19 June 2016 | TheLittleSongbird
"What's a school boy to do with moral principles?"
Comparing this, 'Little Men' and 'Swiss Family Robinson', all made in 1940 by RKO and based, 'Tom Brown's School Days' is not as good as the unjustly forgotten and actually very good 'Swiss Family Robinson' but it does fare much better than the terribly adapted and mediocre at best 'Little Men'.
As an adaptation, 'Tom Brown's School Days' doesn't have a huge amount to do with the original source material, which is one of the best books depicting schoolboy life. However, it is a quite good film on its own, haven't seen any other adaptations yet so can't compare.
It does have its flaws as a standalone, the ending agreed does feel rushed, anticlimactic and not as complete as it could be, some of the script does lay it on a bit too thickly with the sentimentality and juvenility and although a more dominant focus on Arnold comes off well because Arnold is an interesting character for a titular character there should have been more of Tom Brown, who sometimes did feel like too much of a supporting character in his own story.
On the other hand, 'Tom Brown's School Days' is a beautifully shot and very capably directed film (though Robert Stevenson did go on to even better things), and the period setting is both quaint and austere and suitably so. Anthony Collins' score is superb, it complements the film beautifully and fares even better on its own. The script is not perfect but has some nice doses of humour, poignancy and charm. The story is told with a great charm and lively pace, with plenty for youngsters to delight in and enough for adults to be interested too.
Cedric Hardwicke, benefited by Arnold being very interestingly written, is wonderful in the role, appropriately stern and authoritative. He was a fine actor and his performance ranks up there with his best in my opinion. The three juveniles fare just as well, Jimmy Lydon handles the title role exceptionally, Freddie Bartholomew plays East with an appealing charm and Billy Halop is a suitably intimidating bully.
To conclude, flawed but quite good and worth seeing, especially for Hardwicke. 7/10 Bethany Cox