Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
October 31
Tom Jones October 7, 1963
Tom Jones opens

When United Artists opened Tony Richardson’s adaptation of the Henry Fielding novel Tom Jones in the autumn of 1963, they knew it was a hit. Their challenge was to convince Americans of that fact. The 18th century comic novel of a bastard trying to make his way in the world was barely known to most Americans. Nor were its stars, newcomers Albert Finney and Susannah York. And the director had a reputation that didn’t necessarily lead to better box office. In Britain, Richardson and his collaborator, the playwright and screenwriter John Osborne, had established themselves by making dark films about oppressed working-class characters. Films like Look Back in Anger (1958), A Taste of Honey (1961), and The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1962) had defined a new wave of British cinema. But Tom Jones went in a whole new direction. Filled with bawdy adventures and cinematic high-jinx, the film proved a box office smash––even if the critics didn’t all love it. Noting the film’s debt to the French New Wave, The Sunday Telegraph sneered, “Richardson is a director who assimilates other men’s styles as easily as a schoolboy catches measles.” In New York, however, critics loved the film. The New York Times singled out the “brilliant new star Albert Finney,” and the New York Herald Tribune’s Judith Crist called it “one of the most delightful movies of recent years.” But rather than capitalize on its urban success, UA allowed all this attention to simmer, waiting until January before opening in other cities. After the picture won four Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Director) in the spring of 1964, UA took the picture wide, and pushed the film’s sexy fun, with a poster featuring a nearly bare-chested Albert Finney surrounded by a lusty wenches.


More Flashbacks
Louis Malle October 31, 1932
Louis Malle born

The great French director Louis Malle was born October 30, 1932. Coming of movie-making age alongside the New Wave directors, Malle was never formally associated with that movement and, perhaps, was never treated as a boundary-breaking director.

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October 31, 1993
River Phoenix dies

During his successful and all-too-short career, actor River Phoenix was the James Dean of his generation.

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October 31, 1993
River's End

In a macabre twist, the 23-year-old actor River Phoenix died early on Halloween 1993 at 1:51 a.m. from a drug overdose at Los Angeles’ Viper Club.

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