Treasure Island is a 1934 movie adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous 1883 novel Treasure Island. Jim Hawkins (Jackie Cooper) discovers a treasure map and travels on a sailing ship to a remote island, but pirates led by Long John Silver (Wallace Beery) threaten to take away the honest seafarers’ riches and lives.
Rum-craving sailor Billy Bones (Lionel Barrymore) arrives at the inn of Jim Hawkins and his mother (Dorothy Peterson) one dark and stormy night. It soon becomes evident that Bill is a hunted man. Shortly after sundown, a blind man delivers Bill “The Black Spot,” a death sentence. Overcome, Bill later dies of a stroke, and Jim and his mother break into Bill’s sea-chest to recover what they are owed. Jim grabs a map and escapes with his mother before a small group of men break into the inn, looking for that very item.
Jim takes his discovery to Squire Trelawney (Nigel Bruce) and Dr. Livesey (Otto Kruger). It is found to show the location of the buried treasure of the notorious pirate Captain Flint. They decide to seek it out. The naïve squire leaves to hire a ship and crew. He does well in choosing a fine ship, the Hispaniola, and a trustworthy Captain Smollett (Lewis Stone), but makes a grave mistake in hiring one-legged Long John Silver as ship’s cook and allowing him to recruit many other crewmen. Silver is the leader of the cutthroats who broke into the inn.
As the voyage goes on, Silver tries to persuade the rest of the crew to join him; any who refuse to join meet with fatal “accidents”. Finally, the island is sighted. That night, Jim overhears Silver’s plot to mutiny while hidden inside an enormous apple barrel. Realizing they are now outnumbered, Captain Smollett decides to seize the ship if enough of the crew go ashore. Jim, though, sets foot on the island too. He wanders into the jungle, where he runs into Ben Gunn (Charles ‘Chic’ Sale), a little unhinged after being marooned alone on the island for years.
Meanwhile, too many pirates are left aboard, so the captain and his few trustworthy men go ashore to make a stand in Flint’s old stockade. Jim is reunited with them there. The mutineers attack, but are repulsed, with casualties on both sides. After Smollett expresses his fear that Silver will have a cannon brought from the ship to blow them up, Jim slips off into the night to cut the ship loose from its mooring. He manages to part the anchor rope, but loses his boat, forcing him to board the Hispaniola. Luck is with him. The two men left on guard have quarreled; one is dead and the other, Israel Hands (Douglass Dumbrille), is injured. Jim grounds the ship at another spot on the island. Hands then tries to kill Jim with a throwing knife, but is shot and killed.
Jim returns to the blockhouse only to find it now held by Silver and his brigands. Silver had allowed Smollett and his men to leave in exchange for the map. The pirates want to kill Jim when he tells them what he has done, but Silver admires his spirit and stops them. They set out for the treasure, but when they reach the spot, they find only a few coins. As the disgruntled men are about to turn against Silver, Smollett and his men launch a surprise attack and kill or drive off the remaining cutthroats.
Jim’s disappointment quickly turns to delight when he goes with the others to Ben Gunn’s cave, where Ben has moved the treasure. Jim and the rest set sail for Jamaica, leaving the few surviving pirates marooned. Silver is imprisoned and certain to hang. While anchored at Jamaica, however, Jim “can’t stand it”. He helps his friend escape in a dinghy.
Wallace Beery had originally been cast as Israel Hands in director Maurice Tourneur’s silent production, Treasure Island made for Paramount in 1920. Beery would be replaced by Joseph Singleton but would appear that year in another of Tourneur’s masterpiece silent films, Last of the Mohicans. The 1920 silent production of Treasure Island is today a lost film.