Tom Brown's School Days (1940 film)
Tom Brown's School Days is a 1940 coming-of-age drama film about a teenage boy's experiences at Rugby School, Warwickshire in the early 19th century under the reforming headmastership of Thomas Arnold. It stars Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Freddie Bartholomew and Jimmy Lydon in the title role. The film was based on the 1857 novel Tom Brown's School Days by Thomas Hughes.
|Tom Brown's School Days|
|Directed by||Robert Stevenson|
|Written by||Thomas Hughes (novel)|
C. Graham Baker
Robert Stevenson (add. dialogue)
|Based on||Tom Brown's School Days|
by Thomas Hughes
|Produced by||C. Graham Baker|
|Starring||Sir Cedric Hardwicke|
The Play's The Thing Productions, Inc.
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
In this version, emphasis is placed on the development of Headmaster Thomas Arnold and his reformist ideas concerning the English public school. It was well received by critics, with Variety praising it in a December 31, 1939, review as "sympathetically and skillfully made, with many touching moments and an excellent cast". Hardwicke's performance as Arnold was called "one of the best he has ever given on the screen," as the veteran actor convincingly tempered the headmaster's strict demeanor with "the underlying sympathy, tolerance, quiet humour and steadfast courage" for which Arnold was acclaimed. Jimmy Lydon as the title character was called "believable and moving in the early portions, but too young for the final moments".
The core of the plot focusses upon bullying from the older boys (and Flashman in particular) where only Tom is willing to stand up. Honour and loyalty between schoolfriends is critical. Tom faces expulsion not for his theft of a cart but for lying. When he eventually confesses he is spared expulsion and Dr Arnold gives him "12 of the best" with a smile.
The June 27, 1940, debut of the film version at New York City's Radio City Music Hall was chronicled in a photo spread by The New York Times, "showing some of the pastimes, curricular and otherwise", as the fight scene between Tom Brown and Flashman was captioned.
- Cedric Hardwicke as Dr. Thomas Arnold
- Freddie Bartholomew as Ned East
- Jimmy Lydon as Tom Brown
- Josephine Hutchinson as Mrs. Mary Arnold
- Billy Halop as Flashman
- Polly Moran as Sally Harowell
- Hughie Green as Walker
- Ian Fulton as Brooke
- Ernest Cossart as Squire Brown
- Alec Craig as Old Thomas
- Gale Storm as Effie
- Lionel Belmore as Tavern Keeper (uncredited)
- Barlowe Borland as Grimsby (uncredited)
The film recorded a loss of $110,000.
The entertainment journal Variety praised the adaptation, saying, "It probably results in a better picture, since Cedric Hardwicke, who plays the wise and kindly teacher, is much better qualified to carry a story than is any Hollywood prodigy. Hardwicke’s performance is one of the best he has ever given on the screen".
- "Tom Brown's School Days; Adventures at Rugby". Variety. December 31, 1939. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
- "Reflections of passing events in the screen world" (PDF). The New York Times. June 23, 1940. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
- Richard B. Jewell, RKO Radio Pictures: A Titan Is Born, University of California Press, 2012 p 203
- "Tom Brown's School Days". oldies.com. Retrieved September 19, 2020.