- Wallace Beery Waves The Jolly Roger 5/23/2002 12:00:00 AM by Ron Oliver
The most famous pirate in English literature sets sail across the High Seas of Adventure - bound for TREASURE ISLAND.
Robert Louis Stevenson's wonderful 1883 tale of devious deeds, derring-do & hidden doubloons is given a first rate production by MGM in this swaggering, boisterous film. Although many of the lead actors are American and make no pretense of hiding their Yankee accents, this in no way hinders the enjoyment or appreciation of the film's many qualities. The story has been necessarily streamlined a bit, but the excisions are judicious and the robust flavour of the original novel remains.
Bulbous & bulgy, with a gimlet eye & a baby's grin, Wallace Beery makes a unique Long John Silver. As willful as an infant and as ruthless as a Mafia don, he completely manages to steal every scene he's in. Acting as innocent as any cherub, he gleefully commits murderous mayhem at every turn, while hobbling about on his crutch in feverish pursuit of Flint's buried treasure. Beery had the rare - and enviable - ability to take a wretched sinner like Silver and transform him into a lovable old rogue. He makes this role his own and is unforgettable in it.
OUR GANG star Jackie Cooper makes a sturdy Jim Hawkins. His screen chemistry with Beery, so important to the plot, is still as good as it was previously in THE CHAMP (1931). Cooper was a talented child actor and could easily go from excited high jinks to blubbery tears with ease. Here, he gets to personify every lad's dreams of fabulous exploits & personal glory.
A trio of accomplished performers portray young Cooper's three friends: Otto Kruger as noble Doctor Livesey; Nigel Bruce as blustery, big-hearted Squire Trelawney; and Lewis Stone as sternly courageous Captain Smollett. All three acquit themselves very well.
Consummate character actor Lionel Barrymore adds another portrait to his gallery - that of the bullying, rumsoaked Billy Bones, whose possession of the treasure map is the instigation of the film's problems. Although the role is really quite brief, Barrymore makes the most of it, slashing wildly about with his cutlass and singing ?Fifteen Men On A Dead Man's Chest' with passionate fury. It is a shame the plot gave him no scenes with Beery - they would have been memorable together.
Stevenson's story creates a few small, choice cameo roles which are here delightfully delineated - Charles McNaughton as the scurvy Black Dog; William V. Mong as the fearsome Blind Pew; and a terrific Charles ?Chic' Sale as canny old Ben Gunn, all jerks and fidgets and ridden with fleas. Dorothy Peterson, a fine actress, plays Mrs. Hawkins.
The seafaring scenes on board the Hispaniola, filmed along the coast of California, are particularly well produced.
- A map, a boy, a ship, pirates, treasure--and friendship. 7/24/2005 12:00:00 AM by RebHarkness
Yes, 9 stars from me, certain I am! This version's my favorite treasure-hunt-pirate movie, it ought to be on DVD just as it is, not colorized. I know, Beery's basically the same guy he played in most of his talkies. But someone at MGM had a flash of casting genius cuz Beery is the spittin' image of the Sea Cook in Winslow Homer's illustrations for the novel, and he wears the role like his favorite pair of--um--shoe. And even if the only English accents seem to come from Nigel Bruce (most prominently) and (who else? can't recall), somehow this cast makes their variety of UnitedStatesian accents work. They pull it off. There are a few differences between the novel and this movie version, but darn few and so what. There's no shortage of remakes & won't be. I'll take this version! Saw it on TV three or four times in my teen yrs, having read the novel when I was 12, and the differences were never significant to me. I've seen Disney's, which I liked on the Disneyland telecast, but, while Robert Newton is a definitive Long John Silver and the quintessential adventure-tale pirate--people today say Arrrr! because of his performance--Bobby Driscoll's Jim Hawkins never quite did the job in my opinion. (And Jack Palance is another great actor and his Long John Silver terrific but the version he's in is embarrassingly bad. Haven't seen the Charlton Heston.) Gotta go with this MGM version, Jackie Cooper's pout and all (but does Cooper have Presence!). From the opening scene, in which we are introduced to Jim Hawkins and Billy Bones (Lionel Barrymore having the time of his life! and setting the standard for the rest of the cast), and the unfolding story giving us as motley & mangy a bunch of pirates as ever were--among them Charles McNaughton as Black Dog, Charles Bennett as a creepy Dandy Dawson, Douglas Dumbrille as Israel Hands, and "Chic" Sale as loony Ben Gunn--to the last frame of the last scene this is a downright exciting adventure, and I think it does Robert Louis Stevenson proud (yep, even w/the minor differences). To your kids: I suggest finding an edition of the novel w/ Winslow Homer's illustrations, read that first, cuz there's nothing like the original, with justright illustrations for a bonus, and your imagination. Then sit your parents down & watch this MGM version with 'em. You'll have a fine family evening. Yes, you will, sez I!! Now get me a noggin' o' rum!!!
- The best of the rest, and top 10 of all time 6/25/2006 12:00:00 AM by larryludwigpilot
We would always gauge films with the old test of... if you were going to be shot off in a capsule into space and could only take 10 movies... this one would be the first I would chose. Dialog is excellent and follows the story from the book. Casting is spot on with the obvious out of the park home run for the choice of Wallace Beery as Long John Silver. The mark of his skill and acting in this film, is that even though he describes in some detail the murders he committed of his shipmates (there were too many to share the treasure) and is seen in the film.. as best as it was shown in the '30's... killing yet again... by the end of the film you have forgotten his evil. How can this happen? Simply because he is that wonderful in the part. Nigel Bruce (Dr. Watson) as the bumbling Squire, and Harold Stone (Judge Hardy)round out the cast in glowing Technicolor. Jackie Cooper has been knocked for giving a "stiff" performance, but I thought he was great. Give the kid a break. Many great lines, memorable moments and favorite scenes that will stay with you long after the movie ends. This is one that I can happily watch once a week forever.
For me this will always be the classic and definitive version, everything else is just chasing this one and none have come close.
- Watery Fun Fare At It's Best! 12/19/2004 12:00:00 AM by minorstrachan
Victor Flemming, famous helmer for bigger films such as Gone With The Wind, conducts this adventure story with a pleasant, confidant ease, if not a touch of true inspiration.
Wallace Beery is brilliant as Long John Silver while Jackie Cooper as Jim plays the perfect sounding board to Beery's loud, large, charismatic performance.
Faithful to Mr. Louis Stevenson's chirography of the same tile; in this writer's humble opinion this incarnation of the film captures, most closely, the tone of the original novel - maybe it being closest to the novel chronologically can account for that.
Beery delivers a truly classic American performance here, that anyone, even the most media jaded of our day, should have fun following the old tar and his young friend in their adventures across this terraqueous globe.
- Accomplished Film For this era 7/20/2007 12:00:00 AM by DKosty123
It is easy to spot great acting in this movie. Wallace Beary is great cast as Long John Silver. Jackie Cooper gives another fine child performance. As a matter of fact, the entire cast does very well.
What might be over looked often is that part of the reason this is so so good is that it is well based on the Robert Lewis Stevenson novel. The rest goes to the most often overlooked Direction of Victor Fleming.
Fleming proves in this early film that his work in the films Wizard of Oz & Gone With The Wind is no accident (some critics have called him an erratic Director for hire). He does a great job directing this cast & this story. Some of the sequences show how good a director Fleming really is.
After seeing this film recently, I am now convinced that Victor is a much better director than his detractors give him credit for. While this film does not have all the whiz bang special effects that newer pirate films have created, the great acting & directing more than makes up for that.
Add to that the amazing fact that this film brings in so much good stuff that it only needs 101 minutes to cover a major novel is enough to make you wonder if some of the new longer films about pirates just aren't very efficient in telling their tales.