"Long John Silver" (1954)
Rod Taylor plays Israel Hands, a villainous, blind, bearded pirate. He appears in the latter third of the movie, unrecognizable beneath a wild thatch of hair.
Although his screen time is short, this movie played a large role in launching Taylor toward Hollywood.
He landed the part thanks to scriptwriter Martin Rackin hearing him on the radio and seeing him in the Mercury Theatre's "Misalliance" in Sydney. "He asked me if I would play the part ... of Israel Hands, a mad, blind old man. So they fitted me out with white contact lenses, and I did it," Taylor recalled in a 1967 interview.
Taylor had recently won the Rola Award as best radio actor and was planning to take the prize money and go to England. "But then I delayed long enough to do ... 'Long John Silver,' and everyone said, 'Go to America,'" Taylor said in a 1961 interview.
Rackin was one of those who pushed the hardest. "Marty Rackin seemed to like me and was very enthusiastic about me," Taylor said. "He had apparently sent cables to a number of leading agents and studio heads about me."
When Taylor finally set off for England, he did stop in Los Angeles, at the request of a powerful Hollywood agency, MCA. A pair of MCA staffers met him at the airport, apparently didn't like what they saw, and Rod decided to stay!
ON THE SCREEN
The Australian/U.S. production, also known as "Long John Silver's Return to Treasure Island," takes up where "Treasure Island" left off, with Robert Newton remaining in the role of Long John Silver.
After a series of adventures, Long John and his crew do finally return to Treasure Island. Besides treasure, however, they discover Israel Hands marooned there -- and find that he's a pretty good shot for a blind man.
Hands supposedly was killed in "Treasure Island," but it turns out he was only blinded. Embittered, he seeks revenge against young cabin boy Jim Hawkins and pursues him through caves and over rocky cliffs in a further impressive display for the sightless pirate.
"Long John Silver" was divided into three half-hour shows and included in the 26-episode "Long John Silver" TV series in Australia.