Swiss Family Robinson is a 1940 American film released by RKO Radio Pictures and directed by Edward Ludwig. It is based on the novel The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss and is the first feature-length film version of the story.
Thomas Mitchell as William Robinson
Edna Best as Elizabeth Robinson
Freddie Bartholomew as Jack Robinson
Terry Kilburn as Ernest Robinson
Tim Holt as Fritz Robinson
Leonard Maltin calls the 93-minute version an "Excellent adaptation of [the] Johann Wyss book," and writes that it "boasts impressive special effects, strong performances, and much darker elements than the later Disney version."
The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Special Effects (Vernon L. Walker, John O. Aalberg).
The 1940 version is one of Oscar-winning film director James Ivory’s favorite movies. Ivory is quoted as saying that he liked the idea of the Robinsons transforming their deserted island with their London furnishings salvaged from their shipwreck, saying, "Swiss Family Robinson … appealed to my boyhood taste for disasters."
The producers specialized in making films based on public domain texts.
Tim Holt was the first star assigned. Freddie Bartholomew and Terry Kilburn were borrowed from MGM. This was the first feature-length film with a performance by Orson Welles, who went un-credited as the story’s narrator.
A version running 108 minutes (15 minutes longer than the generally available print) is also screened occasionally.
93 min. - Black and White
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