Cast & Crew
In eighteenth century Scotland after the death of his father Alexander, young David Balfour leaves the safety of his hometown at the behest of Alexander's last letter, directing him to teh House of Shaws estate to meet a heretofore unknown relative. During the two-day walk, David considers the possibility that he will be granted an inheritance, even though the strangers from whom he asks directions mutter dire warnings to him to avoid the estate. When David finally reaches the House of Shaws, Ebenezer Balfour, a wizened old man, appears at the window aiming at shotgun at him. David refuses to back away, however, and announces that he is Alexander's son, after which Ebenezer allows him inside, gruffly revealing that he is Alexander's brother. The once-grand house has fallen in slovenly disrepair due to Ebenezer's extreme stinginess, and the old man offers David only meager food and board. The next morning, Ebenezer pleads poverty, claiming that his father wasted the estate, and refuses to leave David alone lest he steal something. Later, David discovers a book that proves Alexander to be older than Ebenezer, and asks his uncle why his father did not inherit the estate. Ebenezer sends David to the tower for papers that will explain, but when David climbs to the top of the stairway, the door leads only to a precipitous drop and he almost falls to his death. Now realizing Ebenezer's murderous intent, David confronts his uncle, ignoring his feigned collapse, and locks him in the spare room. In the morning, he intercepts a letter to Ebenezer from business associate Capt. Hoseason, and Ebenezer convinces David to go with him to meet the captain and then the family lawyer, Rankeillor. In town, Hoseason whispers to the boy that he must speak to him in secret aboard his ship, but once aboard, the captain reveals that he is kidnapping David at Ebenezer's request. David tries to escape, but is beaten and tied up, and when he contracts a fever, brutal first mate Shuan wants to leave him for dead. Hoseason intervenes, however, and David is befriended by the filthy cabin boy, who informs him that the captain plans to sell David into indentured servitude. One day, after David recovers, a drunken Shuan beats the cabin boy to death. Hoseason names David the boy's replacement, and although he berates Shuan, he declares the boy "drowned" and does not discipline his first mate. Near the Hebrides, a dense fog causes the ship to hit a boat. The only survivor, Alan Breck Stewart, comes aboard, where Hoseason notes his Scottish burr and French uniform and concludes that he is a Jacobite, of the House of Stuart, who were exiled from Britain to France to make way for the ascendence of the House of Hanover. The Jacobites hope to reinstate Charles, a Stuart, as king. Although Hoseason is a member of the House of Hanover, like David, and a supporter of King George, Hoseason is more swayed by Alan's purse than by his loyalties. The purse holds the rent money that Alan's clan members have entrusted him to smuggle overseas to Ardshiel, the exiled clan chief. The captain agrees to transport Alan for a fee, but secretly plots to have him killed. Upon learning of the plan, David reveals it to Alan and pledges to fight alongside him. Although they are vastly outnumbered, David's courage and Alan's superior military intelligence allow them to decimate the crew and gain control of the ship. In the aftermath, Alan is touched to note David's distress about killing a man, and despite David's friendship with some of the Campbell clan, supporters of King George and thus Alan's enemies, the older man offers him a silver button as a token of his comradeship. Alan then demands that Hoseason put them ashore on the nearby Loch Linnhe. The coastline is lined with dangerous reefs, however, and the ship soon founders, washing David overboard. He makes it to the shore, where he asks a crafty local to lead him to the mainland, but eventually is forced to fight the man and go on alone. He soon meets a ferryman who at first denies any knowledge of Alan, until the man recognizes David's description and asks for the silver button, which secures the man's guidance. He advises David to visit the House of James, where Alan will join him after he has helped divert the approaching enemy army of Colin Roy Campbell, known as The Red Fox. Along the way, David asks directions to the House of James, not realizing that he has approached The Red Fox himself. Just then, an unseen gunman shoots The Red Fox, causing the soldiers to assume that David is an accomplice. They chase him into the hills, where David is rescued by Alan, who helps him evade the army. Although David at first denounces Alan for committing murder, Alan points out that he has no gun, and convinces the boy that turning himself in to the army, despite his innocence, would be akin to suicide. They travel together through the Campbell territory of Glencoe, but soon meet friends of Alan who bring them to Cluny MacPherson, a chieftain in hiding from the Hanovers. That night, David refuses to gamble, risking Cluny's rage by calling it immoral, but Alan defends the boy and drinks through the night with Cluny. In the morning, David is furious to discover that Alan has lost all of their money at poker. As he and Alan set out again across the Highlands, he refuses to speak to his friend, and when Alan chastises David for being too hard on him, David points out that Alan cannot lose his money and then complain at his anger. A storm approaches, and though David grows ill, he refuses to stop to rest. When Alan argues with him, David feverishly draws his sword, but soon collapses. They are hidden in the barn of Stuart loyalist Donald Dhu MacLaren, where David apologizes to Alan and recuperates. The next day, another Stuart family rival, Robin Oig MacGregor, son of Rob Roy MacGregor, visits the farm and good-naturedly challenges Alan to a duel. After they draw swords, MacLaren suggests the men compete musically instead, and although Alan plays the bagpipe well, Robin easily bests him and the two rivals share a drink. Alan and David soon press on. Their last obstacle before they reach safety is the Bridge of Sterling, where despite David's trepidation, Alan convinces him to stroll past the British guards as casually and innocently as possible. They succeed, and once home, David seeks out Rankeillor, who explains to him that years earlier, his father and uncle fell in love with the same woman, and when Alexander won her heart, he gave the House of Shaws to Ebenezer in exchange. Now that Alexander has died, the estate is legally David's, but in order to avoid lengthy legal complications he first must prove that Ebenezer tried to harm him. To do so, David brings Rankeillor to Ebenezer's, where they hide in the bushes while Alan coerces Ebenezer into admitting that he paid to have David kidnapped. With the lawyer as a witness, Ebenezer's subterfuge is revealed, leaving the estate to fall to David without debate. Days later, Alan reluctantly bids the new lord goodbye, but promises to keep watch over him.
Don Da Gradi
Cedric Thorpe Davie
The novel by Robert Louis Stevenson (no relation to the director) had been turned into two movies already: a 1938 Fox version starring Freddie Bartholomew as the 17-year-old hero, David Balfour, and a 1948 Monogram picture starring Roddy McDowall. For this new version, Disney cast 22-year-old American actor James MacArthur--he'd later play Danny Williams in 259 episodes of Hawaii Five-O--among an appealing roster of British players. Peter Finch got the role of Scottish rebel Alan Breck Stewart, and Bernard Lee, Niall MacGinnis, Miles Malleson, John Laurie, Finlay Currie, and Duncan Macrae rounded out the supporting roles. (The latter three actually were Scotsmen.)
There was also a bit player in the cast who would go on to become a bigger star than any of the others. As Peter Finch recounted, when he read the script, he was struck by one scene in which his character is challenged to a "bagpipe duel" by Rob Roy MacGregor's son, Robin. Finch immediately exclaimed, "There's only one actor I know who could play that part AND the bagpipes!" He was thinking of his friend Peter O'Toole, who at the time had done some television work but never a feature film. O'Toole got the part, which comprised two days of work, and impressed the director Robert Stevenson, who said at the time, "I predict he will make a very important mark within five years." Just two years later, O'Toole shot to stardom with Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
O'Toole's flatmate in 1959, actor Kenneth Griffith, later told a story about O'Toole's first day on Kidnapped. The studio called the flat, wanting to know where O'Toole was, as he had not shown up to work. Griffith answered the phone, found O'Toole still asleep, and informed him that he was 45 minutes late to the set. "Has my car come?" asked O'Toole. "No," said Griffith. "No car, no me," said O'Toole, and he drifted back to sleep. Griffith joked that from then on, "there has been a Rolls waiting for him," adding that this attitude is why Griffith himself never became a star. "I'd have been there on the dot!" he said.
Director Robert Stevenson was British-born but had become an American citizen in 1940. He started his career as a writer in 1930, later directing films for Germany's UFA studio and England's Gainsborough Pictures, before signing with David O. Selznick in 1939 and moving to Hollywood. For the last 20 years of his career, he was under exclusive contract to Walt Disney, making live-action family films from Old Yeller (1957) and Mary Poppins (1964) to The Shaggy D.A. (1976). His Disney films were extremely successful commercially, and he was a perfect fit for the studio. Stevenson later said, "Walt was the best executive I ever met in my life. With all those things he was running, Disneyland and so forth, he never had 'no time' for things. Great ease. He was never flustered.... He would be tremendously involved in the script.... He had this very interesting gift. When the story was beginning to jell, it was almost as if he went into a trance and spoke in tongues. He began to actually do the dialogue. That was the secret of good writing around here: never interrupt Walt when he was in full cry."
Production of Kidnapped began in Scotland in early 1959, with interiors shot at Pinewood Studios near London. Many scenes were filmed in their actual locations, or as close as possible. "I wanted to film the slaying of Colin Roy Campbell--the hated 'Red Fox'--in the actual locale," said Stevenson, "at a place a few miles from beautiful, scenic Ballachulish. I found the original spot, but a whole forest of Norwegian pines had grown up around it! So we shot the sequence on the slopes of Ardguar, some 12 miles away."
Peter Finch, who had become one of the biggest stars in England in the 1950s, greatly enjoyed playing Alan Breck Stewart. It was "a role of tremendous power and by far the most exciting thing I've ever done," he said. He spent weeks developing a Scottish Highland accent for the part. Author Trader Faulkner later wrote that in the sequence where Finch goads John Laurie's character into admitting his part in the kidnapping, "Peter's technique as a theatre and radio actor shows in the...vocal range [he employs for] a long speech on the screen."
The Disney publicity department had some fun with the coincidence of the novelist and film director bearing the same name. "Kidnapped Author and Its Director Have More In Common Than Name," said one press release. "The two Stevensons share the same young-in-heart approach to all facets of life..., and the same stimulating and lively imagination which colors their creative work."
Kidnapped was released in the U.S. on May 18, 1960 to rather tepid reviews. Though faithful to the novel and boasting bright Technicolor location scenery, the film was found lacking in excitement. The New York Times concluded that "either Mr. Disney, who made a vigorous Treasure Island ten years ago, has lost his touch in the intervening decade, or the kids have been spoiled by 'Gunsmoke' and 'Peter Gunn.'"
In the 1977 BBC documentary Hollywood Dream-Maker, Robert Stevenson explained his approach to moviemaking: "When I'm directing a picture, what I have in mind is a happy audience, enjoying it in a movie house. My friends sometimes criticize me for this attitude, but it isn't mercenary, because every dollar a picture takes in represents somebody's enjoyment and pleasure."
By Jeremy Arnold
Douglas Brode and Shea T. Brode, It's the Disney Version! Popular Cinema and Literary Classics
Trader Faulkner, Peter Finch: A Biography
Michael Freedland, Peter O'Toole
Patrick McGilligan, Film Crazy: Interviews with Hollywood Legends
Robert Sellers, Peter O'Toole: The Definitive Biography
Stephen Watts, "'Kidnapped' in the Heart of the Highlands," The New York Times June 14, 1959
The onscreen title reads: "Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped." Robert Stevenson's onscreen credit reads: "Written for the screen and directed by." According to studio press materials, Walt Disney first considered producing an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic Kidnapped in the 1940s. In 1958, while filming Darby O'Gill and the Little People, Disney suggested the idea to director Stevenson, who then went to Scotland to write the first draft of the film's script.
Although Disney press materials had for years claimed that Stevenson was a distant relative of author Robert Louis Stevenson, according to modern sources, the director insisted that no such relationship existed. On December 23, 1958, Hollywood Reporter reported that Twentieth Century-Fox, which had filmed an earlier version of the book in 1938, had recently waived the rights to the title.
The only American in the cast was James MacArthur; although Hollywood Reporter stated in January 1959 that the rest of the cast was Scottish, Peter Finch was from Australia and Peter O'Toole is Irish. Kidnapped marked O'Toole's feature film debut, although his first major role was in The Day They Robbed the Bank of England, which was produced shortly after Kidnapped. As noted in a January 24, 1960 New York Times article, the actor came to the attention of audiences in the theater version of The Long and the Short and the Tall, which opened in London on January 7, 1959. That performance brought O'Toole many film offers; the first he accepted was Kidnapped. A February 1960 New York Times article reported that, while discussing a different film with Stevenson, O'Toole heard that Stevenson needed a bagpiper and informed the director of his talents, thus winning the role. According to studio press materials, O'Toole helped Finch, who had never played the instrument before, rehearse for their "dueling bagpipes" scene.
As noted in the onscreen credits, the picture was "Filmed in Scotland and at the Pinewood Studios, London." Contemporary sources identify Scottish locations as Ardguar, the Pass of Glencoe, Glen Nevis, Oban, Loch Linnhe and Loch Nell.
The many other versions of Kidnapped include the 1917 film directed by Alan Crosland and starring Raymond McKee; the 1938 Twentieth Century-Fox production, directed by Alfred Werker and starring Warner Baxter and Freddie Bartholomew; and the 1948 picture by Monogram, directed by William Beaudine and starring Roddy McDowall and Dan O'Herlihy (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20, 1930-41 and 1940-51, respectively). In 1971 it was produced again in England, starring Michael Caine and directed by Delbert Mann and a 1995 television movie adaptation starred Armand Assante and Brian McCardie. The Disney film aired on the Walt Disney Presents television show in two parts, broadcast on 17 and March 24, 1963. As noted in a March 1980 Box Office news item, the film was first released on video in March 1980, distributed by the Fotomat Corp.
Released in United States 1960
Released in United States April 1960
Released in USA on video as part of Walt Disney's Family Film Collection.
Released in United States 1960
Released in United States April 1960