I think I read a young person’s illustrated version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “boys’ life” Alan novel “Kidnapped” (written in first person) in tenth grade, in the spring of 1958, about the time certain other interests were developing in my mind. I remember typing the book report at home. A lot of other book reports with this teacher were “in class”, but this one I remember doing at home. We had recently read George Eliot’s “Silas Marner” and been tested on it. That’s what sophomore English was like: grammar and literature, in alternation.
Note the original long title of the book: “Kidnapped: Being Memoirs of the Adventures of David Balfour in the Year 1751: How he was Kidnapped and Cast away; his Sufferings in a Desert Isle; his Journey in the Wild Highlands; his acquaintance with Alan Breck Stewart and other notorious Highland Jacobites; with all that he Suffered at the hands of his Uncle, Ebenezer Balfour of Shaws, falsely so-called: Written by Himself and now set forth by Robert Louis Stevenson.”
The Walt Disney Technicolor 1960 film (“Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped”) is ironically directed by Robert Stevenson (no relation) and aired on Turner TCM on September 11. The plot is a picaresque adventure, as was common for some English novels of the time(1886). An appealing 16 year old boy David Balfour (James MacArthur) is beckoned to a gothic estate when his father dies, but quickly finds his uncle is conniving (there is a scene inspired by Vertigo). He is then drawn to a ship voyage, where he is shanghaied (essentially kidnapped) into servitude, and threatened with slavery. He soon meets up with a Jacobite, Alan Breck Stewart (Peter Finch) and go on a long adventure together, after both are falsely accused of murder. Alan is a Jacobite rebel in Scotland, as both escape the British redcoats about the time of the American French and Indian Wars (and the James Fenimore Cooper novels). Eventually they get back to David’s uncle and David gets his inheritance with a trick and his friend’s witness.
I do recall that the enduring idea of the novel, especially in its later passages, is “friendship”. Having read this book may have helped inspire my controversial first theme in English at William and Mary in the fall of 1961, which would help precipitate the ironic events that would later lead to my expulsion in November 1961 (as in my first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book).
MacArthur (who was 23 when this film was shot) seems quite mature and handles himself so well, as in that fight with the Gaelic highlander and other foes. He seems like a low-keyed predictor of the superhero movies to follow a half century later. How many role model teenage boys like this do you meet in a lifetime? I can think of a few.
Jacobite painting wiki.
The broadcast also included the 1938 Mickey Mouse cartoon “Lonesome Ghosts”, with “personal animation”.
|Name:||Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Kidnapped”|
|Director, writer:||Robert Stevenson|
|Format:||1.37:1 now 1.85:1|
|When and how viewed:||TCM 2017/9/11|
|Companies:||Walt Disney Pictures|
(Posted: Tuesday, September 12, 2017 at 9 PM EDT)