The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. 1938. USA. Directed by Norman Taurog. 93 min.
Screenplay by John V.A. Weaver, based on the novel by Mark Twain. With Tommy Kelly, Jackie Moran, Ann Gillis, Margaret Hamilton, Walter Brennan. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is Technicolor at its most delicately muted. Cinematographer James Wong Howe had virtually no experience with the fledgling three-strip color process when David O. Selznick hired him in 1937, and during the production he warred constantly with the technical advisers from Technicolor over choices of lighting and palette. But Howe prevailed, tossing out their gaudily colored costumes and sets in favor of warmer earth tones that were more in keeping with Twain’s portrait of antebellum life on the Mississippi. Howe also refused to light the fantastic William Cameron Menzies–designed cave sequences at their required 800-foot candle levels, which would have lit the place up like a ballroom and destroyed any illusion of two small children lost in the shadows of a vast and gloomy cavern. As biographer Todd Rainsberger notes, Howe so alienated the Technicolor Corporation that they refused to let him shoot another color film until 1949. 35mm print from George Eastman House; courtesy Walt Disney Studios.