Director Tony Richardson scored a huge coup for Britain. His 1963 Best Picture winner Tom Jones was the first British film to win the top award at the Oscars since Sir Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet in 1948. The film, adapted from the sprawling novel by Henry Fielding, features Albert Finney as the adventrous, amarous, illegitimate title character in 18th century England. The film is an inspired piece of cinematic comedy that features a cast that is put through an array of trials and tribulations- including farcical bed hopping, a full-on stag hunt, and most memorably, a libidinous food scene in which Tom and Jenny Jones (Joyce Redman) stare at one another longingly all while ripping apart food and shoving it into their mouths. The scene that the two create is both frightening and slightly erotic. Tom Jones, which was a commercial success, triumphed over less than stellar competition for the Best Picture award (including forgettable films such as America America, Cleopatra, and How the West Was Won- only Lilies of the Field, featuring Best Actor winner Sidney Poitier, was a valid contender).
Tom Jones is the only film in the annals of the Academy Awards to garner THREE Best Supporting Actress nominations. Dame Edith Evans, nominee, (183), as the bold and fearless Aunt Western, Diane Cilento, nominee, (182), as the lusty Molly Seagrim, and Joyce Redman, nominee, (181) as the sexy and seductive Mrs. Waters/Jenny Jones (in the aforementioned culinary scene) all made history in scoring nominations for the film. Classic vote splitting most likely caused all three women to lose out on Oscar gold to the eventual winner, Margaret Rutherford for The V.I.P.’s. Although Tom Jones was the recipient of 4 Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Score), as well as boasting 6 other nominations, it is the ONLY film to feature 5 nominated actors/actresses- all of whom lost out on the big award.
Ironically, the films most notable aspects- it’s dynamic Editing, beautiful Cinematography, and gorgeous Costume Design were all omitted from the Oscar ballot. Adding those 3 potential nominations along with the other 10, Tom Jones would have been breathing the same air as all-time Oscar nominee leaders All About Eve and Titanic (with 14 nominations each).