Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Kidnapped” (1960 Disney film)

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
Released:  1960
Format:  1.37:1 now 1.85:1
When and how viewed:  TCM 2017/9/11
Length:  97
Rating:  PG
Companies:  Walt Disney Pictures
Link:  TCM

(Posted: Tuesday, September 12, 2017 at 9 PM EDT)

“Diana’s Magic”: an imagined fantasy movie inside a children’s novel


Author: David A. Hicks
Title, Subtitle: Diana’s Magic
publication date 2016
ISBN 978-1-4787-6222-5
Publication: Outskirts, 457 pages, paper, 23 chapters (no TOC, no chapter titles)
Link: goodreads   Amazon link (for some reason icon below isn’t working yet)

Diana’s Magic”, by David A. Hicks, is an older children’s book authored by an owner of the Westover Market and Beer Garden in Arlington VA. It’s a bit long for the audience, but is written at an intermediate grade level without a lot of long sentences or big words.  The book was discussed in the Beer Garden Book Club in March 2016.


The story is also a “meta-movie”: that is, the book title is the same as the envisioned movie made by upper grade school children in a suburban (Virginia) public school, as an art project.

The heroine is a new teacher, Sarah Carter.  The story is set up when her fiancé, a “blue collar” person named Eric, is put into a coma by a horrific auto accident in Chapter 1.  That beginning sets up a moral test of her character:  could she remain in love with someone “until death do us part” who has been rendered helpless by someone else’s misdeed?

Sarah’s original charge is to do a spring art show.  But she comes up with the idea of a movie, about “dragons and wizards”, which reminds me of the dichotomy “brownies and elves” in kindergarten in the 1940s.  She organizes a production team, including “writers”, who will negotiate what the story will be.  It’s interesting to see, in a self-published novel, the author setting up a real world (a copy of Tinseltowm, ironically) where “real” writers have to write for a “real living” and ultimately negotiate the world of unions.

She’s also counseled that teachers need to learn the world of school district politics and make friends.  A parent complains about her replacing the art show with a movie project, and the school district has a hissy fit.  Temporarily, the school cancels it, forcing the kids to do car washes to raise money for it.  (No Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or “GoFundMe”.) Later, her “enemies” try to use local government zoning regulations (a typical libertarian issue) to stop the movie (to be shown in the barn where it was filmed) to protect the audience for the art show.

Then there is the fantasy world of wizards, ranging from Harry Potter to Clark Kent people.  Eventually there is a crossover into the real world and a miracle for Eric,

I saw some of this political infighting when I worked as a substitute teacher in Arlington and Fairfax County from 2004-2007.

The Career Center in Arlington actually made two films with a franchise title “Slices of Life”.  The first film is “The House Party” and  “The 50-50 Club”.  I subbed in the class making the second film.

In 2005, an AP chemistry class at West Potomac High School near Alexandria, VA made a short film “Reltonium”, imagining the discovery of a new element in the Periodic Table,  The school even then had an advanced media center with professional video editing tools.

(Posted: Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016 at 2:45 PM EST)