Yarrrrr! Avast ye land lubbers! Come aboard this here to the weekly movie thread. Drop anchor here and talk about ye favorite films!
Here be ye prompt: what be your favorite pirate movie (or adventure on the high seas)?
This week, we mark a traditional and most holiest of holidays, “Talk Like A Pirate Day.” In fact, it is the 25th anniversary of this day, which was started by a bunch of dorks in Oregon on 1995. This is a day when joykills remind you that pirates never talked that way.
So why he be thinking this be the language of salty sea dogs?
For that, we turn to a film that is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year: Disney’s Treasure Island.
Here’s the story according to National Geographic:
Many of the phrases that most people think of as pirate speech today can actually be traced back to the 1950s Disney movie Treasure Island, starring Robert Newton as fictional pirate Long John Silver (hear Newton as Silver).
“Newton’s performance—full of ‘arrs,’ ‘shiver me timbers,’ and references to landlubbers—not only stole the show, it permanently shaped pop culture’s vision of how pirates looked, acted, and spoke,” [historian Colin] Woodard said.
According to Woodard, Newton based his pirate talk in the film on the dialect of his native West Country in southwestern England, which just happened to be where Long John Silver hailed from in the Treasure Island novel.
In the English West Country during early 20th century, “‘arr’ was an affirmation, not unlike the Canadian ‘eh,’ and maritime expressions were a part of everyday speech,” he said.
But while many pirates and mariners did hail from the West Country—so you might have heard an “arr” here or there—most did not, so the majority of pirates almost certainly didn’t speak like Newton’s Silver, Woodard added.
So here’s to Robert Newton and his still enjoyable and eccentric performance. If you’re watching the movie and wonder why the other folks don’t figure out that there’s a pirate in the midst… well, it’s because he invented our entire idea of a pirate from whole cloth. It took one film for him to leave his indelible impact to pop culture that can still be felt 70 years later.
Newton reprised his role in a sequel called Long John Silver, which I haven’t seen. The film was not released by Disney, so unlike Treasure Island it isn’t on Disney+.
Newton would continue playing the character in TV for 26 episodes for The Legend of Long John Silver. But this be the movie thread, sez I. Talk film or off to Davy Jones Locker with ye!
Bonus bonus prompt: what pop culture standards were you surprised to have their origin in film?
Next week: movies that happen in the span of a day.