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[opening narration to most episodes]
Capt. Long John Silver:
If sailor tales and sailor tunes, / Storm and adventure, heat and cold, / If schooners, islands and maroons / And buccaneers and buried gold, / And all the old romance retold / Exactly in the ancient way / Can please as me they pleased of old / The wiser youngsters of today... So be it! Ar-har! And fall on!
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The Broadcaster's Code Authority obviously would not allow Rum, but what's with Long John Silver swilling glassfuls of Milk??
Great adventure stories like those of Robert Louis Stevenson have long provided fine, literate and meaty projects for the Hollywood Screen. We have seen multi versions of TREASURE ISLAND. The version which comes to mind to many first of is the MGM Production with Wallace Beery as Long John Silver and Jackie Cooper as Jim Hawkins. (That's pronounced 'Awkins!) There was a European version done in 1972 with Orson Welles giving us his interpretation of the peg-legged pirate.
But it was Walt Disney (Himself) who gave us perhaps the most memorable rendition. His Production of TREASURE ISLAND (Walt Disney Productions/RKO Radio Pictures, 1950); that is considered to be tops. In it we saw Bobby Driscoll as Jim Hawkins and Brit Robert Newton playing the central role of Long John Silver. Arguably, this Disney Film is the best version; but as to who gave us THE definitive characterization of Long John belongs to Mr. Robert Newton, hands down!
It would appear to be no small feat in winning the Silver Sweepstakes. He after all, beat out two of the most prestigious names in Cinematic History to do so. Wallace Beery had been in films ever since 1913. That first hiring was for the Essanay Company's comedy films and a supporting role for Gloria Swanson. But his film career and roles were widely diverse and was a natural progression from his experience on Broadway and in traveling Stock Companies. And a 2 year hitch with a Circus preceded that.
Orson Welles, of course, was the Boy Genius of 1930's Stage and Radio; before getting everything he wanted from RKO Radio Pictures in a super huge deal following his famous and infamous Mercury Theatre Radio Production of WAR OF THE WORLDS CBS Radio, 1938). Little projects such as CITIZEN KANE (Mercury Productions/RKO Radio PIctures, 1941) and the likes of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (Mercury/RKO, 1942) followed.
But the enormously talented Mr. Welles gained a mortal enemy with the release of KANE in the person of real life Newspaper Tycoon, William Randolph Hearst. Mr. Hearst, "boyfriend" of Film Actress Marion Davies and a dabbler in film himself, did his best to make life miserable for Orson and Welles went from Wonder boy to wanderer in a few short years. You see KANE was obviously based on Hearst's life and notoriety.
He did some more of 'his' own Films, like THE STRANGER (1946). He otherwise accepted a variety of roles (like this Long John Silver part in 1972). Her always took his acting and film making seriously; giving his all, no matter the movie.
SO that leaves Robert Newton, who other than his Long John Silver portrayals (2 Theatrical Films and the "ADVENTURES OF LONG JOHN SILVER" TV Series, 1955), is probably not very well known; certainly not as familiar to the public as Messer. Beery and Welles were and still are. But a search of his credits would reveal a cornucopia of great work, much of it in British Noir films in the Post War years. Our recommendation is his role in ODD MAN OUT (Two Cities Films/U.F.A./Universal Pictures, 1947); which is a drama about the Irish Republican Army and the Struggle for Independence starring Mr. Newton and James Mason.
That his L.J. Silver was impressive and memorable is surely an understatement. Newton probably was the single most powerful presence in the Disney Production. The memorable Tour-de-Force could not limit itself to the one film and begged to be reprised. A non-Disney LONG JOHN SILVER (Treasure Island Pty, Ltd./ Distributors Corporation of America, 1954) from an Australian company followed. The same company hatched the idea of TV and THE ADVENTURES OF LONG JOHN SILVER was born in 1955.
Like all other adaptations to the small screen and ½ hour weekly series format, LONG JOHN underwent somewhat of a metamorphosis. The downsizing of length and the slashing of budget rendered of necessity a new, episodic & continued story, though by no means a serialized 'Cliff Hanger'. The former Pirate became a sort of Crusading Trouble Shooter. The situations encountered were not so different from those of a Detective story or a Western; albeit in a very different setting. In this case, if my memory serves my well, it was at least part of the time, back in Merry Olde England of the 17th or 18th Centuries. The stories involved others like Jim Hawkins (Kit Taylor).
Much like so many of the other of those 1950's series, it was Syndicated. Series in Syndication,such as THE CISCO KID, ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, SEA HUNT and HIGHWAY PATROL still had their own sponsors. Often times the main Series Character would don at least one of the Commercial Messages for their Monetarily $ponsoring Benefactor$. Hence, we saw the likes of SEA HUNT's Mike Nelson (Lloyd Bridges) plugging Old Style Beer, Duncan Renaldo as the CISCO KID hawking "Tut-tut, nothing' but Butternut Bread" or George Reeves as SUPERMAN speaking about Kellogg's Corn Flakes or Sugar Frosted Flakes.
In the case of LONG JOHN SILVER, it was no different. The series did this obligatory commercial shtick. But even then, there was a slight variation; which brought the whole character identification with $ponsor'$ product to a much higher plane. Just picture this: We have Robert Newton sitting in some seaport café; when, with his heavy Cockney Accent and exaggerated facial expressions he bellows, " I BE LONG JOHN SILVER AND I ALWAYS DRINKS DEAN'S MILK!"* Honest Folks, it really happened, Scouts Honor! And you haven't lived until you've heard this with your own ears.
You should put it on your Bucket List!
NOTE: * Dean's Milk was the sponsor in Chicago, but the name could be different in another market. The same was true for THE CISCO KID, as "Butternut Bread" was a name owned by Interstate Bakeries; but other names were used outside the Windy City area.
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