Making the Grades
Robert Louis Stevenson could hardly have foreseen the long-term popularity of his novel Treasure Island when he penned it in 1883. While the story has appeared in numerous versions since then, Disney's 1950 film adaptation remains one of the best known. It stars a young Bobby Driscoll as Jim Hawkins, the tavern boy who is secretly given a faded copy of a treasure map to protect.
When his benefactor dies after a visit from a party of pirates, Jim becomes the sole inheritor of the prized paper. Learning of Jim's possession, Squire Trelawney (Walter Fitzgerald) and Dr. Livesey (Denis O'Dea) engage the services of Captain Smollett (Basil Sydney) and his ship, the Hispanola, in order to find the fortune.
While docked before their trip, the ship's cook Long John Silver (Robert Newton) befriends Jim and begins to build a trust between them. He also offers his services to the Captain by rounding up a crew for the venture. But when Silver's motley inductees line up on the shore, Captain Smollett and his first mate Mr. Arrow have some reservations about their characters. Still, the Squire is anxious to set sail and so the Captain agrees to raise anchor.
Once at sea however, it becomes apparent that Jim and his colleagues aren't the only ones searching for Captain Flint's buried riches. The rum-drinking, rowdy crewmen are really a band of buccaneers trying to recoup their part of the lost treasure. Leading the men in a mutiny, Long John Silver takes command of the ship and the treasure map. He also uses Jim as bait in his attempt to uncover the gold before the others have a chance.
Although Jim continues to befriend Silver, despite his obvious faults, parents might not warm up quite so readily to this pirate's deceitful deeds. In addition to double-crossing and lies, Long John and the other crewmembers get one of the officers drunk and then watch him fall overboard during a violent ocean storm. In the ship's hold, they plot their mutiny and nearly stab a boy hiding in a food barrel. Once the rebellion occurs, there are numerous depictions of sword fights, knife stabbings and shootings including one man who is shot in the face and another in the chest. Holed up in a fort, the ship's officers also exchange gunfire with the mutineers.
Constrained by the famous lines from literature, the script is compelled to give audiences an ending that may appear to be less than happy. Yet despite the adults' overwhelming interest in buried riches in this pirate tale, real treasure in this classic film is Jim's innate goodness and his ability to see the best in others.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Treasure Island.
Why does Long John Silver try to befriend Jim Hawkins? How does Jim feel about the pirate? In what ways does he return the friendship?
What does a black spot mean among the pirates? What other types of punishment do they have among their group?