Cast & Crew
John Howard Davies
In 1834, Squire Brown sends his eleven-year-old son Tom to live and study at the Rugby School, an English public school, warning Tom that he must maintain his honesty despite the school's challenges. Arriving by carriage, young Tom is met by East, a classmate who helps him fend off the other boys's badgering and insults. During the first week of class, one of the masters threatens Tom with a birching, claiming that, despite headmaster Dr. Arnold's attempts to reform the school of such brutality, beatings continue to be his own favorite form of punishment. Still feeling ostracized, Tom attends a soccer game at which a goal is about to cost East's team the game. Tom steps in as the goalie and saves the game, thereby winning popularity with his classmates. Later that night during supper, Tom is initiated by the other boys when they insist he sing a song while they pelt him with food. With encouragement from East, Tom sings every verse and the boys congratulate him. Later that evening, sadistic Flashman, son of a wealthy family, along with several other older students, decides to teach the younger boys a lesson in "obedience." Tearing Tom and East from their rooms, the bullies take each boy and use a blanket to toss him into the air. Despite the cruel treatment, Tom's classmates warn him not to "snitch" for fear of even worse repercussions. The next afternoon, when Tom refuses to carry Flashman's books, the older boy beats him mercilessly. Distressed by the students' tyranny, Tom seeks solitude in the church, where Arnold sees the boy's suffering. Slowly, Tom adjusts to school life and begins to enjoy his classmates' company, as they swim, play and fish on the grounds of the school. Later in the term, the students contribute money to a betting pool for a local horserace and then draw racehorse names from the lottery. When Tom draws a favorite, assuring him the chance of winning some money, Flashman tries to force him to relinquish the ticket. After Tom refuses, Flashman, Diggs and another boy "roast" Tom, holding him in front of the fireplace until he faints from the burns on his legs. Mrs. Wixey, the housekeeper, takes Tom to the sick room where Arnold tells him he knows the culprit is Flashman, but Tom refuses to confirm his suspicions. Arnold meets with the master teachers, warning them that once proof against the offender has been established, the student will be expelled. Later, the masters argue among themselves about the use of corporal punishment. The younger Judd ardently supports Arnold's reform, but the older masters insist on the use of the traditional methods. Later, Arnold orders Judd to apologize to the other masters and advises him that only through faith, not argument, will change occur. Over the summer vacation, Tom learns to box from his relatives so that he might return to school prepared to fight Flashman. The next school year, Arnold puts diminutive George Arthur in Tom's charge, explaining that he trusts Tom to help the vulnerable George adjust. Soon after, Flashman finds George in Tom's room and, pulling him by the ear, orders him to be his personal attendant. After Flashman leaves the room, Tom announces to the other boys that they are officially at war with Flashman. Tom then seeks help from Diggs, who has since regretted his participation in Tom's roasting. Diggs agrees to tell Flashman that George has already been assigned to him, then release George from any duty. Diggs offers Tom his cricket bat to use against Flashman. Soon after, Tom and East attack Flashman in Barnes Hall, and with a few well-practiced punches, Tom causes Flashman to fall and hit his head on a table's edge. The bully concedes defeat but warns Tom and East that they will be punished. Days later, Tom and East decide to sneak into the Hare of Hounds nine mile race, which is reserved for senior boys. When the "hare" or lead boy takes off, the "hounds" follow a trail the hare leaves. George soon catches up to Tom and East, who order him to return home, but George is determined to follow his older friends. They soon become lost and come upon Flashman fighting a neighborhood man named Ned Taylor, who has forbidden Flashman to meet with a young girl from his farm. When Flashman falls into the swift-moving Barby Weir falls during the fight, Tom and East jump in to save him, but Flashman tries to drown them. As George, who is unable to swim, tries to lend a hand, Flashman pulls the boy into the water and saves himself instead. The three boys narrowly miss the river's falls, help each other to safety and return to school soaking wet late that night. Arnold tells Tom that he has failed the school by acting so irresponsibly, adding that George has become deathly ill from the outing. The next day, Arnold tells Tom that George assured him the accident was not Tom's fault. Later that night, when Tom tries to enlist East in a prayer for George's recovery, East defensively retorts that despite his own prayers for his mother's return years ago, his prayers have failed him. However, when Tom begins to pray, he notices East quietly doing the same. The next morning, Tom and East are called into Arnold's study where Flashman claims that Tom and East were teasing George along the banks of the river and watched the boy fall in, while Flashman attempted to save George from drowning. Arnold then asks Tom and East if they witnessed the fight between Flashman and Taylor, but they refuse to "snitch." Arnold then calls in Taylor, who reports that his own anger towards Flashman prevented him from helping his enemy, but he watched as Tom, East and George attempted to save Flashman. Arnold expels Flashman and shows Tom and East to George's mother, who tells them that their friendship gave George something to live for. George told her that when he had fallen into a deep sleep nearing death, he heard Tom and East calling him back while they prayed. The boys finally come to understand the power of friendship, faith and the school's reformation, enabling them to appreciate their days at the Rugby School.
John Howard Davies
Francis De Wolff
W. H.. Lindop
Albert Hay Malotte
The following written prologue proceeds the film's opening onscreen credits: "The producers are indebted to the governing body of Rugby School and to the Headmaster, staff, and members of the school for their co-operation in the making of this film and to The National Trust for the use of The George Inn, Southwark." Author Thomas Hughes (1822-1896) based his novel Tom Brown's School Days on his experience as a student at Rugby School from 1834-1842, at that time under headmastership of Thomas Arnold, who used a prefect system in which older boys monitored the younger ones to maintain discipline, thus making the public school into an institution for gentlemen. As noted in reviews, portions of the film were shot on location at the Rugby School in Warwick, England.
A modern source adds the following actors to the cast: John Campbell, Roland Dallas, Geoffrey Goodheart, David Jenks and Derek Stephens. Among the many versions of Hughes's novel are Tom Brown's Schooldays, a 1940 RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. production directed by Robert Stevenson and starring Jimmy Lydon and Sir Cedric Hardwicke (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40); a 1916 silent film version produced in England also under the title Tom Brown's Schooldays, directed by Rex Wilson and starring Jack Coleman; and a British theatrical adaptation created by Joan and Jack Maitland with a score by Chris Andrews and directed by Peter Coe, which opened on May 9, 1972 in Cambridge.