Robert Newton

Show Count: 3
Series Count: 0
Role: Old Time Radio Star
Old Time Radio
Born: June 1, 1905, Shaftesbury, Dorset, England, UK
Died: March 25, 1956, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA

Robert Newton (1 June 1905 – 25 March 1956) was an English stage and film actor. Along with Errol Flynn, Newton was one of the most popular actors among the male juvenile audience of the 1940s and early 1950s, especially with British boys. He was cited as a role model by actors Tony Hancock and Oliver Reed.

Newton is best remembered for portraying the feverish-eyed Long John Silver in the Walt Disney version of Treasure Island, which became the standard for screen portrayals of pirates. Hailing from the West Country that was also the birthplace of many famous English pirates, Newton is credited with popularising the stereotypical West Country "pirate voice" by exaggerating his West Country accent. Newton has become the "patron saint" of the annual International Talk Like a Pirate Day on 19 September.


Newton was born in Shaftesbury, Dorset, a son of landscape painter Algernon Newton, R.A.. He was educated in Lamorna nearPenzance, Cornwall, and later at St Bartholomew's School in Newbury, Berkshire. His acting career began at the age of 16 at theBirmingham Repertory Theatre in 1921 and he followed this by performing in many plays in the West End of London, including Bitter Sweet by Noël Coward. He also appeared in Private Lives on Broadway taking over the role from his friend Laurence Olivier. From 1932 to 1934 he was the manager of the Shilling Theatre in Fulham, London. In 1939 he played Horatio to Laurence Olivier's Hamlet at theOld Vic - the production also included Alec Guinness and Michael Redgrave. During the war he starred in the West End in No Orchids for Miss Blandish. His final performance on stage was in the 1950 production of Gaslight with Rosamund John at the Vaudeville Theatre.

During World War II, Newton served in the Royal Navy on board HMS Britomart, which served as an escort ship on several Russian convoys. He also starred in a number of notable films. His film roles included various ruffians and villains — such as Bill Walker in George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara (1941), Long John Silver in Walt Disney's Treasure Island(1950), the villanous Bill Sikes in David Lean's 1948 film version of Oliver Twist, and the acid bath murderer Dr. Clive Riordan in Obsession (1949). There were also roles that displayed his versatility. In Alfred Hitchcock's film Jamaica Inn, he played a virtuous law-officer who is alert, benevolent, serious, dedicated, professional, gallant and calm in the face of danger, modest and altogether unlike Long John Silver. He also portrayed disciplinarians such as Inspector Javert in the 1952 Les Misérables, Dr. Arnold in the 1951 film version of Tom Brown's Schooldays, and Inspector Fix in his last film, Around the World in 80 Days (1956), which won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Newton and Linda Darnell in Blackbeard the Pirate

Newton appeared in major roles in two films based on the novella The Vessel of Wrath by W. Somerset Maugham. He played the Dutchcontrôleur in the 1938 version (released in the U.S. as The Beachcomber), and the lead role of Edward "Ginger Ted" Wilson in The Beachcomber (1954). He starred as the Scottish hatter, James Brodie, in Hatter's Castle, a 1941 film based on the novel by A.J. Cronin. He also played Ancient Pistol in Laurence Olivier's 1944 film of Henry V and Lukey in Carol Reed's Odd Man Out; this performance was later immortalised in Harold Pinter's play Old Times. A good example of Newton playing a sympathetic lead role is Noël Coward's This Happy Breed directed by David Lean in 1944.

He again played Long John Silver in a 1954 Australian-made film, Long John Silver. It was shot at Pagewood Studios, Sydney and directed by Byron Haskin, who had directed Treasure Island. The company went on to make a 26-episode 1955 TV series, The Adventures of Long John Silver, in which Newton also starred.

With his strong West Country accent, Newton portrayed Bristol's other famous pirate Blackbeard the Pirate in a 1952 film directed byRaoul Walsh and also starring Linda Darnell and William Bendix, but was never able to shake off the legacy of Long John Silver.


His film career was cut short by chronic alcoholism, which led to his death from a heart attack in Beverly Hills, California, in 1956 at the age of 50. Newton married four times and had three children: Sally Newton (b. 1930), [1] Nicholas Newton (b. 1950) and Kim Newton (b. 1953). After some court battles, Newton's elder son was placed in the custody of his aunt and uncle.

Robert Newton was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. Years later Nicholas Newton scattered his father's ashes in the sea in Mount's Bay,Cornwall, near Lamorna where he had spent his childhood.

Source: Wikipedia

Broadcast: 22nd December 1952
Added: Mar 17 2013