Tom Brown's School Days (1940)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Period Film  |   Release Date - Jul 14, 1940 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 93 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Tom Brown's Schooldays is a fairly faithful adaptation of the Thomas Hughes novel, deviating from the book mostly in the comparative roles played by the title character and the headmaster. The latter is emphasized to greater degree in the film (although he is still a major figure in the book). This change is for the good, as Sir Cedric Hardwicke's glorious performance as Dr. Strong far outclasses the only middling performance of Jimmy Lydon as Tom Brown. Lydon tries hard, and he's generally effective, but he doesn't really make the most of the role. Hardwicke, on the other hand, gives a virtually flawless performance, one which constantly finds new and illuminating things, and makes the part come alive. The supporting cast is good, with Josephine Hutchinson lovely in the kind of role that could easily be walked through, and fine work from Freddie Bartholomew and Billy Halop. Modern audiences may feel a bit too far removed from the social milieu, and this distancing may present a few problems, especially in recognizing the kind of improvements that Strong brings about. The screenplay also lays things on a bit thickly on occasion, and despite director Robert Stevenson's best efforts, there's a tendency to drag a bit here and there. But it's worth the drags to see Hardwicke.