Long John Silver (film)

Long John Silver, also known as Long John Silver's Return to Treasure Island, is a 1954 American-Australian adventure film about the eponymous pirate from Treasure Island, starring Robert Newton as Silver and Rod Taylor as Israel Hands.

Long John Silver
Original film poster
Directed byByron Haskin
Produced byJoe Kaufman
Mark Evans
Written byMartin Rackin
Based oncharacters created
by Robert Louis Stevenson
StarringRobert Newton
Connie Gilchrist
Rod Taylor
Music byDavid Buttolph
CinematographyCarl E. Guthrie
Edited byManuel del Campo
Treasure Island Pictures Pty. Ltd.
Distributed byDistributors Corporation of America
Release date
16 December 1954 (Australia)[1]
17 December 1954 (UK)[2]
21 December 1954 (USA)[3][4]
Running time
106 minutes
CountryUnited States
BudgetUS$ 1,000,000 [5][6]
Box office754,745 admissions (France)[7]

It was shot in CinemaScope and colour at the Pagewood Studios, Sydney, and the same company went on to make a 26 episode TV series with the same actors, called The Adventures of Long John Silver. The director, Byron Haskin, had directed Treasure Island in 1950, with Newton as Silver.

Long John Silver should not be confused with the 1954 American film, Return to Treasure Island, starring Tab Hunter and Dawn Addams.


The movie is set some time after the events of Treasure Island. Long John Silver receives grave news from Dod Perch of a massacre by Mendoza, who had also kidnapped Governor Strong's daughter Elizabeth for ransom along with Jim Hawkins. Long John also learns of a second treasure cache on Treasure Island; the only clue to its location is a pirate medallion. Long John visits Governor Strong and his wife and proposes to deliver the ransom before they pursue Mendoza.

During the pickup of the ransom, Long John goes with Billy Bowlegs to Mendoza's ship and explains that Billy shot his two partners to hoard the ransom money for himself. Long John, invited on the ship, suggests to Mendoza that he leave Elizabeth on shore and lure the governor's warships away in order to sack the king's warehouses. As Mendoza carries out the plan, Long John finds that Jim possesses the pirate medallion indicating the second treasure's location. Mendoza begins to double cross Long John, but Long John his men to ambush and capture Mendoza along with the warehouse fortune, while Jim and Elizabeth make their escape.

Back at the governor's house, Jim is offered the chance to go back to England, but Long John has plans to take Jim with him on the second voyage to Treasure Island. Long John seizes an opportunity to charter Captain MacDougall's ship for the voyage. Long John sets off, avoiding becoming engaged to Purity Pinker, and barely escaping the alert local sentries.

Long John plots a mutiny on Captain MacDougall's ship. MacDougall discovers Long John's plan and decides to maroon Long John and his men on an island that is the secret hideout of Mendoza. Jim sets fire to Mendoza's warehouse so that Long John and his crew can capture Mendoza's ship. As Long John sails for Treasure Island, Mendoza awaits his next ship.

Once on Treasure Island, Long John and his men take shelter in the stockade from Israel Hands, who had survived Jim's shot some time ago, but is blind. Israel keeps Long John and his men trapped, killing them a few at a time. Soon, Mendoza's men arrive, and Israel offers to side with Long John in return for a passage to Cornwall and vengeance against Jim. After they flee, Mendoza burns down the stockade.

Long John follows the trail of the map to the caves where the treasure is buried. Israel tries to kill Jim, but Jim leads him to the coast, where Israel plunges to his death. As Jim heads back to the caves, he is taken by Mendoza, who is going to use him as bait to get Long John, but Long John surrenders to Mendoza, giving his men the opportunity to make a gunpowder attack, cutting down Mendoza's forces and leaving the rest marooned. Long John returns as an honorable citizen, but he and Jim ride off.



Walt Disney's film of Treasure Island (1950), starring Robert Newton as Long John Silver, had been very successful at the box office. Because the novel was in the public domain, producer Joseph Kaufman decided to make a sequel in which Newton reprised his role.

The film was produced by Treasure Island Pictures Pty. Ltd. The company's dominant shareholder and financier was Joseph Kaufman. The minor shareholders were director Byron Haskin, writer Martin Rackin and star Robert Newton.[8]

The producer choose Australia to film, rather than Egypt, as a number of other films had been successfully made in Australia to reduce production costs, which was a common practice in the 1950s for US and British films, as the Australian crews spoke English.[9] Part of the funding from the film came from notorious Wall Street financier Louis Wolfson. Byron Haskin alleged that producer Joseph Kaufman ran out of money during production, making shooting extremely difficult.[10] Haskin arrived in February 1954.[11]

Byron Haskin had experience working with Australians on His Majesty O'Keefe (1953) and cast several actors from that film, including Grant Taylor, Muriel Steinbeck, and Guy Doleman. Doleman was selected to play Israel Hands but refused to grow a beard and wear contact lenses which were required for the part. He dropped out and Rod Taylor stepped in instead.[12] The only actors imported were Robert Newton and Connie Gilchrist. The role of Jim Hawkins was given to Grant Taylor's son Kit.[13]

The film was shot in and around Sydney during 1954. Most of the filming was done at Pagewood Studios, where large sets were built representing a pirate ship, seaport and waterfront street. The filmmakers also constructed a galleon on a barge at Botany Bay, and filmed a sea battle between six foot model ships in Port Hacking. Other locations used included the Jenolan Caves (standing in for the caves on Treasure Island), Garie Beach, south of National Park (as the coast of Puerto Bello) and the town of Waterfall (substituting for Treasure Island).[14][15][16]

Production began on 3 May 1954[17] and shooting lasted for 63 working days.[18] Filming was complicated by the fact that it was the first movie in Australia shot in CinemaScope.[19] This was also the first movie to be shot in DeLuxe Color outside the United States. Del Campo became the second Mexican, after Joe MacDonald, to work on a CinemaScope picture.

While making the film, court proceedings were initiated against Newton in England to fulfill his debts, which resulted in his being declared bankrupt.[20]


Critical reaction to the film was generally poor.[21] A colour television series, The Adventures of Long John Silver, resulted nonetheless; it ran for one series of 26 episodes. This was the first TV series made in Australia, two years before television first started there, and it and star Robert Newton were referenced several times in 50's/60's UK classic TV comedy "Hancock's Half Hour" .

Kylie Tennant wrote a novelisation of the script.[22]

Kaufman took out an option on Pagewood Studios for two more years and announced plans to make other films in Australia including Come Away, Pearler, from the novel by Colin Simpson.[23][24] That did not happen.


  1. "Gala Film Premiere". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 17 December 1954. p. 13. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  2. "'Long John Silver' World Premiere" Sydney Morning Herald 8 December 1954 p 6.
  3. Catalog of Copyright Entries: Third Series: Volume 9: Parts 1213, Number 1: Motion Pictures and Filmstrips, JanuaryJune 1955. Washington: Copyright Office, The Library of Congress, 1955: 17. Internet Archive. Web. 28 February 2012 <https://archive.org/download/catalogofcopyrig391213lib/catalogofcopyrig391213lib_bw.pdf>.
  4. "Film Praised" Courier-Mail 24 December 1954 p 1.
  5. "Sydney Boy's Film Contract" Townsville Daily Bulletin 9 April 1954 p 6
  6. "PRODUCTION 101" ON LOCATION Pirate Film In Colour Will Have Sydney Backgrounds". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 2 June 1954. p. 2. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  7. French box office in 1956 at Box Office Story
  8. "Pirate Film In Colour Will Have Sydney Backgrounds" Sydney Morning Herald 2 June 1954. p2.
  9. John Stewart, "An Encyclopedia of Australian Film" Reed Books 1984 p 15
  10. Stephen Vagg, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood, Bear Manor Media 2010 p 40
  11. "Oronsay Back, Bringing Tourists". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 9 February 1954. p. 7. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  12. Stephen Vagg, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood, Bear Manor Media 2010 p 39
  13. "BOY In The Public Eye PAGEWOOD MUTINY". The Sun-Herald. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 11 April 1954. p. 24. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  14. Long John Silver press book 1954
  15. "HERALD MAGAZINE SECTION". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 11 September 1954. p. 8. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  16. "A pirate prowls at Pagewood". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 19 May 1954. p. 39. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  17. "Start on Film" The Courier-Mail 3 May 1954 p 3
  18. "Long John Silver Sets Record" The Argus 2 August 1954. p 7
  19. "HERALD FEATURES". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 30 September 1954. p. 10. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  20. "Robert Newton Alleged To Owe £47,000". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 25 September 1954. p. 1. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  21. "London Critics Severe On 'Long John'". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 18 December 1954. p. 3. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  22. "Tales By Australian Writers". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 11 December 1954. p. 12. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  23. "Australian Novel's Film Chance". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 20 July 1954. p. 3. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  24. "U.S. Producer's Plans For 3 Films Here". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 16 September 1954. p. 4. Retrieved 25 August 2012.

Further reading

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