Tom Brown's School Days

Family · 

Release Date: June 26, 1940

Status: Released

Running time: 1h 26m


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When private tutor Thomas Arnold (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) becomes headmaster at Rugby, a boy's preparatory school in England, he puts into place a policy of strict punishment for unruliness and bulying. Arnold finds an ally in Tom Brown (Jimmy Lydon), a new student who is subjected to hazing and abuse by a group of older boys and is pressured by his friends to keep quiet about it. Fed up, he leads his fellow classmates in an underground rebellion against their tormentors. But certain unspoken rules still apply at the school and Brown loses his hero status when he is accussed of breaking the Rugby code of silence.

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This Movie Is About.

19th century
boarding school
based on novel or book


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.

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.

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