Treasure Island (1934)
An adrenaline-pumping tale for boys that was popular long before the appearance of heroic adventurers like Indiana Jones, Treasure Island was altered slightly to please MGM chief Louis B. Mayer. Having never read the book or the shooting script, Mayer was distressed at the lack of a happy ending. To make matters worse, there was no scene of little Jackie Cooper crying - his signature in those days. Insisting that audiences wanted both a happy ending, and waterworks from Cooper, Mayer demanded re-shoots resulting in the film as seen today. But the re-shoots did not come easy. Beery, who was no walk in the park under the best circumstances, resented being summoned back to play a supporting role in Cooper's scene, so he did his best to be difficult. He would blow lines, and he would stall by hiding out in his dressing room, or excusing himself to the restroom immediately after he appeared on set. When all was said and done, Beery managed to stretch a two and a half page scene, scheduled for just one day of shooting, into nearly a week.
All in all, the film delivers on its promise of intrigue and imagination, fueled by John Lee Mahin's screenplay, and Victor Fleming's direction. Variety noted when the film was released that "Fleming's direction has some exceptionally fine photographic effects - effects that can't help but impress." This was no doubt excellent training for Fleming before going on to direct impressive spectacles like The Wizard Of Oz (1939), and Gone With The Wind (1939). And just like those later epics, Treasure Island is an awful lot of fun and appeals to the adventurer in all of us.
Director: Victor Fleming
Producer: Hunt Stromberg
Screenplay: John Lee Mahin, John Howard Lawson (uncredited), Leonard Praskins (uncredited), based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson
Cinematography: Clyde DeVinna, Ray June, Harold Rosson
Editor: Blanche Sewell
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Merril Pye (associate)
Music: Herbert Stothart
Cast: Wallace Beery (Long John Silver), Jackie Cooper (Jim Hawkins), Lionel Barrymore (Billy Bones), Otto Kruger (Dr. Livesey), Lewis Stone (Capt. Smollett), Nigel Bruce (Squire Trelawney)
BW-104m. Close captioning. Descriptive Video.
by Bill Goodman