songs by Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner
Cast: Eddie Hodges (Huck Finn), Archie Moore (Jim), Tony Randall (The King of France), Mickey Shaughnessy (The Duke), Patty McCormack (Joanna Wilkes), Neville Brand (Pap Finn).
C-107m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning. Descriptive Video.
by Rob Nixon
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Twain's 1884 novel was a sequel to his equally popular first novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Creating a story around the independent-minded Huckleberry, Twain concocted another children's classic about a journey far from home and a friendship developing between two unlikely traveling companions. However, this was the story only at first glance. Below the surface, it was an examination and satire of the pre-Civil War South. Huck and the escaped slave Jim ride a raft down the Mississippi, encountering the sordidness and chicanery of the adult world and the hypocrisy of a moralistic society that tolerates slavery.
Few movie versions tried to deal with the book's double level. Usually all the attention was thrown on Huck and Jim's adventures, their encounter with the two rascally conmen, the "King" and the "Duke," and perhaps a teenage love interest. When Variety reviewed this 1960 movie version, they accused of it of the same simplification: "James Lee's screenplay simplifies Twain's episodic tale, erasing some of the more complex developments and relationships, presumably for the benefit of the young audience." Actually, this is not true. Lee's script carries over a lot of Twain's satiric bite but other problems in the film dull the story's teeth.
One of those problems is the direction of Michael Curtiz. By 1960, Curtiz had been one of the most prolific directors in motion picture history with a string of classics in his resume. Under his original name Mihaly Kertesz, he made his first film in Hungary in 1912. After Harry Warner brought him to America in 1926, the newly dubbed Curtiz became the leading house director for Warner Brothers well into the 1940's, helming such classics as Captain Blood (1935), Casablanca (1942) and Mildred Pierce (1945). However, by 1960, he was near the end of his long career and, with this film, Curtiz had to work in color and Cinemascope, a style alien to those of his best films. He did not seem at home and this may have caused him to choose bland camera set-ups and unimaginative stagings that make the film drag in places.
Another problem a more engaged director might have corrected is the acting of the two leads. Archie Moore, light heavyweight champion of the world, took a break from racking up his 141 knockouts to make his acting debut as Jim. Unfortunately he is unable to connect to the role here and seems amateurish and unsteady for most of the film although he does manage a touch of pathos by the end. Eddie Hodges, who played the lisping Winthrop Paroo in the original Broadway production of The Music Man, stars as Huckleberry Finn. His acting style probably worked well at the forty feet distance between the stage and a theater seat, but on screen Hodges plays the role too broadly. He also gives off a well-scrubbed wholesomeness that ill-suits the barefoot Huck Finn.
That said, there are several pluses in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Tony Randall gives a marvelous performance as the "King," adding subtle touches of craftiness and menace beneath his flamboyant character. There are also a number of great character actors in cameos. Buster Keaton plays a down-and-out lion tamer, Sterling Holloway is a barber and John Carradine adds menace as a slave catcher. Carradine's partner is played by future cult actor Harry Dean Stanton in one of his first roles. Another plus, and one of the strongest, is the cinematography of Ted McCord. The exteriors feature beautifully photographed scenes of rural Southern life.
These vistas are the main highlight of this new DVD, showing off a sparkling print of the film letterboxed and 16 by 9 enhanced for widescreen televisions. Accompanying it are trailers, not only for this film, but for the 1939 Mickey Rooney version and other Mark Twain related films. Although the 1960 version cannot be considered a definitive version of Twain's story, it does provide beautiful sights on this well-produced DVD.
For more information about The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, visit Warner Video. To order The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, go to TCM Shopping.
by Brian Cady
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
In the onscreen credits, the film's title reads "Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." While most sources list the running time as 107 minutes, Variety and Filmfacts list it as 90 minutes. According to 1951 Hollywood Reporter news items, M-G-M originally planned this picture as a musical to be produced by Arthur Freed. A October 28, 1958 Daily Variety news item states that by 1953 Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane had written the score for the film, which was to star Gene Kelly and Danny Kaye, but the production was later shelved because of casting difficulties. According to a August 19, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item, David Ladd was considered for the title role in the film, but was later replaced. 1959 Hollywood Reporter news items add Al Wyatt and Andy Buck to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
According to the pressbook materials contained in the film's production files at the AMPAS Library, the picture was shot on location on the Mississippi River and along the Sacramento River Delta. The boat that served as the Natchez Queen was the same boat used in the 1951 version of Showboat.
Archie Moore, a light heavyweight boxing champion, made his acting debut in the film. According to an October 1958 Daily Variety news item, although the rights to Twain's story had passed into the public domain, M-G-M claimed it owned the world copyright and sole international rights to the film under a deal the company made with the Twain estate in 1952, which was renewed in 1956. The fact that the property was in the public domain in the United States led several companies, including Warner Bros., to plan productions in 1958 based on Twain's story. One version was to be shot in Mexico using unknowns. Only M-G-M's version made it to the screen, however, released in 1960 on the fiftieth anniversary of Twain's death.
Twain's novel has been the basis of many films. Among the versions are a 1920 Famous Players-Lasky release, Huckleberry Finn, directed by William Desmond Taylor and starring Lewis Sergeant and Katherine Griffith (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20); a 1939 M-G-M version entitled The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, starring Mickey Rooney and Walter Connolly and directed by Richard Thorpe; a 1939 Paramount version titled Huckleberry Finn, starring Jackie Coogan and Junior Durkin and directed by Norman Taurog (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40); a 1974 United Artists release under the same title starring Jeff East and directed by F. Lee Thompson; and a 1995 Walt Disney Company release entitled Tom and Huck, directed by Peter Hewitt and starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Brad Renfro.
Released in United States Summer June 1960
Released in USA on video.
Originally, Lerner wrote songs and a screenplay for the aborted project "Huckleberry Finn," in 1951.
Released in United States Summer June 1960