Tom Sawyer (1917)

Unrated  |   |  Adventure, Comedy, Drama  |  10 December 1917 (USA)
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Tom Sawyer, a young Missouri lad, finds fun and adventure with his pals Joe Harper and Huckleberry Finn, running away to hide out on Jackson's Island and pretending to be Mississippi River ... See full summary »


(novel), (photoplay)
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Complete credited cast:
George Hackathorne ...
Alice Marvin ...
Edythe Chapman ...
Robert Gordon ...
Antrim Short ...
Clara Horton ...
Helen Gilmore ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Carl Goetz ...


Tom Sawyer, a young Missouri lad, finds fun and adventure with his pals Joe Harper and Huckleberry Finn, running away to hide out on Jackson's Island and pretending to be Mississippi River pirates. When Tom is believed dead by his grieving Aunt Polly, he sneaks back to town to attend his own funeral. Written by Jim Beaver <>

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Release Date:

10 December 1917 (USA)  »

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| (2000 alternate)

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1.33 : 1
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Featured in Mary Pickford: A Life on Film (1997) See more »

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Jack Pickford Takes a Bite Out of the Apple
23 November 2007 | by (Los Angeles) – See all my reviews

Jack Pickford (as Tom Sawyer) is not the model boy of his village; in fact, he beats up the model boy (Carl Goetz). Mr. Pickford is impressed with the "juvenile pariah" of the village, Robert Gordon (as Huckleberry Finn) - although Pickford is "under strict orders not to play" with Mr. Gordon, the boys are attracted to each other; and, Gordon brings Pickford a large watermelon to eat. Sore from tussling with the model boy, and sporting a "sore toe", Pickford is, nevertheless, ordered to whitewash the Sawyer fence. Along comes Antrim Short (as Joe Harper), eating an apple, and pretending to be a Mississippi river steamboat; Pickford tricks Short into giving up his apple, and whitewashing the fence. Pickford is munching on a different apple when he notices "new girl in town" Clara Horton (as Becky Thatcher)…

Director William Desmond Taylor and writer Julia Crawford Ivers' adaptation is first rate; the production team would finish the lads' adventures with "Huck and Tom" (1918) and "Huckleberry Finn" (1920). This beginning is a surprisingly good, and relatively faithful, version of the Mark Twain classic. The focus is on Pickford's "Tom", and his friendships with Gordon's "Huck" and Short's "Joe". The three boys take off together, going down the Mississippi river; while, back home, the villagers think they are dead.

Jack Pickford proves himself to be as good a performer as his more famous sister (Mary Pickford); he is more than capable in the "Tom Sawyer" role - skipping, pouting, flirting, jumping fences, and getting sick on fresh catfish; he brings the character to life. He and the other "children" appear too old for their roles in many instances; so, for example, Pickford stealing a kiss from Horton loses its innocence, and looks more like an attack. Yet, most of the time, the performers make themselves believable.

Though most faithful, this is definitely an interpretation of Twain's characters. There is some symbolism in this film that I don't recall from the novel (which I will have to re-read); director Taylor uses food (like the Apple) from the novel; but, possibly, in a different way. Pickford and Gordon create a particularly interesting dynamic: drawing lines with their feet, rubbing shoulders, and drawing in their knees. I found the recurring "sore toe" of Tom's fascinating; and, note that when the boys "escape", he is relieved from this malady. This is another nuance to track in a re-reading of "Tom Sawyer".

******** Tom Sawyer (12/2/17) William Desmond Taylor ~ Jack Pickford, Robert Gordon, Antrim Short

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