Johnny Tremain (1957)

80 mins | Children's works, Drama | July 1957

Director:

Robert Stevenson

Cinematographer:

Charles P. Boyle

Editor:

Stanley Johnson

Production Designer:

Peter Ellenshaw

Production Company:

Walt Disney Productions
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HISTORY

The film begins with the following written foreword: "To the youth of the world... in whose spirit and courage rests the hope of eventual freedom for all mankind..." The film depicts somewhat fictionalized events leading up to the American War of Independence, including a recreation of Paul Revere's ride on 18 Apr 1775, to warn the colonial militia of the imminent arrival of the British, and the subsequent Battles of Lexington and Concord on 19 Apr 1775. Although the picture portrays many historical figures, such as Revere, Samuel Adams and James Otis, the character of "Johnny Tremain" is fictional.
       On 29 Mar 1955, LAEx announced that Walt Disney had purchased Esther Forbes's Newbery Medal-winning children's book, Johnny Tremain , to be shot as a Disneyland television movie. When the production finished on 19 Oct 1956, it was still planned as a television movie, but on 24 Oct 1956, DV reported that the studio had decided instead to release the film theatrically. After its release, the picture eventually aired in two parts on the Disneyland program on 21 Nov and 5 Dec 1958.
       Johnny Tremain marked the first Disney production for director Robert Stevenson (a distant cousin of famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson), who went on to direct some of the studio's most successful pictures, such as 1961's The Absent-Minded Professor and 1964's Mary Poppins (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ), as well as Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971).
       Studio press notes add the following information about the production: Interiors were shot at the Disney studios and included a full recreation ... More Less

The film begins with the following written foreword: "To the youth of the world... in whose spirit and courage rests the hope of eventual freedom for all mankind..." The film depicts somewhat fictionalized events leading up to the American War of Independence, including a recreation of Paul Revere's ride on 18 Apr 1775, to warn the colonial militia of the imminent arrival of the British, and the subsequent Battles of Lexington and Concord on 19 Apr 1775. Although the picture portrays many historical figures, such as Revere, Samuel Adams and James Otis, the character of "Johnny Tremain" is fictional.
       On 29 Mar 1955, LAEx announced that Walt Disney had purchased Esther Forbes's Newbery Medal-winning children's book, Johnny Tremain , to be shot as a Disneyland television movie. When the production finished on 19 Oct 1956, it was still planned as a television movie, but on 24 Oct 1956, DV reported that the studio had decided instead to release the film theatrically. After its release, the picture eventually aired in two parts on the Disneyland program on 21 Nov and 5 Dec 1958.
       Johnny Tremain marked the first Disney production for director Robert Stevenson (a distant cousin of famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson), who went on to direct some of the studio's most successful pictures, such as 1961's The Absent-Minded Professor and 1964's Mary Poppins (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ), as well as Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971).
       Studio press notes add the following information about the production: Interiors were shot at the Disney studios and included a full recreation of a section of Boston in the 1770s. That set, and another replicating the Dartmouth , the setting of the Boston Tea Party, together cost over $125,000 to create. It took three weeks to finish the battle scenes, which were shot at the Rowland V. Lee Ranch in the San Fernando Valley, CA. The picture marked the feature film debut of Disney's daughter Sharon. Johnny Tremain also marked the first and only feature film appearance of actor Hal Stalmaster, although he appeared on a few television programs, both before and after the release fo Johnny Tremain . Although Sep and Oct 1956 HR news items add John Huffman, Keith McConnell and Tony Millard to the cast, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Modern sources add Charles Smith to the cast ( Horse tender ). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
11 May 1957.
---
Daily Variety
24 Oct 1956.
---
Daily Variety
30 Apr 57
p. 3.
Film Daily
2 May 57
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Sep 1956
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Sep 1956
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 1956
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Oct 1956
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Apr 57
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
29 Mar 1956.
---
Los Angeles Times
1 Sep 1956.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
4 May 57
p. 362.
New York Times
11 Jul 57
p. 21.
Variety
1 May 57
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Prod des
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec processes
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (Boston, 1943).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Johnny Tremain" and "Liberty Tree," words and music by George Bruns and Tom Blackburn.
DETAILS
Release Date:
July 1957
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 10 July 1957
Production Date:
5 September--19 October 1956
Copyright Claimant:
Walt Disney Productions
Copyright Date:
18 March 1957
Copyright Number:
LP8885
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Duration(in mins):
80
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18446
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Boston in 1773, wealthy Royalist Jonathan Lyte commissions aged silversmith Ephraim Lapham to recreate a teapot. Although Ephraim feels he can no longer perform such delicate work, his apprentice, Johnny Tremain, accepts the job, knowing the payment will support the household for months. Ephraim warns the young man that he is too proud, but Johnny’s continued determination impresses Ephraim’s daughter Cilla. Johnny cannot overcome his inexperience, however, and is obliged to ask silversmith Paul Revere for help. As Johnny toils late into the night, Cilla asks him why the job is so important to him, and Johnny reveals that his late mother told him on her deathbed that she was Lyte’s sister, but warned him not to approach the cold-hearted Lyte unless he had been “forsaken by God.” The teapot is to be delivered to Lyte on Monday, and on Sunday, even though law forbids work on the Sabbath, Cilla and Ephraim’s wife help Johnny finish his work. When Cilla sees the constable on the street, she yells out a warning, causing Johnny to burn his hand severely on the molten silver. Weeks later, Johnny’s friend Rab Silsbee, a young member of the Sons of Liberty, a group promoting freedom from England’s tyrannical reign over the American colonies, informs Johnny that the political situation in Boston is worsening. After explaining that British admiral Montagu is trying to land his Marines at the Boston harbor, but is being refused entry by Gov. Hutchinson, Rab urges Johnny to join his group, but the silversmith prefers to remain apolitical. At home, Mrs. Lapham forces Johnny to unwrap his wounded hand, and when she sees that scar tissue has fused his fingers ... +


In Boston in 1773, wealthy Royalist Jonathan Lyte commissions aged silversmith Ephraim Lapham to recreate a teapot. Although Ephraim feels he can no longer perform such delicate work, his apprentice, Johnny Tremain, accepts the job, knowing the payment will support the household for months. Ephraim warns the young man that he is too proud, but Johnny’s continued determination impresses Ephraim’s daughter Cilla. Johnny cannot overcome his inexperience, however, and is obliged to ask silversmith Paul Revere for help. As Johnny toils late into the night, Cilla asks him why the job is so important to him, and Johnny reveals that his late mother told him on her deathbed that she was Lyte’s sister, but warned him not to approach the cold-hearted Lyte unless he had been “forsaken by God.” The teapot is to be delivered to Lyte on Monday, and on Sunday, even though law forbids work on the Sabbath, Cilla and Ephraim’s wife help Johnny finish his work. When Cilla sees the constable on the street, she yells out a warning, causing Johnny to burn his hand severely on the molten silver. Weeks later, Johnny’s friend Rab Silsbee, a young member of the Sons of Liberty, a group promoting freedom from England’s tyrannical reign over the American colonies, informs Johnny that the political situation in Boston is worsening. After explaining that British admiral Montagu is trying to land his Marines at the Boston harbor, but is being refused entry by Gov. Hutchinson, Rab urges Johnny to join his group, but the silversmith prefers to remain apolitical. At home, Mrs. Lapham forces Johnny to unwrap his wounded hand, and when she sees that scar tissue has fused his fingers together, declares him worthless. Ephraim offers Johnny continued residence and Cilla begs him to stay, but Johnny does not want to live there without contributing financially, and so leaves to seek his fortune elsewhere. With only one functional hand, however, he cannot find work, and is forced to approach Lyte. When the rich man sees Johnny’s mother’s heirloom christening cup, he invites Johnny to his house that evening. There, he accuses Johnny of having stolen the cup a month earlier, and has him jailed. Johnny is soon visited by Rab and Revere, who, in the name of liberty, have secured the renowned Josiah Quincy to act as his lawyer. In court, Quincy calls Cilla to the witness stand to prove that she saw Johnny with the christening cup well before Lyte’s was stolen. Although Lyte accuses her of lying to save Johnny, the judge dismisses the case. Later, Rab urges Johnny to learn to ride Goblin, a beautiful but ornery horse, and Johnny practices persistently to perfect his skills. Rab then brings Johnny to a meeting of the Sons of Liberty, which is headed by Dr. Joseph Warren and includes Revere, Samuel Adams and other revolutionary dignitaries, and invites him to join them as a currier. Johnny, now realizing the importance of their cause, gladly serves the committee over the next weeks. One day, Rab informs him that a British ship carrying tea has been in port for twenty days without admittance, and by law can now be auctioned off. Adams is to receive notice from the governor the next day indicating whether or not he will allow the colonialists to have the tea. If the answer is negative, Adams will secretly signal Johnny to rouse the Sons of Liberty to raid and dump the tea. The next day, Johnny hears Adam’s signal and blows the whistle that initiates the Boston Tea Party, infuriating Lyte, who had planned to profit from the tea’s auction. In spring of 1775, Warren informs British general Gage, a colonial sympathizer who is nonetheless compelled to uphold his country’s orders to squelch the revolution, that “free men will never give up the means of defending their liberties.” Meanwhile, Lyte, who has determined that Johnny may truly be his nephew, invites the boy to move with him to England, but Johnny refuses to abandon the colonialist cause. Johnny is crushed to learn that his hand will prevent him from joining the militia, but is able to glean inside information from officers around town and warn the committee that the British Army is traveling to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the next day. Realizing they plan to attack the Portsmouth fort, at which the colonial arms are hidden, Warren sends Revere to warn the fort. Soon after, the committee learns that Gage is gathering a force to steal the stores of arms in Massachusetts, and calls a special meeting, attended by former leader James Otis, whose mental capacities have diminished of late. Otis surprises the group by speaking stirringly of the necessity of fighting for the rights of all free men. Inspired, Johnny accepts Warren’s offer to operate on his hand, and soon regains movement of his fingers. When Warren then learns that the British troops are headed to Concord, he sends Johnny to alert the Christ Church sexton to send a message via the church lanterns, lighting two to signify that the troops will arrive by sea. Meanwhile, Revere rides through the state, shouting his messages to “turn out the militia, the Redcoats are coming.” Although Cilla tries to dissuade Johnny from joining the militia, she stops protesting after he kisses her. In Lexington on 9 April 1775, the British troops approach the motley militia, and so underestimate the colonialists’ determination and skill that they are badly defeated. As the British army retreats, maintaining its customary rigid marching order, the militia hides in bushes and kills off dozens of soldiers. When news of their defeat reaches Gen. Gage, he realizes that they have been “vanquished by a belief in human rights.” Later, Cilla searches desperately through the rubble, and is relieved to find Johnny, still alive and still eager to continue the fight for liberty. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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