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.
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