The Biography of Robert Newton by Mark Penrose
Perhaps best known for his role as ‘Long John Silver’ in the film Treasure Island, pretty much everyone who ‘plays the pirate’ tips a hat at this interpretation. You can see Robert Newton in action below in a scene from the 1954 Australian-made sequel to the film.
Robert Newton’s life was recorded in the fish-eyed camera lens and the seedling tabloid press. Each produced only warped images that blurred together the real and fiction and created a new, ready-bottled unreality.
The truth was a man boozy and destructive, subtle and passionate. He was neither a hero nor a coward. He was an exile and a patriot, a thunderously boisterous and quietly private man. He was full of laughter.
He was a rebel, and always his own man. His off-screen exploits were more extraordinary than those he acted. Survivor of the most bitterly cruelty of wartime services, urbane and penniless, he was a beach-bum who loved Rolls Royces. Impeccably dressed and falling-down drunk; ever homeless, he was the eternal strolling player. He was a rebel, an iconoclast; he had no time for intellectualising or Bloomsburyite gloominess. He was the man who would tell you, and the rest of the crowd, loudly, with his mouth full, that the emperor was naked.
From an idyll Cornish childhood to a desperate death amidst the Hollywood elite. Cowboy, beach-bum; loaded and flat broke. He survived the bloodiest naval arena in the second world war; married four times he failed as a husband and a father. He starred in dozens of films, dozens of plays. Newton was more than an actor; yet he is the quintessential pirate, Disney’s ‘Long John Silver’, is the brutal Bill Sykes in Oliver Twist. Farmer, tax exile, he ran his own theatre and loved Rolls Royces. In America and Australia. Generous, gregarious, needful, lost, he swept through life and left people reeling in his wake. Olivier, Burton, Coward, Wayne. Laughing, infected with his joyous lust for life.
CONTENTS of ‘Apologise Later’
1. Dawn in the Bohemian Valley 1
2. Oil Paint and Grease Paint 26
3. A Winter of Discontent 50
4. The Shilling Theatre; His Own Rep’ 85
5. Another Brush With Celluloid 111
6. An Extraordinary Seaman 167
7. Temptation Harbour 228
8. Treasure Island; Buccaneers And Bitches 268
9. The Beautiful Prison 314
10. Days Under The Anxious Sunlight 338
11. Ad Captandum Vulgas: What The People Want 368
Post Script 379
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