(director: Robert Stevenson; screenwriters: Tom Blackburn/based on the novel by Esther Forbes; cinematographer: Charles P. Boyle; editor: Stanley Johnson; music: George Bruns; cast: Sebastian Cabot (Jonathan Lyte), Luana Patten (Priscilla Lapham), Virginia Christine (Mrs. Lapham), Jeff York (James Otis), Hal Stalmaster (Johnny Tremain), Rusty Lane (Samuel Adams), Dick Beymer (Rab Silsbee), Whit Bissell (Josiah Quincy), Walter Sande (Paul Revere), Walter Coy (Doctor Joseph Warren), Will Wright (Ephraim Lapham), Ralph Clanton (General Gage), Lumsden Hare (Admiral Montagu), Gavin Gordon (Col. Smith), Geoffrey Toone (Major Pitcairn); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Walt Disney; Buena Vista Film (Disney DVD); 1957)

The film works better as a kid adventure film than as an adult one.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s a Walt Disney adventure film based on the 1944 Newbery Medal winning novel by Esther Forbes. The screenplay is by Tom Blackburn. It takes place during the American Revolution. Veteran filmmaker Robert Stevenson(“King Solomon’s Mines”/”Mary Poppins”/”Jane Eyre”) keeps a good eye out for detail and gets it historically accurate.

In 1773, the young Johnny Tremain(Hal Stalmaster, age 16) is an apprentice silversmith in Boston. He’s also friends with Paul Revere (Walter Sande). Johnny accidentally burns his hand while handling the melted silver and because he cannot use his hand any more he can no longer be a silversmith. When falsely accused of theft by a Royalist (Sebastian Cabot), it leads to Johnny becoming a secret messenger for The Sons of Liberty. Johnny will play a part in the American Revolution by participating in The Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s Ride, and the battles of Lexington and Concord.

The film works better as a kid adventure film than as an adult one. What the film lacks for adult viewers is a sense of urgency for the Revolution. It also seems better suited for television, as originally intended, than as a movie.

Luana Patten plays Johnny’s girlfriend. Rusty Lane plays Samuel Adams, someone Johnny helps. Dick Beymer plays Johnny’s best friend. Sebastian Cabot plays the wealthy Royalist, who commissioned the fancy teapot in which Johnny injured himself when his boss Will Wright said he was too old to do the job and turned it over to the apprentice.

I can’t say I liked it as much as I tolerated it.

Hal Stalmaster in Johnny Tremain (1957)


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”