Cast & Crew
In 1765, young Jim Hawkins lives with his widowed mother in the Admiral Benbow Inn on the west coast of England. Jim is friends with ailing pirate Capt. Billy Bones and is alarmed when sinister strangers Black Dog and Blind Pew threaten Bones. Knowing that his former shipmates are coming after him, Bones cautions Jim about a one-legged man and gives him the treasure map he stole from notorious pirate Flint. When Jim goes for help and returns with Dr. Livesy and Squire Trelawney, they chase away some men searching the tavern, then discover that Bones is dead. Jim shows the map to his friends, and the thrilled Trelawney plans a sea voyage to search for the treasure. In Bristol, Trelawny hires Captain Smollett to sail their ship, the Hispaniola , but unwittingly endangers the mission by hiring Long John Silver, a seemingly honest sailor, as the ship's cook. The grizzled veteran is actually the one-legged pirate of whom Bones was afraid, and Jim is upset when he meets Silver. Impatient with Smollett's hiring methods, Trelawny allows Silver to hire his own friends and the voyage commences. Suspicious, Smollett keeps the guns locked away, but the charming Silver wins Jim's confidence. Silver begins his scheme to commandeer the ship by getting first mate Mr. Arrow drunk and tossing him overboard during a storm, and later, Jim overhears the mutineers discussing their plans. After he hears Silver, who was Flint's quartermaster, urge his men to wait until Smollett has set the course, Jim warns the captain. Smollett asks Jim to remain friends with Silver to be privy to his plans, and Jim reluctantly agrees. When the ship reaches Flint's island, Silver and some of his men, accompanied by Jim, board a longboat to go ashore. The mutiny is begun prematurely by Silver's confederate, George Merry, but the mutineers aboard the Hispaniola are captured by the captain's men. Silver demands the map in exchange for Jim, but the resourceful youngster escapes. On the island, Jim meets Ben Gunn, a crazed castaway who was marooned by Silver during Flint's voyage to the island five years previously. After locking the mutineers in the hold, Smollett goes ashore with some men to rescue Jim. The men occupy an old stockade, but during their absence, Silver's pirates capture the Hispaniola and Silver takes over as captain. Jim, who has been led to the stockade by Ben, watches as Silver comes to the stronghold and promises to send help eventually if Smollett turns over the treasure map. Smollett refuses, and a bloody gunfight begins. Silver shoots and wounds Smollett, and that night, a worried Livesy gives Jim the map and orders him to buy his life with it if necessary. Hearing Smollett state that they must beach the Hispaniola , Jim uses Ben's small boat to row up to the large ship. Pirate Israel Hands spots Jim, however, and chases the terrified boy up the rigging, then stabs him in the shoulder. Jim shoots Hands with his pistol and the pirate falls to his death in the water below. Jim then runs the Hispaniola aground and returns to the stockade, but there finds Silver, who takes the map when the boy faints from terror. Silver refuses to allow Merry to kill Jim, insisting that they need the boy as a hostage, although he does not reveal to his conspirators that he has the map. Worried about Jim's injury, Silver tries to summon Livesy, but the other pirates, suspicious of Silver's motives, vote to depose him. Silver refuses to step down and instead allows Livesy to tend to Jim. Silver, who thinks that Smollett's men have regained the Hispaniola , vows to protect Jim in exchange for being spared from the gallows upon their return to England. Livesy promises to help Silver, and Jim stays with him as Silver turns over the map to his pirates. The pirates then locate Flint's chest, but suspect that Silver has double-crossed them when they find only one coin. Livesy and his men arrive while the pirates are fighting and succeed in taking control. They then learn that Ben had dug up Flint's gold and taken it to his cave, and there Jim pleads with Smollett to spare Silver's life. Smollett agrees to return the pirate to England for trial, but when they row to the Hispaniola with the gold, Silver gets Jim's pistol and makes all but Jim jump off the longboat. Crushed, Jim steers them aground and will not shove off even though Silver threatens to shoot him. The old pirate, who genuinely cares for the boy, cannot shoot him, however, and tries in vain to free the boat as the crew approaches. Realizing that Silver is indeed his friend, Jim pushes the boat off and helps the pirate to escape, then watches as Silver sails away.
Francis De Wolff
Charles "doc" Beard
L. Cave Chinn
Colour Sgt. Raymond Evans
R. H. Gillard
Alan L. Jaggs
Commander George Mills
A. N. Other
R. A. Taylor
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
G. K. Thompson
Lawrence Edward Watkin
F. A. Young
Treasure Island (1950)
Stevenson's story, in fact, has been the most influential on our perception of pirates, particularly Long John Silver: one-legged with a parrot on the shoulder, a gnarled face, constantly in search of buried treasure with the aid of a cryptic map marked with an X. Young Jim Hawkins's adventures with Long John Silver in search of such treasure formed the bones of Stevenson's plot, which along with rousing action also offered an atmospheric coming-of-age story and an astute comment on the nature of morality. These essential elements made it more or less intact into Disney's 1950 film version, the studio's first non-animated feature.
Originally, Walt Disney planned to make the movie as a full-length cartoon, but thanks to rising production expenses (not least the costly loss of a bitter labor dispute with his animators), the money men at the studio strongly encouraged Disney to make live-action movies as a way of climbing out of the red. So he chose this project as his first venture into that territory, and it paid off handsomely.
The decision to film in England, rather than the West Indian setting of the story, was also financially motivated. Sales of Disney product had stockpiled quite a bit of money in the UK, whose laws prevented their pounds sterling from being exchanged totally into American dollars, so the studio decided to use the frozen funds to make the picture there, using a director less well known and less expensive. Byron Haskin had been a successful special effects specialist since the late silent period, primarily at Warner Brothers, with such films to his credit as A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), The Sea Hawk (1940), and Passage to Marseille (1944). His directorial career prior to this consisted of only four silents and four post-war B movies including the Burt Lancaster film noir, I Walk Alone . Haskin's work on Treasure Island led to a few bigger projects, among them The War of the Worlds (1953), The Naked Jungle (1954), and a non-Disney, Australian-based sequel, Long John Silver (1954), again starring Newton as the pirate.
In an interview conducted by Joe Adamson, Haskin recalled his reason for accepting the Treasure Island assignment: "I needed a film at the time I talked with Walt, and sure, I'd do Treasure Island in England. Who wouldn't? Of course, the deal was for peanuts. Total fee was $25,000. As it turned out we were nine months on the stage with this thing. Me and the gateman were getting about the same wages. And I was there several additional months after."
Despite fairly smooth financial sailing abroad, the Treasure Island production did encounter a problem with Britain's child labor laws. Child star Bobby Driscoll was not quite 13 at the time of the production and only allowed to stay in the country for six weeks. Haskin and crew had to rush to shoot all his scenes in the allotted time and use a double for shots done after his departure. A popular child actor from the age of 6 with a long-term contract with Walt Disney Productions, Driscoll had received an "Outstanding Juvenile Actor" Academy Award as the beleaguered boy in the noir thriller The Window (1949). His final job for Disney was voicing the title role in the animated Peter Pan (1953), after which his career went into a sad decline. As he got older, roles became harder to come by, and he fell into a tragic downward spiral of hard drugs and poverty. He was found dead of a heart attack at the age of 31 in an abandoned New York building in 1968.
Regarding Robert Newton in the role of Long John Silver, Haskin recalled how he handled the delicate situation of directing him since the actor, at the time, had an infamous reputation as a drunkard on sets. "Right off, I figured the best way to generate some personal enthusiasm in this guy," Haskin said, "was to suck him in as my helper with production problems. He knew all about English theatre. He was hung over when I first met him. I said, "Well, there will be about eight weeks before we shoot. Why don't you go fishing? When you come back you'll have the job of casting the most delightful part in the show -- Ben Gunn." Ben Gunn was the crazy guy marooned on Treasure Island...So Bob went fishing in Ireland for a week. He came back sunburned, his health restored. I kept drawing on him for advice about production problems and got him hunting for a real good character actor to play Ben Gunn. We had almost landed Alec Guinness, but he was tied up for run-of-the-play at the Savoy Theatre...Throughout the shooting he [Newton] came to work sober and full of good ideas...But he was unfortunate. The booze had really taken an advanced hold on him. He was unable to portray his concepts fully when the camera was rolling. Something going on in his subconscious, and when the camera turned, he stiffened up and became a bit mechanical...losing the charm of the role...He gave a performance, but never one with that original genius shown in the rehearsals."
The camerawork in Treasure Island was by legendary cinematographer Freddie Young, who won many accolades in his nearly 60-year career, including Academy Awards for Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), and Ryan's Daughter (1970), all of them for director David Lean.
Director: Byron Haskin
Producers: Walt Disney, Perce Pearce, Herbert Smith
Screenplay: Lawrence Edward Watkin, based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson
Cinematography: Freddie Young
Editing: Alan L. Jaggs
Production Design: Thomas N. Morahan
Original Music: Clifton Parker
Cast: Bobby Driscoll (Jim Hawkins), Robert Newton (Long John Silver), Basil Sydney (Captain Smollett), Finlay Currie (Billy Bones), Walter Fitzgerald (Squire Trelawney).
C-96m. Closed captioning.
by Rob Nixon
Treasure Island (1950)
Disney's first live action movie. Walt Disney started the project when postwar restrictions stopped him from transferring profits from his cartoons out of Great Britain. Rather than set up a new animation studio, he used the profits and existing facilities to produce a conventional film.
Filmed in England, not in the West Indies.
The film's opening title cards read: "Walt Disney Presents Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island." After the opening credits, a written prologue, "signed" by Robert Louis Stevenson, reads: "If 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!" Stevenson's classic tale of adventure originally appeared as a magazine serial story in Young Folks (Oct 1881-January 1882) under the title The Sea Cook, or Treasure Island.
Treasure Island, which was the first entirely live-action feature film produced by the Disney Studio, was shot on location in England. In a June 5, 1949 Los Angeles Times article, producer Walt Disney stated, "MGM owned the rights [to Stevenson's book], but I made a deal with them on something else and got it. I was going to make it here, but the English situation was such that I decided to do it over there." According to studio publicity materials, Disney had been working on the idea for fifteen years, and had originally planned to produce the story as an animated feature. Exterior locations included Bristol, Falmouth and the Cornish Coast, while interiors were filmed in London's Denham Studios, which is listed in the onscreen credits as D & P Studios.
As noted by a variety of contemporary sources, 80% to 90% of the production's costs were funded by "frozen" or "blocked" money made by RKO and the Disney Studio from exhibition of their pictures in Great Britain. Due to British quota laws, a percentage of the money made by American film companies could not be withdrawn from the country and had to be used for production in Great Britain. To utilize the "frozen" currency due to both companies, RKO, which previously had only distributed Disney films, joined the studio as a production partner and the company "RKO Walt Disney British Productions Ltd." was formed.
Although a March 29, 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item speculated that Robert Donat would be in the cast, and a April 21, 1949 Los Angeles Times article announced that Liam Redmond might be signed for the role of "Captain Smollett," neither actor appears in the completed picture. According to news items in English trade papers, Caven Watson was originally cast in the role of "Williams," but fell ill and was replaced by Howard Douglas. English news items also noted that the song "The Heart of a Sailor," written by Mack David and Jerry Livingston, was to be sung in the picture by Andrew Blackett, but the song does not appear in the completed film. Other contemporary sources stated that a variation of the pirate song "Yo-Ho-Ho and a Bottle of Rum," with special lyrics by either Marcus Dods or Lawrence Edward Watkin, was to appear in the picture, but only two lines of the song are heard in the completed film.
The film's cast was composed entirely of actors from Great Britain except for American child actor Bobby Driscoll. The company encountered problems during production due to complicated English laws governing child labor and foreign workers. On September 27, 1949, a court in Beaconsfield, England declared that it was illegal for the twelve-year-old Driscoll to work in the country because he did not have the Labour Ministry permit required for foreign workers. The labor permit could not be issued, however, because Driscoll was under fourteen years of age. At the trial, Driscoll, his father and the production company were each fined £100. Although the magistrates ordered that Driscoll be prohibited from working, the film continued production while an appeal was in process. The appeals court upheld the original ruling on October 25, 1949, according to a contemporary article, but by then, Driscoll's work in the picture was completed. The irate appeals court judge declared that the actor, his father and the production company had "brazenly flouted British law," according to an October 1949 Los Angeles Times item. A October 26, 1949 Variety news item noted that the Disney Studio had spent approximately $84,000 to rearrange the shooting schedule in order to complete Driscoll's work before the appeal was heard. Driscoll left England shortly thereafter, and the rest of the company wound up production. Although contemporary news items indicate that Disney intended to return to England and feature Driscoll in a film version of "Robin Hood," Treasure Island's production problems prompted Disney to change plans. The studio's 1952 The Story of Robin Hood, which was shot in England, did not feature Driscoll in the cast. Treasure Island was the last live-action Disney picture in which Driscoll appeared.
According to a June 1950 article in the English trade paper Daily Film Renter, Treasure Island was to have its "ocean premiere" during the Queen Mary's trans-Atlantic crossing beginning July 1, 1950, and would also be shown aboard the Queen Elizabeth until July 27, 1950. Hollywood Reporter news items indicate that the picture opened in a number of "key" U.S. cities on July 19, 1950. The extensive advertising campaign for the picture included a nationwide treasure hunt for which the studio provided merchandise, contained in treasure chests that could be "opened" by numbered pasteboard keys printed in local newspapers or carried by local drug and department stores. The publicity stunt encompassed more than 300 merchants in 40 cities, according to a August 9, 1950 Variety article, and approximately $250,000 was given away in prizes. In England, a BBC radio serialization of the story was presented in June and July 1950, and featured narration by Driscoll and excerpts of the film's soundtrack. A September 1952 New York Times news item reported that the film had been "banned for children" in Sweden because of "excessive violence," but no information about any Swedish ban was found in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library.
According to a December 1954 New York Times article, the film's ship the Hispaniola, was used again as the Pequod in the 1956 Warner Bros. production of Moby Dick. The ship, which was originally known as the Rylands, had been used for almost a hundred years as a coal runner and carrier of other cargo. After the filming of Treasure Island, the ship was docked at Scarborough, England and kept as a tourist attraction until it was used for Moby Dick.
Driscoll recreated his role for a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of Treasure Island on January 29, 1951 with James Mason co-starring as "Long John Silver." When the film was theatrically re-issued in 1975, the MPAA ordered several minor cuts of "violence" so that the picture could receive a G rating, although the scenes were restored for the film's subsequent release on home video. Stevenson's book has been adapted for motion pictures a number of times, including the 1917 Fox version, directed by C. M. Franklin and S. A. Franklin, with stars Francis Carpenter and Violet Radcliffe, and the 1920 Famous Players-Lasky version, which was directed by Maurice Tourneur and starred Charles Ogle and Shirley Mason (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20; F1.4550 and F1.4551). In 1934, Victor Fleming directed Wallace Beery and Jackie Cooper in the well-regarded M-G-M production (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.4759). In 1954, actor Robert Newton and director Byron Haskin re-teamed for the Australian film Long John Silver, and Newton subsequently starred in an Australian television series, The Adventures of Long John Silver, in 1955. Orson Welles adapted the novel for his Mercury Theatre radio program in 1938 and also appeared in a 1972 British-made film of the story, directed by John Hough. A television movie of the novel, broadcast in 1990, was directed by Fraser Heston and starred his father, Charlton Heston. In 1996, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and Tim Curry took to the high seas in the Touchstone release Muppet Treasure Island, which was directed by Brian Henson.
Released in United States on Video August 13, 1996
Released in United States Summer July 29, 1950
Re-released in United States 1974
Based on the novel "Treasure Island" written by Robert Louis Stevenson and published Cassell and Company in 1883.
Released in USA on video as part of Walt Disney's Family Film Collection.
Re-released in United States 1974
Released in United States Summer July 29, 1950
Released in United States on Video August 13, 1996