Monday, June 25, 2012
The Nature of the Bully: Tom Brown's School Days
The separate houses of the school compete against each other in sports and academics but within each house is a main bully and a few hanger-on thugs who help out with the dirty work. New headmaster Dr. Thomas Arnold (Cedric Hardwicke), a real life headmaster upon whom the character is drawn, wants to rid the school of bullying and makes it known. But only the boys can get it done.
New student Tom Brown (Jimmy Lydon) stands up to the bullying and for his trouble is tormented and tortured then, when it appears he has ratted out a bully, is ostracized by his classmates. And when Tom Brown is bullied, he isn't hit or intimidated into giving up his lunch money. No, he's held up to a fireplace for a "roasting" in which his clothes start to smoke and he passes out from the pain, but only after sending out blood-curdling screams of anguish beforehand.
Jimmy Lydon works well in the title role but doesn't have the presence to pull off the final stretch in which we are to believe the wee third former we saw at the start is now a strapping sixth former, despite the fact that there's been no change at all in appearance, voice or fortitude. Still, the film is assured enough to withstand the sight of the boy playing the young man for a short stretch before the exit card makes its appearance. On the whole, it's one of the best looks at dealing with bullies and growing up out there, at the very least the best from the Golden Age and certainly worth a look.