This one stars Johnny Whitaker (from “Family Affair”) as Tom and Jodie Foster (!) as Becky.
This one is a musical (that is, with a few songs interspersed).
One thing I find interesting in these Tom Sawyer movies is the ages of the stars. In this one Johnny was about 13, while Jodie was 10. From Mark Twain’s novel itself, I get the impression that Tom should be about 12, so this one is pretty close, but Jodie as Becky was really too young.
This movie is much more faithful from a barefooting standard, too. For instance, here is the whitewashing scene. All of the boys were barefoot.
The movie did “whitewash” slavery, though, in that the whitewashers were a multi-racial cast.
One thing that this movie did not include, though, was the scene of Tom picking up a flower from Becky with his toes.
It also had Tom going shod to school (though the day he played hookey he left the house shod and immediately removed his shoes before running off).
(Tom’s in the middle of the picture, to the rear.)
At this point, I start asking myself, how true is this, and how do we know?
First of all, we have Mark Twain himself. In Tom Sawyer, when Twain talks about Huckleberry Finn, he says
he was always the first boy that went barefoot in the spring and the last to resume leather in the fall.
There is another scene in which Tom gets in a fight with a snobby kid. One way we could tell he was a snobby kid?
He had shoes on—and it was only Friday.
Also, there are numerous books that talk about these one-room schoolhouses that talk about the barefoot students.
Which brings me to another point. In all of these Tom Sawyer movies, it is the boys who are barefoot. The girls are always dressed in fancy dresses and well-shod. How true is that? And how do we know?
In many respects, our “knowledge” simply comes from the fact that we have watched these movies. We’ve seen it! Of course that’s what the girls wore. The boys were dressed otherwise because, well, they were boys
Not so fast. The books I’ve looked at also say that the girls would go barefoot to school just as much as the boys. So I think the movie-makers in this case were more-or-less making things up.
Is it possible Tom went to school shod? Maybe. But considering his personality, I doubt it. So in this instance, I think the movie is pushing it.
One thing that was nice about this movie (now nearly 50 years old!) is how natural the boys were going barefoot. To sneak in and out of his room, Tom had to climb this big old tree.
There are multiple scenes like this, and Tom just climbs up or down non-concertedly.
There are also a lot of scenes where the kids just run along, barefooted. For instance, here’s Tom being chased, on what looks like a pretty rough surface, by the kids he conned into whitewashing for him.
There were so many realistic running scenes that I had to ask myself, is he running with a forefoot landing, or a heel landing? Well, there were a mix. Here’s a heel landing (but it is on light dirt or dust).
And here is a forefoot landing (on a harder tree log).
It was also interesting to see how, in this version, they had Injun Joe die. Again, he falls off a cliff in the cave. Of course, in the book, after Tom gets out of the cave, they seal it off, and Injun Joe dies of hunger because he cannot get out. Only the Russian version gets that right.
In his comment, Jake also mentions:
They even are shirtless and skinny dipping in some sceens.
Skinny dipping? These days I’m afraid they’d call that child pornography. I don’t know when the movie was last on TV, but I wonder if they cut it out.
But the skinny-dipping is true to the book. When the boys are on the island playing pirate, here is what Mark Twain writes:
After breakfast they went whooping and princing out on the bar, and chased each other round and round, shedding clothes as they went, until they were naked, and then continued the frolic far away up the shoal water of the bar, against the stiff current, which latter tripped their legs from under them from time to time and greatly increase the fun.
I won’t cut it out. Here’s Tom on the left and Huck on the right.
Did I tell you this was a musical? While on the island, Tom and Huck sang a song together. The song is one I think we’d all appreciate, Freefootin’:
We may need to adopt it as our official theme song.