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The most famous pirate in English literature sets sail across
High Seas of Adventure - bound for TREASURE ISLAND.
Robert Louis Stevenson's wonderful 1883 tale of devious deeds, derring-do & hidden doubloons is given a first rate production by MGM in this swaggering, boisterous film. Although many of the lead actors are American and make no pretense of hiding their Yankee accents, this in no way hinders the enjoyment or appreciation of the film's many qualities. The story has been necessarily streamlined a bit, but the excisions are judicious and the robust flavour of the original novel remains.
Bulbous & bulgy, with a gimlet eye & a baby's grin, Wallace Beery makes a unique Long John Silver. As willful as an infant and as ruthless as a Mafia don, he completely manages to steal every scene he's in. Acting as innocent as any cherub, he gleefully commits murderous mayhem at every turn, while hobbling about on his crutch in feverish pursuit of Flint's buried treasure. Beery had the rare - and enviable - ability to take a wretched sinner like Silver and transform him into a lovable old rogue. He makes this role his own and is unforgettable in it.
OUR GANG star Jackie Cooper makes a sturdy Jim Hawkins. His screen chemistry with Beery, so important to the plot, is still as good as it was previously in THE CHAMP (1931). Cooper was a talented child actor and could easily go from excited high jinks to blubbery tears with ease. Here, he gets to personify every lad's dreams of fabulous exploits & personal glory.
A trio of accomplished performers portray young Cooper's three friends: Otto Kruger as noble Doctor Livesey; Nigel Bruce as blustery, big-hearted Squire Trelawney; and Lewis Stone as sternly courageous Captain Smollett. All three acquit themselves very well.
Consummate character actor Lionel Barrymore adds another portrait to his gallery - that of the bullying, rumsoaked Billy Bones, whose possession of the treasure map is the instigation of the film's problems. Although the role is really quite brief, Barrymore makes the most of it, slashing wildly about with his cutlass and singing Fifteen Men On A Dead Man's Chest' with passionate fury. It is a shame the plot gave him no scenes with Beery - they would have been memorable together.
Stevenson's story creates a few small, choice cameo roles which are here delightfully delineated - Charles McNaughton as the scurvy Black Dog; William V. Mong as the fearsome Blind Pew; and a terrific Charles Chic' Sale as canny old Ben Gunn, all jerks and fidgets and ridden with fleas. Dorothy Peterson, a fine actress, plays Mrs. Hawkins.
The seafaring scenes on board the Hispaniola, filmed along the coast of California, are particularly well produced.
Yes, 9 stars from me, certain I am! This version's my favorite treasure-hunt-pirate movie, it ought to be on DVD just as it is, not colorized. I know, Beery's basically the same guy he played in most of his talkies. But someone at MGM had a flash of casting genius cuz Beery is the spittin' image of the Sea Cook in Winslow Homer's illustrations for the novel, and he wears the role like his favorite pair of--um--shoe. And even if the only English accents seem to come from Nigel Bruce (most prominently) and (who else? can't recall), somehow this cast makes their variety of UnitedStatesian accents work. They pull it off. There are a few differences between the novel and this movie version, but darn few and so what. There's no shortage of remakes & won't be. I'll take this version! Saw it on TV three or four times in my teen yrs, having read the novel when I was 12, and the differences were never significant to me. I've seen Disney's, which I liked on the Disneyland telecast, but, while Robert Newton is a definitive Long John Silver and the quintessential adventure-tale pirate--people today say Arrrr! because of his performance--Bobby Driscoll's Jim Hawkins never quite did the job in my opinion. (And Jack Palance is another great actor and his Long John Silver terrific but the version he's in is embarrassingly bad. Haven't seen the Charlton Heston.) Gotta go with this MGM version, Jackie Cooper's pout and all (but does Cooper have Presence!). From the opening scene, in which we are introduced to Jim Hawkins and Billy Bones (Lionel Barrymore having the time of his life! and setting the standard for the rest of the cast), and the unfolding story giving us as motley & mangy a bunch of pirates as ever were--among them Charles McNaughton as Black Dog, Charles Bennett as a creepy Dandy Dawson, Douglas Dumbrille as Israel Hands, and "Chic" Sale as loony Ben Gunn--to the last frame of the last scene this is a downright exciting adventure, and I think it does Robert Louis Stevenson proud (yep, even w/the minor differences). To your kids: I suggest finding an edition of the novel w/ Winslow Homer's illustrations, read that first, cuz there's nothing like the original, with justright illustrations for a bonus, and your imagination. Then sit your parents down & watch this MGM version with 'em. You'll have a fine family evening. Yes, you will, sez I!! Now get me a noggin' o' rum!!!
We would always gauge films with the old test of... if you were going
to be shot off in a capsule into space and could only take 10 movies...
this one would be the first I would chose. Dialog is excellent and
follows the story from the book. Casting is spot on with the obvious
out of the park home run for the choice of Wallace Beery as Long John
Silver. The mark of his skill and acting in this film, is that even
though he describes in some detail the murders he committed of his
shipmates (there were too many to share the treasure) and is seen in
the film.. as best as it was shown in the '30's... killing yet again...
by the end of the film you have forgotten his evil. How can this
happen? Simply because he is that wonderful in the part. Nigel Bruce
(Dr. Watson) as the bumbling Squire, and Harold Stone (Judge
Hardy)round out the cast in glowing Technicolor. Jackie Cooper has been
knocked for giving a "stiff" performance, but I thought he was great.
Give the kid a break. Many great lines, memorable moments and favorite
scenes that will stay with you long after the movie ends. This is one
that I can happily watch once a week forever.
For me this will always be the classic and definitive version, everything else is just chasing this one and none have come close.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When Robert Louis Stevenson wrote TREASURE ISLAND in 1883, he probably
thought that it was a good work, but hardly better than his TRAVELS
WITH A DONKEY or SILVERADO SQUATTERS or his other coming fiction. It
was a good early novel, and that was that. He would grow as a writer,
but THE MASTER OF BALLENTRAE, DR. JECKYLL AND MR. HYDE, and WEIR OF
HERMISTON were in the future, as was KIDNAPPED. So were the forgotten
titles: PRINCE OTTO and THE WRECKERS and THE DYNAMITERS. But his best
themes are in TREASURE ISLAND. Besides the expert handling of an
adventure tale and a historical novel, there is also the issue of
ambiguity in personality. Long John Silver is the first of a line of
heroes/anti-heroes including Dr. Henry Jeckyll, Alec Breck Stewart, and
James and Henry Durrie who while decent in some ways are weak or worse
in other ways.
Long John is capable of organizing a mutiny, ordering the murder of a troublesome crew member who won't join his plans, or planning to steal a treasure that does not belong to him. But he is human - he sees young Jim Hawkins as a decent kid, and ends up becoming a surrogate father to him in the novel (even protecting the boy from his less pleasant associates). But Long John cannot avoid (even at his best) being at his worse. To protect Jim, John has to keep him from the other non-mutineers (the Squire, Captain Smollett, Dr. Livesey), so he lies to Jim that they have denounced Jim as a mutineer and won't have anything to do with him. Subsequently, of course, Jim does learn this is a lie - from Dr. Livesey.
Jim likewise finds ambiguity in his reactions. He can't help liking (even loving) the sea cook. But he realizes Silver is a bad man. Yet, in the end, he is glad that John escapes (even with some part of the treasure).
In his autobiography, Jackie Cooper admits that when he is approached to this day by fans they start asking him about Wallace Beery, and Cooper has to admit that he never was close to Beery socially. They worked well together (Cooper played Beery's son in THE CHAMP, the 1931 film that gave Beery his Oscar). But Beery's personality (in real life) was always "troublesome". Reputedly he left the budding film industry in Chicago in the teens of the 20th Century when he was in danger of a rape charge. In later years his failed marriage to Gloria Swanson was due to his jealousy of her success and his slower success. When he worked with Cooper, he was at his Hollywood zenith as a star and talent, but he was fully aware of it. At one point, Cooper mentions an incident where Beery, he, and some others were eating lunch, and some autograph seekers approached them. While several (including Cooper) did not hesitate to give autographs, Beery refused. Afterwards, when asked about this, Beery said that he was a big star and he did not have to be pestered by this kind of thing.
Yet, to the credit of both stars, their performances in TREASURE ISLAND are flawless. They get along very nicely in their roles - Jim Hawkins occasionally saying something kindly that raises the suspicious John Silver's spirits a bit. Beery and Cooper also perform well with the rest of the cast - check the scenes where Beery keeps his less and less friendly mutineer associates in line. He brings some dark humor to the situations (as when a treasure that they dig for is not in the spot they've waisted time at). Cooper's best moment without Beery, of course, is the sequence with Douglas Dumbrille as Israel Hands*, where they have a fight to the death (literally) in the rigging of the ship Hands was supposed to be guarding. Dumbrille, by the way, should be congratulated for his acting here - he manages not to show off that stentorian voice of his, but uses a more weaselly sounding voice quite effectively.
Note also Lionel Barrymore's noisy and frightening, but ultimately frightened Captain Billy Bones, forcing the civilians in the Admiral Benbow Inn to sing "Fifteen Men on a Deadman's Chest", but quivering when told the one legged sea cook has been seen nearby. Also note William Mong's "Blind Pew", a scary enough figure for awhile, but at the end rather pathetic given his bizarre fate. Chic Sale's Ben Gunn is properly silly from years of isolation. Otto Kruger's Dr. Livesay is properly heroic seeking to make sure that Jim is not harmed by the mutineers. The cast, in short, is first rate, and matched by Victor Fleming's well handled directing. So the film merits a "10".
*Historically, there was a pirate named Israel Hands, though he was dead by the time of TREASURE ISLAND (roughly 1740). Hands was one of Blackbeard's crew in 1716 - 1718, and was the only survivor of that crew from Blackbeard's last battle in 1718. The pirate chief shot him in the knee, wounding him severely enough to keep from fighting. Hands was put ashore before the battle, and watched while his mates were killed or captured (and eventually hanged). Hands died years later as a beggar in London. Oh, and the inn, "the Admiral Benbow" is named for Admiral John Benbow (died 1702) who was a hero of the Navy in the period of the War of the Spanish Succession.
I have seen most versions of Treasure Island. This is one of my favorites. Not what I would call erotic in any shape or form. Good Beery and Coogan vehicle with plenty of pirates and treasure hunting as other versions. The story line is not much different than any other. It seems a bit brighter and more lighthearted. Although none are very true to the story this one is a decent adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson book. I happen to like the casting of Lionel Barrymore, Otto Kruger, Lewis Stone, and Nigel Bruce in this gem. Their defense of the Island Stockade is exciting. It has more replayability than all but a couple. It is great fun for the whole family for a lazy afternoon. A notch above most except perhaps the one with Charlton Heston. I certainly hope to see this on DVD since I would add it to my collection.
It is easy to spot great acting in this movie. Wallace Beary is great
cast as Long John Silver. Jackie Cooper gives another fine child
performance. As a matter of fact, the entire cast does very well.
What might be over looked often is that part of the reason this is so so good is that it is well based on the Robert Lewis Stevenson novel. The rest goes to the most often overlooked Direction of Victor Fleming.
Fleming proves in this early film that his work in the films Wizard of Oz & Gone With The Wind is no accident (some critics have called him an erratic Director for hire). He does a great job directing this cast & this story. Some of the sequences show how good a director Fleming really is.
After seeing this film recently, I am now convinced that Victor is a much better director than his detractors give him credit for. While this film does not have all the whiz bang special effects that newer pirate films have created, the great acting & directing more than makes up for that.
Add to that the amazing fact that this film brings in so much good stuff that it only needs 101 minutes to cover a major novel is enough to make you wonder if some of the new longer films about pirates just aren't very efficient in telling their tales.
Victor Flemming, famous helmer for bigger films such as Gone With The
Wind, conducts this adventure story with a pleasant, confidant ease, if
not a touch of true inspiration.
Wallace Beery is brilliant as Long John Silver while Jackie Cooper as Jim plays the perfect sounding board to Beery's loud, large, charismatic performance.
Faithful to Mr. Louis Stevenson's chirography of the same tile; in this writer's humble opinion this incarnation of the film captures, most closely, the tone of the original novel - maybe it being closest to the novel chronologically can account for that.
Beery delivers a truly classic American performance here, that anyone, even the most media jaded of our day, should have fun following the old tar and his young friend in their adventures across this terraqueous globe.
Yes here is a good adventure yarn from a famous novel; a treasure map, a seafaring trip to an island with pirates too, lost treasure, and characters with names such as "Black Dog" etc etc However what distinguishes this version of the tale in my opinion is the relationship between cabin boy Jim Hawkins and the wily old one legged sea lag Long John Silver with the parrot on his shoulders. Childhood trust and innocence is constantly revealed yet betrayed by the adult against the child. Both these characters dominate the movie and quite a study in how an understandably gullible youngster is constantly hoodwinked by the older rogue. Outstanding performances from both actors and all in all this is an entertaining and thoughtful picture. 7/10.
Hollywood vintage adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson pirate
adventure from an eyeball-rolling Wallace Beery and a splendid Jacke
Coogan . Again we live the roaring adventure of men against the sea .
We share the struggles, the heartaches, the laughter of courageous
souls who leave their houses they love to dare the wrath of the angry
pirates. Upright men and greedy pirates in conflict with their destiny
enacting the Robert Stevenson's most thrilling story. Jim Hawkins (an
appealing acting by Jackie Coogan) encounters the map that lead to a
distant island where is a buried treasure. Then , the young boy join
forces with captain Smollett (Lewis Stone), Squire (Nigel Bruce),
Doctor Livesey (Otto Kruger) and of course a boisterous Long John
Silver(a brilliant triumph by Wallace Beery who is notably snarly ,
though relatively subdued) journey to isle of hidden bounty. The young
cabin boy Hawkins has a treasure map and a boatload of kill-crazed
pirates eager for the riches hidden on Treasure Island . Jim Hawkins
matches with peg-legged Long Silver and adventures go on .
Fun story of high seas adventure plenty of intrigue , fights and action. The whole piece of adventure teems with emotion , thrills , humor , atmosphere and being pretty amusing . Appropriately adventurous rendition of Robert Stevenson's often-filmed and spine-tingling tale , in which Wallace Beery hands perfectly the role as rogue pirate and gives a memorable acting, as always. Jackie Coogans as sympathetic naive Jim is fabulous and appealing . Delightful performance by Charles Chic Sale as Ben Gunn, as well. At the film appears usual and notorious secondary actors in several Hollywood productions, such as Lionel Barrymore as Billy Bones , Otto Kruger as Doctor Livesey , Lewis Stone as Captain Smollett , Douglass Dumbrille as Pirate of the Spanish Main and Watson's Nigel Bruce as Squire . The motion picture was well directed directed by Victor Fleming . This production is powered by the great Wallace Beery and likable Jackie Coogan. Also available in horrible colorized version . Rating : Above average . Well worth watching , you'll be on the edge of your seat .
Other renditions -being multitudinous remakes , as there are many films made of it- based on this classic novel are the followings : Disney take on (1950) by Byron Haskin with Robert Newton , Basil Sydney and Bobby Driscoll , respectable full-blooded second-best the classic Fleming version ; European retelling (1974) by John Hough with Orson Welles , Angel Del Pozo , Lionel Stander and Kim Burfield ; Teasure Island (1999) by Marc Charlesbois with Jack Palance , Patrick Bergin and Kevin Zegers ; TV recounting by Fraser C Heston with Charlton Heston , Christian Bale and Richard Johnson ; and cartoon-Sci-Fi version Treasure planet (2002) directed by John Musker and Ron Clemens . Furthermore , Muppet's Treasure island and recent rendition (2012) starred by Eddie Izzard .
I've seen no other film versions of this, so I was going merely from a
long-ago remembrance of the book, and a memorable children's audio reading
(backed by Bedrich Smetana's majestic 'Die Moldau').
Let me say; this is on the whole a satisfactory, if not completely satisfying film version of the classic adventure. It's difficult to envisage it being done better at the time, at MGM, than it was here. That is not to say that I am entirely happy; the ending is a bad misfire. Irresponsibly altering Stevenson's ending to 'tie in' with the film's top-heavy emphasis on the Long John Silver/Jim Hawkins relationship. It's all rather silly, sentimental stuff; going unnecessarily far in trying to 'soften' the inimitable ship's cook...
But broadly, I did really appreciate this film, which captures much of the book's zest and adventure. Some of the scope and scale of the story is missed, but not as badly as it could have been. A fine cast see to that; an instantly recognizable (if somewhat young by his standards!) Nigel Bruce as the crusty, jingoistic buffoon, Squire Trelawney, is tremendously Dickensian and makes a real impression. Smollett is essayed imperiously by Lewis Stone (stuffy and boring two years previously in "The Mask of Fu Manchu"); could this sort of completely steadfast assurance and quiet dignity be easily replicated today? Oh, the pronounced sobriety of the way the camera lingers over the putting up of the Union Jack at the Stock Aide... truly of a long past era, and yet this is an American film displaying convincing old British patriotism.
Jackie Cooper is also far away from today's acting styles; manifestly limited to a few notes, but heck, the kid plays it for all its worth. He invests it all with a slightly precocious indignation that somehow works - 'Bless my *soul*...!' 'Upon my word, I don' know what you're talking about!' He's like an American William Hague transplanted to the 1930s with an interest in seafaring and maritime adventure.
Wallace Beary is limited also, as the marvelous character, Long John Silver; only really bringing out the lovable, unreliable charlatanry of Silver. Beery hams it up; oh yes; but not to the definitive degree of Robert Newton (from what I have heard); it doesn't strike me as entirely right that ol' Long John is a drawling, almost completely comical American seadog. But Beery just about wins me over, with a performance of some charm. Not to be forgotten amongst the cast are William V. Mong as a sinister Blind Pew and a typically gibbering, truly insane Ben Gunn played by Charles 'Chic' Sale. His initial scene with Jackie Cooper is an absurd, humorous delight, as you see this exaggeratedly world-weary child being completely flummoxed by this bizarre, apeish chap, all wild body language and liberty with language...
The early part of the film ought to be mentioned; the tavern is portrayed as dingy - surprisingly so for the time and considering the studio - Jackie Cooper seems a little out of place really. In a sense, it is a shame that the cast is not uniformly British to lend a bit more of the Stevenson air to things. Lionel Barrymore as Captain Billy 'Bill' Bones completely walks away with the early section, appropriately sailing well over the top in acting approach; marvellous stuff, like Tom Waits crossed with how I'd really imagined LJS. Obviously, it was to be only a cameo - the story is thus followed - but it's a shame, as his presence is wonderful. Might he indeed have made a fine Long John? He seems a fine actor to me; here even outstripping the stylized pathos of his Otto Kringelein in "Grand Hotel".
In overall estimation, this is a dandy fine effort really; it lacks some sense of the book's exuberant mystery and majesty, and the ending is a serious mistake, but this is a wonderful entertainment. Victor Fleming was an artisan of the populist, but thankfully he doesn't totally unbalance this production in favour of the treacly and 'family-orientated'. This film bears the Jolly Roger with jocular aplomb.
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