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Robert Louis Stevenson - on the Screen
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.
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 -
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
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) 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
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) 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) 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) 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
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) 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.
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) 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) 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
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) 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
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) 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) 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!
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.