Kidnapped (1960 film)

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Directed byRobert Stevenson
Produced byWalt Disney
Written byRobert Stevenson
Based onKidnapped
by Robert Louis Stevenson
StarringPeter Finch
James MacArthur
Bernard Lee
Music byCedric Thorpe Davie
CinematographyPaul Beeson
Edited byGordon Stone
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • February 24, 1960 (1960-02-24)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish, Scots

Kidnapped is a 1960 Walt Disney Productions live-action film adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic 1886 novel Kidnapped. It stars Peter Finch and James MacArthur, and was Disney's second production based on a novel by Stevenson, the first being Treasure Island. It also marked Peter O'Toole's feature-film debut.


In 18th-century Scotland, young David Balfour (James MacArthur) is directed by his recently deceased father's letter to go to the House of Shaws, where he is greeted without much enthusiasm by his miserly uncle Ebenezer (John Laurie). An attempt to arrange a fatal accident makes it clear that Ebenezer has no affection for his nephew. Since David is not sufficiently on his guard, he accompanies Ebenezer to a meeting with a seafaring business associate, Captain Hoseason (Bernard Lee). The captain lures David aboard his ship and shanghais him, at Ebenezer's instigation.

At sea, David learns that he is to be sold into indentured servitude. However, a thick fog comes up and the ship collides with a boat. Alan Breck Stewart (Peter Finch), the only survivor of the latter, is brought aboard and pays for his passage, but the greedy captain plots to kill him for the rest of his money. David warns Alan, and the two are able to overcome the murderous crew. Alan coerces Hoseason into putting them ashore. The ship founders, but David manages to reach land alone.

After several dangerous encounters, he is rescued by Alan, who turns out to be a Jacobite wanted by the authorities. Evading the soldiers, the two make their way back to the House of Shaws, where Alan tricks Ebenezer into admitting his crimes within the hearing of a hidden witness, allowing David to claim his inheritance.




Robert Stevenson was making Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1958) for Walt Disney in England when Disney visited the set and suggested they adapt Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Kidnapped for their next project. Stevenson re-read the novel, was enthused, and wrote a treatment on a working holiday in Scotland. When another project he was working on fell through, Stevenson wrote a screenplay for Kidnapped.[1]

The novel had been filmed twice before by Hollywood studios, in 1938 and 1942. 20th Century Fox had registered rights to the title but waived them and the film was announced in December 1958.[2]

Stevenson says Disney was of great use when working on the script. Many people advised Stevenson to put a woman in the story, but Disney resisted, saying it was not true to the novel. By the time filming started, Stevenson estimated he had read the novel "eight to ten times."[3]


The lead role was given to James MacArthur, who had just made The Light in the Forest (1958) and Third Man on the Mountain (1959) for Disney and been signed to a two-picture deal with the studio. (The second film would be Swiss Family Robinson.) MacArthur would be the only American in the cast.[4] Actor John Breslin coached his Scottish accent.[3]

The other lead role was given to Peter Finch who had just appeared in The Nun's Story (1959).

Peter O'Toole was given a small role at the suggestion of Peter Finch.[1] It was O'Toole's first movie; he would shortly become a sensation of the London stage with his performance in The Long and the Short and the Tall.[5]


Filming started 27 April 1959 on location in Oban in Scotland, with studio work done at Pinewood in London.[6][3]

Stevenson wanted to film the assassination of Colin Roy Campbell in the actual locale, a few miles from Ballachulish, but the original spot was now the site of a forest of Norwegian pines, so he filmed it on the slopes of Ardguar, about twelve miles away.[1]


Upon the film's original release, New York Times film critic Eugene Archer gave the film a negative review by stating that, "Either Mr. Disney, who made a vigorous Treasure Island ten years ago, has lost his touch in the intervening decade, or the kids have been spoiled by Gunsmoke and Peter Gunn. Yesterday's audience was definitely not amused."[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Arnold, Jeremy. "Kidnapped". Turner Classic Movies.
  2. ^ FILM EVENTS. (1958, Dec 25). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  3. ^ a b c By, S. W. (1959, Jun 14). ' KIDNAPPED' IN THE HEART OF THE HIGHLANDS. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  4. ^ Hopper, H. (1959, Jan 24). Disney protege signed for two big pictures. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from
  5. ^ By, S. W. (1960, Jan 24). REPORTS ON BRITAIN'S VARIED MOVIE FRONTS. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  6. ^ By THOMAS M PRYORSpecial to The New,York Times. (1959, Jan 26). MOVIE TO CO-STAR COWARD, GUINNESS. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  7. ^ "Screen: A Double Bill:' Kidnapped' Is Shown With 'Breakout'". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. May 19, 1960. Retrieved 2014-05-28.

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