Robert Louis Stevenson - on the Screen

Treasure Island (1950) poster
Treasure Island (1950) poster
Robert Louis Stevenson - portrait
Robert Louis Stevenson - portrait

Quick facts. Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1850. He is one of the most translated authors in all of literature.

Stevenson studied law and passed his legal exams, but he always wanted to be a writer.

He married American born Fanny Vandegrift in 1880.

His most famous and most read novel is 'Treasure Island' (1883), which was also his first published novel.

As well as historical adventures and swashbucklers Stevenson also wrote one of the great horror stories - The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - published in 1886.

He travelled extensively and in 1890 bought 400 acres on the Samoan island of Upolu in the Pacific Ocean, where he spent the last few years of his life.

Thin and frail since childhood, Stevenson had suffered chronic health problems all his life, writing some of his most famous works from his sickbed.

On the 3rd of December 1894, Stevenson turned to his wife and said "Does my face look strange?" and fell to the floor. He had suffered a brain hemorrhage and died a few hours later. He was 44.

This hub looks at some of the more noteworthy films adapted from his novels.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932) poster
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932) poster



Movies based on Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are not included here. I have published a separate hub devoted to them, they can be found at this link -

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on the Screen

Treasure Island (1920) poster
Treasure Island (1920) poster

Treasure Island (1920) Directed by Maurice Tourneur. 76mins.

Shirley Mason - Jim Hawkins
Josie Melville - Mrs. Hawkins
Al W. Filson - Bill Bones
Wilton Taylor - Black Dog
Lon Chaney - Blind Pew
Charles Ogle - Long John Silver

Sadly no prints seem to have survived, this early silent of Treasure Island is listed as a lost film.

It was also supposed to have contained some hand-coloured sequences.

IMDB rating 5.5

Jackie Cooper and Wallace Beery in Treasure Island (1934)
Jackie Cooper and Wallace Beery in Treasure Island (1934)
Treasure Island (1934) poster
Treasure Island (1934) poster

Treasure Island (1934) Directed by Victor Fleming. 110mins.

Wallace Beery - Long John Silver
Jackie Cooper - Jim Hawkins
Lionel Barrymore - Billy Bones
Otto Kruger - Doctor Livesey
Lewis Stone - Captain Smollett
Nigel Bruce - Squire Trelawney

Solid MGM production with Wallace Beery hamming it up as Long John Silver, not that I blame him how else can you play that role?

The novel was first published in 1883.

Treasure Island cost $825,000 and went on to gross more than $2m worldwide.

IMDB rating 7.1

Long John Silver: Long John Silver they calls me. At your service, sir.
Squire Trelawney: Trelawney's my name. And this is our cabin boy, Jim Hawkins.
Long John Silver: Aye, Matey. Smart as paint I'll warrant.
Jim Hawkins: Smart enough to see you've only one leg, sir.
Long John Silver: You're pretty smart, Jim. So was that French gunner who touched off the ball that blew that ol' leg o' mine overboard.

Kidnapped (1938) poster
Kidnapped (1938) poster

Kidnapped (1938) Directed by Alfred L. Werker. 90mins.

Warner Baxter - Alan Breck
Freddie Bartholomew - David Balfour

Also starring Arleen Whelan, C. Aubrey Smith, Reginald Owen, John Carradine and Nigel Bruce.

Kidnapped was first published in 1886.

The full on screen title of the film is "Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped: The Adventures of David Balfour."

Otto Preminger was assigned to direct Kidnapped, one of 20th Century Fox studios most expensive movies at the time. After clashing with studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck about how a scene should be filmed, Preminger was taken off the movie and couldn't find work in Hollywood for years.

IMDB rating 6.8

Boris Karloff in The Body Snatcher (1945)
Boris Karloff in The Body Snatcher (1945)
The Body Snatcher (1945) poster
The Body Snatcher (1945) poster

The Body Snatcher (1945) Directed by Robert Wise. 77mins.

Boris Karloff - Cabman John Gray
Bela Lugosi - Joseph

Also starring Henry Daniell, Edith Atwater, Russell Wade and Rita Corday.

Based on the short story by Robert Louis Stevenson, first published in 1884.

One of a series of highly acclaimed horror movies produced by Val Lewton during the 1940s.

The last time the two horror legends Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi would appear on screen together.

IMDB rating 7.4

The Black Arrow (1948) Lobby card
The Black Arrow (1948) Lobby card

The Black Arrow (1948) Directed by Gordon Douglas. 76mins.

Louis Hayward - Sir Richard Shelton
Janet Blair - Joanna Sedley

Also starring George Macready, Edgar Buchanan, Rhys Williams and Walter Kingsford.

The full title of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel was "The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses", it was first published in 1888.

IMDB rating 6.0

Duke of Gloucester: I don't enjoy indoor archery especially with myself as a possible target.

Treasure Island (1950)
Treasure Island (1950)
Bobby Driscoll and Robert Newton in Treasure Island (1950) publicity still
Bobby Driscoll and Robert Newton in Treasure Island (1950) publicity still

Treasure Island (1950) Directed by Byron Haskin. 96mins.

Bobby Driscoll - Jim Hawkins
Robert Newton - Long John Silver
Basil Sydney - Captain Smollett
Walter Fitzgerald - Squire Trelawney
Denis O'Dea - Dr. Livesy
Finlay Currie - Capt. Billy Bones
Ralph Truman - George Merry
John Laurie - Blind Pew

Walt Disneys first live action movie not to feature animation.

"Arrr Jim lad, arrr!" The most famous movie adaptation of Stevenson's classic novel. Robert Newton's eye-rolling performance has become iconic.

A sequel titled Long John Silver was released in 1954.

Robert Newton's excessive drinking shortened his life, he died of a heart attack in 1956, he was 50.

IMDB rating 6.9

Long John Silver: And this'll be young Master Hawkins, I'll be bound. Hawkins - 'tis a proper seafaring name, too.

The Strange Door (1951) poster
The Strange Door (1951) poster
Boris Karloff with Charles Laughton in The Strange Door (1951) publicity still
Boris Karloff with Charles Laughton in The Strange Door (1951) publicity still

The Strange Door (1951) Directed by Joseph Pevney. 81mins.

Charles Laughton - Alain de Maletroit
Boris Karloff - Voltan

Also starring Sally Forrest, Richard Wyler, William Cottrell and Alan Napier.

Based on the short story "The Sire de Maletroit's Door" by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Director Joseph Pevney later directed many classic Star Trek episodes of the 1960s including "The City on the Edge of Forever".

IMDB rating 6.1

Errol Flynn in The Master of Ballantrae (1953)
Errol Flynn in The Master of Ballantrae (1953)
The Master of Ballantrae (1953) poster
The Master of Ballantrae (1953) poster

The Master of Ballantrae (1953) Directed by William Keighley. 90mins.

Errol Flynn - Jamie Durie
Roger Livesey - Francis Burke

Also starring Anthony Steel, Beatrice Campbell, Yvonne Furneaux and Felix Aylmer.

Based on the novel "The Master of Ballantrae: A Winter's Tale" first published in 1889.

Scotland. The year 1745.

The movie was titled "The Sea Rogue" during filming.

One of the last swashbucklers starring Hollywood great Errol Flynn.

IMDB rating 6.4

Jamie Durie: Now Irishman. Either we fight on the spot, or we be comrades. Which is it to be?
Francis Burke: Cut each other's throats or be friends for life - either way, is it?
Jamie Durie: It makes no difference to me.
Francis Burke: And how do we make the decision?
Jamie Durie: Heads, we fight [flips coin].
Francis Burke: Tails. Good. I'm a wee bit tired at the moment.

Long John Silver (1954) poster
Long John Silver (1954) poster

Long John Silver (1954) Directed by Byron Haskin. 106mins.

Robert Newton - Long John Silver

Also starring Connie Gilchrist, Lloyd Berrell, Grant Taylor, Harvey Adams, Rod Taylor and Kit Taylor as Jim Hawkins.

Sequel to Treasure Island (1950) with Robert Newton again starring as the one legged pirate Long John Silver.

Byron Haskin also directed the previous movie but this film wasn't produced by Walt Disney studios and was filmed in Australia.

The movie led to a TV series "The Adventures of Long John Silver" (1955, 26 episodes) with Robert Newton, Kit Taylor, Grant Taylor and Connie Gilchrist reprising their roles from this film.

IMDB rating 5.6

Long John Silver: Arrr, fortune rides the shoulders of them what schemes.

James MacArthur and Peter Finch in Kidnapped (1960)
James MacArthur and Peter Finch in Kidnapped (1960)
Kidnapped (1960) poster
Kidnapped (1960) poster

Kidnapped (1960) Directed by Robert Stevenson. 97mins.

Peter Finch - Alan Breck Stewart
James MacArthur - David Balfour

Also starring Bernard Lee, John Laurie, Niall MacGinnis, Finlay Currie, Miles Malleson and Peter O'Toole.

A Walt Disney Production.

Filmed in Scotland.

Robert Stevenson and Robert Louis Stevenson, not related.

Tagline - Flashing swords and raging seas launch a journey to the far corners of adventure!

Peter O'Toole's movie debut.

IMDB rating 6.6

The Wrong Box (1966) Lobby card
The Wrong Box (1966) Lobby card
The Wrong Box (1966) poster
The Wrong Box (1966) poster

The Wrong Box (1966) Directed by Bryan Forbes. 105mins.

John Mills - Masterman Finsbury
Ralph Richardson - Joseph Finsbury
Michael Caine - Michael Finsbury

Also starring Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Nanette Newman, Peter Sellers and Tony Hancock.

Black comedy based on Stevenson's novel, first published in 1889.

Tagline - Virtuous maidens...cunning cousins...dastardly deeds...bodies in barrels...and boxes and boxes of boxes!

IMDB rating 6.8

Julia Finsbury: Oh, I only knew my parents vaguely. My father was a missionary. He was eaten by his Bible class.

Kidnapped (1971)
Kidnapped (1971)
Michael Caine and Vivien Heilbron in Kidnapped (1971)
Michael Caine and Vivien Heilbron in Kidnapped (1971)

Kidnapped (1971) Directed by Delbert Mann. 107mins.

Michael Caine - Alan Breck
Lawrence Douglas - David Balfour

Also starring Vivien Heilbron, Trevor Howard, Jack Hawkins, Donald Pleasence, Gordon Jackson and Freddie Jones.

Based on Robert Louis Stevenson's novel 'Kidnapped' and the first half of it's sequel 'Catriona', which was published in 1893.

Jack Hawkins was suffering from throat cancer at the time, in the film his voice was dubbed by Charles Gray.

"Umpteenth adaptation of Stevenson's adventure, set in the last days of the Jacobite rebellion, and you'd have thought they might have gotten it right by now. Instead, sluggish pacing and a meandering plot, that also takes in elements from Catriona, kill off interest early on." Time Out

IMDB rating 6.0

Orson Welles in Treasure Island (1972)
Orson Welles in Treasure Island (1972)

Treasure Island (1972) Directed by John Hough. 94mins.

Orson Welles - Long John Silver
Kim Burfield - Jim Hawkins
Lionel Stander - Billy Bones
Walter Slezak - Squire Trelawney

Also starring Angel del Pozo, Rik Battaglia and Maria Rohm.

Orson Welles turn to roll his eyes and say "arrr Jim lad".

Apparently Welles mumbled his lines on set and when he was called in later to re-dub his dialogue he was swigging whisky from a bottle at the same time and was even less coherent than he was on the set. Voice artist Robert Rietty dubbed some of Welles lines and the voices of other actors in the cast.

Filmed in Spain and Italy.

IMDB rating 5.9

Black Arrow (1985) poster
Black Arrow (1985) poster


Black Arrow (1985) Directed by John Hough. 90mins.

Starring Oliver Reed, Fernando Rey, Stephan Chase, Donald Pleasence, Benedict Taylor and Georgia Slowe.

Historical adventure set during the War of the Roses.

TV movie adaptation of Stevenson's novel "The Black Arrow".

IMDB rating 6.3

Christian Bale and Charlton Heston in Treasure Island (1990)
Christian Bale and Charlton Heston in Treasure Island (1990)
Treasure Island (1990) poster
Treasure Island (1990) poster

Treasure Island (1990) Directed by Fraser Clarke Heston. 132mins.

Charlton Heston - Long John Silver
Christian Bale - Jim Hawkins
Oliver Reed - Capt. Billy Bones
Christopher Lee - Blind Pew
Richard Johnson - Squire Trelawney
Julian Glover - Dr. Livesey

"Arrr, damn them all to hell Jim lad, arrr" Charlton Heston takes over as Long John Silver in this adaptation directed by his son Fraser.

Charlton Heston, Christopher Lee and Oliver Reed previously starred together in Richard Lester's The Three Musketeers and it's sequels.

The ship used in the film is the replica of 'The Bounty' from the Marlon Brando film Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).

Fans of Christian Bale should find the film interesting, only 15 years old here and acting alongside movie greats like Heston, Reed and Lee.

IMDB rating 7.2

Long John Silver: What's the matter with you lubbers? Ye'd think ye'd never seen a man with his throat cut before!

Treasure Island (1999) poster
Treasure Island (1999) poster

Treasure Island (1999) Directed by Peter Rowe. 94mins.

Jack Palance - Long John Silver
Kevin Zegers - Jim Hawkins
Patrick Bergin - Billy Bones
Christopher Benjamin - Squire Trelawney
Malcolm Stoddard - Captain Smollet
Cody Palance - Blind Pew
David Robb - Doctor Livesey
Walter Sparrow - Ben Gunn

Jack Palance's growly voice is put to good use in yet another adaptation of Stevenson's classic novel. It was to be the actor's last movie, he died in 2006 aged 87.

Jack Palance son, Cody Palance, plays Blind Pew.

Filmed on the Isle of Man.

IMDB rating 5.6

“Fifteen men on the Dead Man's Chest Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum! Drink and the devil had done for the rest Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!”

Treasure Planet (2002)
Treasure Planet (2002)
Treasure Planet (2002)
Treasure Planet (2002)
Treasure Planet (2002) poster
Treasure Planet (2002) poster

Treasure Planet (2002) Directed by Ron Clements & John Musker. 95mins.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt - Jim Hawkins
Brian Murray - Long John Silver
Martin Short - B.E.N.
David Hyde Pierce - Doctor Doppler
Emma Thompson - Captain Amelia
Michael Wincott - Scroop
Roscoe Lee Browne - Mr. Arrow
Laurie Metcalf - Sarah Hawkins
Patrick McGoohan - Billy Bones

Expensive animated sci-fi from Walt Disney based on Stevenson's "Treasure Island" and set in the future, which means a spaceship instead of a sailing ship and an alien planet in place of the island.

A mixture of CG and hand-drawn animation with only some of the human and alien characters completely hand-drawn.

Despite colourful CG visual effects and excellent animation the movie was not a big success, costing $140m the film took in just $38m in the US and a total of $110m worldwide. DVD sales helped bring it's total take close to $200m.

Oscar Nomination for Best Animated Film.

Tagline - Find your place in the universe.

IMDB rating 6.8

Long John Silver: Look at ya! Glowing like a solar fire. You're something special, Jim. You're gonna rattle the stars, y'are!

Elijah Wood, Toby Regbo, Eddie Izzard and Donald Sutherland in Treasure Island (2012)
Elijah Wood, Toby Regbo, Eddie Izzard and Donald Sutherland in Treasure Island (2012)

Treasure Island (2012) Directed by Steve Barron. 180mins.

Eddie Izzard - Long John Silver
Toby Regbo - Jim Hawkins
Rupert Penry-Jones - Squire Trelawney
Daniel Mays - Dr. Livesey
Philip Glenister - Captain Smollett
Donald Sutherland - Flint
Elijah Wood - Ben Gunn

A two-part TV movie made by British Sky Broadcasting.

"Some might admire how seamlessly Eddie Izzard's leg is removed, but the digital wizards might as well have gone a few steps further and erased the whole thing." Brian Lowry, Variety

Two Emmy nominations - Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design.

IMDB rating 6.2

Long John Silver: I say she's a lovely ship, sir. Well chosen.
Squire Trelawney: Thank you.
Long John Silver: She's got an arse on her that would sit well on any rollicking sea.

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Comments 9 comments

Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 3 years ago from San Francisco

Memories. Thank you for this.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 3 years ago from North-East UK

Great photos and info Steve. The Newton version of Treasure Island will always be my favourite but I was surprised to see the Wallace Beery/Jackie Cooper version which I didn't know about. Not sure about Eddie Izzard though! Your link in the top paragraph is not hyperlinking for some reason?


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Mhatter99, Jools99 this is Steve99 thanking y'all for commenting on this here hub of mine, 'tis most appreciated, arrr!

Hi Jools thanks for the heads up, I added that link the old fashioned way, copy and paste, it's fixed now.

I haven't seen the new mini-series, Eddie Izzard of all people! Was Patrick Stewart too busy? Bill Nighy? :)

Thanks arrr for posting!


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 3 years ago from Virginia

Very cool hub....as I was scanning down the hub I was sure you were going to leave off Sir Michael Caine's Kidnapped...nice to see that he made the hub.....somehow Caine made the movie and never got paid for the part....I am surprised he never sued the producers.

I never realized that Heston and Bale were in a movie together....I think Bale will be an excellent Kevin Bacon game person as the years go along.

I will return for a much more detailed comment....sounds like a threat does it not...lol.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

arrr thanks Bruce arrr shiver me timbers yohoho and a bottle of rum etc etc

It's been years since I saw that Chuck Heston epic of epicness, it might be worth revisiting and watch future 'dark knight' Christian Bale before he became all moody and growly. :)

When Bale was introduced at last years Oscars Billy Crystal quipped "be careful you're not in his eye line!" :)


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 3 years ago from Virginia

My thoughts while reading your hub. (1) It is amazing that Treasure Island was his first published novel. (2) I think Robert Wise is an underappreciated director....from The Body Snatcher to The Day The Earth Stood Still to West Side Story to Sound of Music to Star Trek the Motion Picture. (3) I have wanted to see The Strange Door for awhile...but it is not an easy movie to find. (4) It has been years since I saw The Wrong Box....but I do remember not liking the movie at all (5) Even though Treasure Planet destroyed the Disney animation department when it crashed and burned at the box office....I think the movie is pretty interesting....and one of my daughter's favorite Disney films ever.

I am surprised how movies have been based on his novels....a truly educational and entertaining hub.....voted up and across the board....keep up the good work my London friend.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Thank ye for the kind words matey, they is much appreciated arrr!

Thanks Bruce, yes Robert Wise has done it all, he was also the editor on Citizen Kane! Just 26 years old and receiving his first Oscar nomination.

The Wrong Box has a great cast - Michael Caine, Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, Peter Sellers and Tony Hancock, plus John Mills and Ralph Richardson! But the script wasn't up to the challenge and the film wasn't as funny as it should have been. Worth a look though.

I enjoyed Disney's Treasure Planet, I think it's underrated, still waiting for a blu-ray release here in the UK.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

Next to Poe I think Stevenson is the greatest. His mind was just full of things we can't even imagine! Now to the movies...to me the best Treasure Island was and always will be the 1934 version though I did like the 1950 version. Surprisingly there are few movies here I haven't seen so I'll have to remedy that by watching them.

Voted this up, useful, awesome, and as always interesting.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks for commenting Mary. The 1934 and 1950 Treasure Islands are the ones I've watched the most over the years, and I haven't seen all of these films either. Glad you liked the hub.

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