Treasure Island

1951 | United Kingdom

The first TV serial adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island was presented as a children's adventure in 8 parts and featured Bernard Miles as the cunning and opportunistic pirate Long John Silver. 

The series was so popular with its young tea-time audience that it was later 'promoted' to an adult programme and broadcast in the BBC's Saturday-night serial slot. Miles, who was born in Uxbridge, Middlesex in 1907, was an Oxford graduate who worked as a teacher before joining the New Theatre in London. He made very few film appearances but served as director, producer, and screenwriter on a number of British movies. In 1959, Miles opened the Mermaid Theatre in London; his contributions to the London stage won him a knighthood in 1969 and a life peerage ten years later. 

Appearing as the character Black Dog in this series was Peter Jones who later became a household name in a number of sitcoms including The Rag Trade, Beggar My Neighbour and Mr Digby Darling. He later became a cult favourite as the voice of 'The Book' on radio and television; The Book being Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Another cult favourite, playing the part of Dr. Livesey, was Valentine Dyall, radio's famous 'Man In Black', distinguishable by his low, resonant and yet pleasingly smooth voice. 

The series was adapted for the small screen by Joy Harington who also produced Robin Hood in 1953 in which Patrick Troughton played the hero of Sherwood Forest, as well as a number of other classic adaptations. Six years later, in 1957, the BBC remade the series with Miles and Dyall reprieving their original roles. Richard Palmer replaced John Quayle as presumably the latter was now too old to play the young Jim Hawkins. Roy Dotrice and Clive Dunn joined the 1957 cast playing Abe Gray and Ben Gunn, respectively. This time the series was scaled down to seven episodes. BBC TV produced another (nine-part) serial in 1968 starring Peter Vaughan. Pictured above are Bernard Miles and John Quayle from the 1951 version.

Published on February 9th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.