1 9 7 1 (UK)
5 x 45 minute episodes
This five-part BBC Sunday tea-time adaptation of Thomas Hughes’ novel followed Tom Brown as a new boy at Rugby Public School.
Tom lived in Berkshire, in the vale of the White Horse.
His father was the local squire and a Justice of the Peace who urged Tom, as he put him on the stagecoach for his first term, never to listen to or say anything that he wouldn’t have his mother hear.
At Rugby, he had to contend with the school’s harsh discipline and accept bullying from 17-year-old Flashman (played by 25-year-old Richard Morant) – Bully of the Fifth – and the older boys.
His close friend was the tough, insouciant Ned East (Simon Fisher-Turner).
Tom was played by 14-year-old Westminster School pupil Anthony Murphy in his only acting role. Producer John McRae interviewed nearly 300 boys from stage schools before finding Anthony, who was then coached by director Gareth Davies.
The serial shortened the time span of the original novel and concentrated on Tom’s earlier schooldays, which were packed with ghastly incidents such as the blanket tossing, being roasted in front of an open fire and a brutal fistfight.
The BBC looked to shoot at the original Rugby location, but with the school now in the centre of the town, it would have been impossible to disguise the traffic lights as Tom’s coach rumbled past them, and the continuous noise of traffic would have shattered the illusion of times past.
Finally, the location scenes were shot at Milton Abbey, a West Country public school with the right architecture and no such 20th-century intrusions as lorries.
Anthony Murphy won an Emmy Award for Best Lead Actor in a Miniseries for his role as Tom Brown. The series itself won the Best Miniseries award after it was screened by PBS in America in 1973.
Despite the critical acclaim, this was the only time Anthony worked as an actor. He went on to become a potter, aerial photographer and artist.
Richard Morant died suddenly of an aneurism in November 2011, aged 66.
Dr Thomas Arnold
Sir Richard Flashman
Sir Reginald Harcourt