Oct 31, 2018 | by Jessika Loucks
He’s only 5 ½ inches high!
The musical adventure Tom Thumb is by no means one of the most popular musicals around but is a gem. Based on “Thumbling”, a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, this 1958 fantasy musical stars Russ Tamblyn (best known for West Side Story and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) in one of his first lead roles. Tamblyn, a gymnast and tumbling performer, did most of the acrobatic stunts in the film. Not needing a stunt double made him perfect for the role of the energetic Tom. Not only did the studio get a gem in casting Tom, but with Terry-Thomas and Peter Sellers as the villain duo who constantly attempt to exploit Tom for a profit, the comedic timing was locked in. This superb casting, along with a wonderful story, beautiful music and fabulous acting, made it no surprise that Tom Thumb was a box office hit! In the words of Variety, “This film is top-drawer, a comic fairytale with music that stacks up alongside some of the Disney classics.” So, is it really up to Disney standards?
The film begins in the woods, where we meet Jonathan (Bernard Miles) a poor backwoodsman. While chopping down a tree he is stopped by the magical forest queen (June Thorburn) who asks him to spare the tree. Jonathan, needing to chop down the tree to sell the wood, reluctantly agrees and the queen gives Jonathan and his wife Anne (Jessie Matthews) three wishes. Jonathan races home and, while arguing over dinner, accidentally makes all three wishes. Frustrated that they didn’t wish for what they really wanted, a child, they accept their loss and go to bed. But before lights are out we hear Anne say she would “love any child they would’ve had – even if he was no bigger than her thumb.”
“Tootee tootee too!”- Tom
That night after hearing a knock, the door opens to Tom (Russ Tamblyn) – who is the size of a thumb. Tom promptly calls Jonathan and Anne his father and mother, telling them that the forest queen has sent him to them. A few days later, Jonathan introduces Tom to his friend Woody (Alan Young). Woody is a kind hearted and joyful man (who just happens to be in love with the forest queen). After a chat, Woody decides to take Tom to the town carnival. Shenanigans ensue at the carnival and we meet Ivan (Terry-Thomas) and Antony (Peter Sellers), two villains who are trying to steal gold from the treasury.
As they try to persuade Tom to help them in their scheme, they come up with the idea that Tom himself will bring them lots of gold due to his size and acrobatic skills. Tom helps them steal the gold thinking that the money is going to help orphans. The villains agree to give him a gold piece, which Tom is excited to give to his poor parents who are in desperate need of money. After they finish the job they give Tom directions back to his house, but unbeknownst to Tom – he is walking through a dangerous swamp.
“There are two crooks here and both of them are you!”- Ivan
Tom narrowly escapes, but not before taking the piece of gold with him. Anne and Jonathan, beyond thankful that Tom is home safe and sound, put him straight to bed. The next day while Anne is baking a cake, Tom accidentally drops the gold piece into the batter. Enter the treasury guards who have come to the house to ask questions about the robbery. Anne and Jonathan tell the guards that they haven’t seen anyone or heard anything suspicious in the woods and offer them a piece of cake. The guard finds the gold piece and Anne and Jonathan are promptly arrested! Will Woody and the forest queen find love? Will Anne and Jonathan go to jail? Will Ivan and Antony get away with the robbery?
Content for concern
There’s not much of concern in this film: Tom does steal (but this is not looked upon as positive) and while there is some slapstick comedy, nothing is over the top.
So, is Tom Thumb Disney worthy? Yes! The music is whimsical and fun, the story is full of adventure, comedy, and romance – not to mention all the acrobatic stunts thrown in. If you are looking for a fun, feel-good film, look no further than this 1958 musical. It’s most definitely worth a watch!