I have to admit that my misspent youth did not include reading Mark Twain’s novel, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” which is why I was delighted to catch up on this omission by watching the 2014 film “Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.”

Val Kilmer has a crucial cameo role as Mark Twain, during which he tells the story of Tom Sawyer to two young listeners.  His explanations are interspersed here and there as the tale evolves, adding critical information to the viewer.


Joel CourtneyCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                              Joel Courtney - Wikimedia


We were introduced to Tom Sawyer (Joel Courtney) as he was being reproached by his teacher for not paying attention.  The teacher was about to punish Tom who pleaded that he would take any punishment except to be placed in the girl’s section of the class.  Of course, Tom was then sent to sit next to a girl.

Tom and Huck are Witnesses to a Murder

Tom’s best friend was Huckleberry Finn (Jake T. Austin), a motherless boy who lived with his drunken father and did as he pleased without adult supervision.  He and Tom decided to meet at midnight in the graveyard which is the place to go to chant a phrase to the ghosts in order to get rid of warts.  When they heard noises, the two boys hid behind a tree where they observed three well-known citizens of their town of St. Petersburg attempting to rob a grave.  A fight ensued and Muff Potter was knocked out.  Injun Joe then stabbed the third lawbreaker, Dr. Robinson, with Muff Potter’s knife, and then ran off.


Jake T. AustinCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                             Jake T. Austin - Wikimedia     

Tom’s Friends Beg to Paint Aunt Polly’s Picket Fence

Aunt Polly (Christine Kaufmann) discovered Tom climbing into his bedroom window after his midnight foray with Huck Finn.  As punishment, she told Tom that he must paint the picket fence around their house.  All of it.  Tom began his tedious task when Ben Rogers (Noah Munck), Tom’s classmate, stopped by to tease him about having to paint the fence.  Tom claimed that painting a fence is not work, it is fun.  He stated that his Aunt Polly was particular and would only allow the best workers to paint her fence.  Ben asked for a try at it, and agreed that it was fun.  Ben traded his favorite pen knife for the chance to paint the picket fence.  Soon, other school friends stopped by and gave Tom a special possession, such as marbles or a small toy, for the privilege of taking a turn at painting.  Soon, the entire fence was painted without Tom having to do the work.

Muff Potter is Arrested for the Murder

Tom and Huck made a promise that they would never tell anyone what they had witnessed.  However, when the police arrested Muff Potter, whose knife was lying next to Dr. Robinson’s body, the citizens of St. Petersburg tried to string Muff Potter to a tree for a public lynching.  The Widow Douglas (Sonja Kirchberger)       objected and Muff Potter was sent to jail instead.  The next day, Tom brought Muff Potter a sandwich and a drink which he was able to give to Potter through a barred window.


Katherine McNamaraCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                       Katherine McNamara - Wikimedia

Tom and Huck Attend Their Own Funeral

Tom and Huck were fearful that Injun Joe would be coming after them.  They decided to run away to Jackson Island where they were free from the eyes of the citizens of St. Petersburg.  They noticed one day, however, that a steamboat and some dinghies were dragging the Mississippi River for someone’s body.  They concluded that the rescuers were looking for them.  One night under dark, they returned home only to find that their funeral was to be held the next morning in the town church.  They decided to make an appearance at their own funeral, to the relief and joy of Tom’s family and all of their neighbors.

Tom Admits His Love For Becky Thatcher

Meanwhile, Tom had fallen in love with a girl in his class, Becky Thatcher (Katherine McNamara). He asked Becky if she would like to be engaged to him.  Becky did not know what “engaged” meant.  Tom explained to her that two people have to say “I love you” to each other, then they kiss, thus making them “engaged.”  Becky agreed and they were engaged until she found out that Tom had been engaged previously to their classmate, Amy Lawrence.  Becky broke the engagement summarily.


Christine KaufmannCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                         Christine Kaufman - Wikimedia

Tom Gives Witness in Court

Tom soon had misgivings about Muff Potter being charged with a murder he did not commit.  With his friend Huck Finn, Tom planned to free Huff Potter from jail by digging under the jail wall so that Huff could climb out.  The plan didn’t work and Muff remained consigned to jail where he awaited his trial.  Tom confided to Muff’s lawyer that he had proof of Muff’s innocence and wanted to be a witness at the trial.  While he was on the witness stand, he related the fact that he had been at the cemetery on the night of the murder.  He did not mention Huck’s name because of the promise they had made to each other.  As Tom was telling the judge his story, claiming that Huff Potter did not kill Dr. Robinson, Injun Joe jumped through the courtroom window and disappeared.

Tom and Huck Learn About Hidden Gold

One day, Tom and Huck decided to investigate a haunted house.  They entered quietly and spotted a disguised Injun Joe talking with another shady character about hiding a treasure.  Huck promised to keep an eye on Injun Joe every night to find out where he would hide the treasure. 


Noah MunckCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                                  Noah Munck - Wikimedia

A Class Visit to a Nearby Cave

Tom and Becky’s teacher announced that the class would take an archeological trip to a nearby cave.  All the students were told to stay together so nobody would get lost.  Of course, Tom and Becky went off on their own and got hopelessly lost.  Becky was hungry and thirsty and felt weak from walking.  Tom left her for a bit to continue to look for a way out.  He came upon Injun Joe in the cave but fortunately the Indian did not see him.  Tom finally saw daylight in a hole above him, went back to get Becky and they set out for home, where everyone was happy to see them alive.  Judge Thatcher (Harry Anichkin) ordered the cave to be sealed off so that such a tragedy would never happen again.

Tom found out a few days later that the cave had been sealed off.  He ran to Judge Thatcher and told him that he had seen Injun Joe in the cave and he might still be there.  The Judge ordered a posse to reopen the cave and sure enough, they found Injun Joe’s dead body lying just inside the entrance to the cave.

The Hidden Treasure is Found

When Tom and Huck got together again, they both figured that Injun Joe’s treasure must be hidden inside the cave.  Tom knew a way in, and knew just where he had come upon Injun Joe when he and Becky were lost.  Sure enough, the boys found the treasure box.  They were rich.

The Widow Douglas Adopts Huckleberry Finn

The Widow Douglas had her eye on Huck for some time.  She offered to adopt Huck, an event that was taken care of by Judge Thatcher.  Huck rankled a bit at first at his loss of freedom, but Tom bribed him to stay with the widow, saying that the two would lead a gang together in the future and have some new adventures.  


Mark TwainCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                                Mark Twain - Wikimedia

Mark Twain

As a native Buffalonian, I have always been aware that Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) lived for a time in our fair city.  Clemens brought his new bride to 472 Delaware Avenue after their wedding in 1870.  The house was a present given to Sam and Olivia by the bride’ father, Jervis Langdon.  They lived there for 13 months.  Samuel Clemens held a job as a newspaper editor at “The Buffalo Express.”  The building changed hands frequently after it was sold by Samuel Clemens.  At one time, it housed a popular restaurant known as “The Cloisters” at which I dined several times.

The Buffalo and Erie County Public Library houses a “Mark Twain Room” which opened in 1995.  Pages from the original handwritten manuscript of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” are on display there.  A unique collection of special English and foreign language editions of the novel along with other collectibles fill the bookcases lining the walls.  A portrait of Mark Twain can be seen prominently displayed above the mantel that was brought from 472 Delaware Avenue.  The 1940 edition of Huckleberry Finn contained Norman Rockwell prints which were acquired and hung in this room.  Twain’s steamer trunk which contained the pages of the first half of the manuscript is also on display here.  No appointments are needed to view the exhibit, but an appointment must be made to study pieces from the Mark Twain Room.




The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
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