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Midshipman Roger Byam joins Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian aboard the HMS Bounty for a voyage to Tahiti. Bligh proves to be a brutal tyrant and, after six pleasant months on Tahiti, Christian leads the crew to mutiny on the homeward voyage. Even though Byam takes no part in the mutiny, he must defend himself against charges that he supported Christian.
Director: Frank Lloyd
Producer: Irving G. Thalberg, Albert Lewin
Screenplay: Talbot Jennings, Jules Furthman, Carey Wilson
Based on the novel by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
Cinematography: Arthur Edeson
Editing: Margaret Booth
Art Direction: A. Arnold Gillespie
Music: Herbert Stothart
Cast: Charles Laughton (Bligh), Clark Gable (Christian), Franchot Tone (Byam), Herbert Mundin (Smith), Eddie Quillan (Ellison), Dudley Digges (Bacchus), Donald Crisp (Burkitt), Henry Stephenson (Sir Joseph Banks), Spring Byington (Mrs. Byam), Movita (Tehani), Ian Wolfe (Maggs), James Cagney (Extra), Ray Corrigan (Able Bodied Seaman), Dick Haymes (Extra), Hal Le Sueur (Millard), David Niven (Extra)
Why MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY Is Essential
Mutiny on the Bounty still ranks as the greatest maritime adventure film of all time with its combination of thrilling action, tense dramatics and spectacular tropical locales.
Mutiny on the Bounty was the top box-office film of 1935, part of Hollywood's move to historical films in response to a Depression-weary audience's need for escapism. Although set in the late 18th century, the film's tale of a revolt against tyranny struck a chord with economically challenged audience members who often felt as trapped and oppressed as Captain Bligh's crew.
Although its historical accuracy is questionable, the film remains the best screen rendition of the historic mutiny.
Although Clark Gable was already a popular star at the time he made Mutiny on the Bounty, the picture's success spurred his move into the ranks of MGM's top stars.
To critics of the day, Charles Laughton's performance as Captain Bligh was ranked among the finest ever put on film. Released the same year as his comedy classic Ruggles of Red Gap, the film also marked a major spur in the character star's popularity. With Henry VIII, Bligh remains Laughton's most famous role and is still his most imitated performance.
by Frank Miller
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
With the success of Mutiny on the Bounty (and the death of Will Rogers the year before), Clark Gable became the nation's number one male star at the box office. The only star more popular than he was Shirley Temple.
Charles Laughton's performance as Captain Bligh became a staple among impressionists. Although proud of the film and his performance, the actor eventually soured on his identification with the role. He would later say, "It's got so that every time I walk into a restaurant I get not only soup but an impersonation of Captain Bligh."
Although they had been dating for months, Joan Crawford had hesitated to marry Franchot Tone because her first marriage, to Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., had ended partly because her career had eclipsed his. With the success of Mutiny on the Bounty, she finally agreed to marry the film's third-billed star.
In 1940, director Frank Lloyd announced plans to film Captain Bligh, a sequel about the captain's later career, in which his behavior inspired another mutiny, this time in an Australian penal colony. Laughton was slated to re-create the role, but the film was never made. In 1945, the Hollywood Reporter announced that Charles Nordhoff had written a sequel about Fletcher Christian's later career, based on the rumors that rather than dying on Pitcairn Island he had returned to England in disguise. Clark Gable was announced for the film, but it too was never made.
In Friz Freleng's 1950 Warner Bros. cartoon "Mutiny on the Bunny," Yosemite Sam plays a sadistic sea captain eventually toppled by a mutinous Bugs Bunny. Bugs had delivered his own impersonation of Laughton's Captain Bligh a year earlier in Buccaneer Bunny.
When cast members visited the White House for a special screening of the film, they gave President Franklin Roosevelt a model of the Bounty used for special effects shots. It now resides in the Roosevelt Museum in Hyde Park.
In 1957, Luis Marden, diving near Pitcairn Island, discovered the wreckage of the Bounty. He had cufflinks made from nails he salvaged from the ship.
MGM remade Mutiny on the Bounty in 1962, with Marlon Brando as Fletcher Christian and Trevor Howard as Captain Bligh. Partly because of Brando's outlandish on-set behavior, which dragged production out to nine months, and partly because of creative accounting (the studio charged the rights fee paid to Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall for the 1935 film to the remake's budget), the film came in at a then-high budget of $19 million. It lost $10 million at the box office, triggering a decade-long box-office decline for its star.
During location shooting, Brando sought out Gable's leading lady from the 1935 film, Movita. They married in 1960, and she bore him two children. Two years later they divorced, he married Tarita, who played Movita's role in the remake.
In a 1973 episode of the comedy series Sanford and Son, Redd Foxx joined the long list of Laughton imitators by doing his own version of the actor's Captain Bligh.
In the '70s, director David Lean and writer Robert Bolt devoted several years to working on a version of the Bounty story. Conceived on an epic scale, the story was to have spanned two films released in successive years. The projected expense was so high Warner Bros. withdrew from the project.
In 1984, Orion released the Dino De Laurentiis production The Bounty, starring Mel Gibson as Christian and Anthony Hopkins (who had been considered for Lean's version) as Bligh. The film was not technically a remake, as it was based on Richard Hough's book Captain Bligh and Mr. Christian. Bolt wrote the screenplay. Although hailed as the most historically accurate depiction of the mutiny, the film did not perform well at the U.S. box office.
The Simpsons featured a parody of Mutiny on the Bounty in the 2006 episode "The Wettest Stories Ever Told," with Principal Skinner as Captain Bligh.
by Frank Miller
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
Mutiny on the Bounty was the highest-grossing film of its year, taking in $4.5 million in rentals on a budget of almost $2 million.
When Nicholas Schenck, head of MGM parent company Loew's, Inc., saw a preview of Mutiny on the Bounty, he wired the studio "TELL THALBERG IT IS THE WORST MOVIE EVER MADE" (Nicholas Schenck, quoted in Callow).
Attempting to play up the film's few romantic scenes, MGM publicized the picture with the line "A Thousand Hours of Hell for One Moment of Love!"
Mutiny on the Bounty premiered on November 8, 1935, at the Capitol Theater on Broadway. Gable's open-top car was followed by thousands of women as he rode to the equally mobbed theatre.
The real Fletcher Christian was five foot nine and stocky and reputedly suffered from terrible body odor.
The alcoholic ship's doctor is named for the Roman god of wine, Bacchus.
In an effort to break the ice with Charles Laughton, Clark Gable took him to a brothel before filming began. Gable was unaware that his co-star was gay, but, according to Laughton's wife, Elsa Lanchester, her husband found the gesture "flattering."
Laughton was terrified of the water and seasick during most of the location shooting.
The animosity between Laughton and Clark Gable came to a head when the British actor brought his personal masseur - and lover - along for the location shoot. Every time the two appeared on set together, Gable turned away in disgust.
While sailing his yacht on vacation, James Cagney came upon the production crew. Since director Frank Lloyd was an old friend, he asked him if he could work on the film to make a few extra bucks (he was on suspension from Warner Bros. at the time). Lloyd had him dressed in a naval uniform and used him as an extra for the day.
The young David Niven and future singing star Dick Haymes also worked as extras on Mutiny on the Bounty.
MGM used 3,000 costumes in Mutiny on the Bounty, 600 of them uniforms.
During the scene in which Dr. Bacchus reveals how he lost his leg, the ship rolls so badly it knocks the doctor down, but the brandy bottle on the table next to him never moves until the next shot, when it disappears.
While the Bounty is sailing the Pacific, the latitude and longitude recorded in Captain Bligh's log book are for a point in the Atlantic Ocean.
Contrary to the film version, Captain Bligh was not present on the Pandora when it arrested the men left behind on Tahiti, nor did he attend their courts-martial. By that time, he was already heading a second expedition to transport breadfruit trees from Tahiti to the West Indies.
Gable and Franchot Tone were rumored to have been romantically involved with Movita and Mamo Clark, the women who played their Polynesian companions.
According to Hollywood legend, a shot of one of the sailors pairing off with a Tahitian boy as the other men are enjoying the company of the women was cut by censors.
MGM wanted Gable to go straight from shooting to a two-week cross-country publicity tour, but he said no because it would require him to take along his second wife, Ria Langham Gable. They finally sweetened the offer by throwing in a two-week publicity junket to South America on his own that amounted to a paid vacation. On the ocean voyage back to New York for the premiere of Mutiny on the Bounty, Gable had an affair with Lupe Velez, which caused problems back home, as she was married to fellow MGM star Johnny Weissmuller.
Mutiny on the Bounty was banned in Japan on charges that it promoted revolution.
Laughton enjoyed working with Irving G. Thalberg a great deal, and the feeling appears to have been mutual. Convinced the star could produce as well as act, Thalberg intended to hire him as a producer for the independent company he was planning at the time of his death.
Famous Quotes From MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1935)
"To the voyage of the Bounty. Still waters of the great golden sea. Flying fish like streaks of silver, and mermaids that sing in the night. The Southern Cross and all the stars on the other side of the world." -- Franchot Tone, as Midshipman Roger Byam, toasting the Bounty before it sails.
"Can you understand this, Mr. Byam? Discipline is the thing. A seaman's a seaman. A captain's a captain. And a midshipman, Sir Joseph or no Sir Joseph, is the lowest form of animal life in the British Navy." -- Charles Laughton, as Captain Bligh, putting Tone, as Midshipman Roger Byam, in his place.
"They expect but one law -- the law of fear." -- Laughton, as Captain Bligh, on his men.
"Mr. Christian!" -- Laughton, as Bligh, delivering his most imitated line.
"The ship's company will remember that I am your captain, your judge and your jury. You do your duty, and we may get along. Whatever happens, you'll do your duty." -- Laughton, to his crew.
"During the recent heavy weather, I've had the opportunity to watch all of you at work on deck and aloft. You don't know wood from canvas! And it seems you don't want to learn! Well, I'll have to give you a lesson." -- Laughton.
"I've never known a better sea captain, but as a man he's a snake. He doesn't punish for discipline. He likes to see a man crawl. Sometimes I'd like to push his poison down his throat!" -- Clark Gable, as Fletcher Christian, on Laughton.
"Now you've given your last command on this ship. We'll be men again if we hang for it!" -- Gable, as Fletcher Christian, deciding it's time for a little mutiny.
"I'll take my chance against the law. You'll take yours against the sea." -- Gable, as Christian, preparing to cast Laughton adrift.
"Casting me aside, 3500 miles from a port of call. You're sending me to my doom, eh? Well, you're wrong, Christian. I'll take this boat if she floats to England, if I must. I'll live to see all of you hanging from the highest yard-arm in the British fleet!" -- Laughton, on being cast adrift by the mutineers.
"We have conquered the sea!" -- Laughton, on surviving the mutiny and his confinement to a rowboat.
"When you're back in England with the fleet again, you'll hear the hue and cry against me. From now on, they'll spell mutiny with my name. I regret that." -- Gable, preparing to leave Tahiti, to Tone, as Byam.
"These men don't ask for comfort. They don't ask for safety...They ask only the freedom that England expects for every man. If one man among you believed that -- one man! -- he could command the fleets of England. He could sweep the seas for England if he called his men to their duty, not by flaying their backs but by lifting their hearts -- their...that's all." -- Tone, addressing his court martial.
Compiled by Frank Miller
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
In 1787, the HMS Bounty left England for Tahiti on a mission to pick up breadfruit trees and take them to the West Indies, where the government hoped they would provide a source of cheap food for the slaves. The ship's humane, accomplished captain, William Bligh, promoted his young friend Fletcher Christian to second-in-command during the voyage. When discipline slipped during the crew's stay in Tahiti, Bligh tried to reassert his authority back at sea, only to have Christian -- who had left behind a pregnant Tahitian wife -- join the ship's malcontents in a mutiny. Christian turned the captain and his supporters loose on a longboat and sailed the Bounty back to Tahiti. Miraculously, Bligh piloted the boat 3,618 miles to the nearest settlement. On his return to England, another ship, the Pandora, was sent to apprehend the mutineers. By that time, Christian and most of his supporters had moved to Pitcairn Island, where Tahitian tribesmen eventually murdered Christian. The men who remained in Tahiti were eventually arrested and taken back to England for trial. Four were acquitted, two convicted but pardoned, and three executed. Although, in accordance with Navy policy at the time, Bligh was court-martialed for losing his ship, he was pardoned and eventually rose to the rank of Vice Admiral.
The story of Captain Bligh and Mister Christian first reached the screen in Australia as the silent epic The Mutiny of the Bounty in 1916.
Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall wrote three books about the historical event, Mutiny on the Bounty (1932), Men Against the Sea (1934) and Pitcairn's Island (also 1934). Although later research would contradict their rendition of the characters, they drew on legend to depict Captain Bligh as a sadistic tyrant and Fletcher Christian as his noble opponent. For the first book they invented the character of Robert Byam to serve as narrator. Byam was loosely based on Captain Peter Heywood, who was court-martialed for mutiny but pardoned.
In 1933, Errol Flynn made his film debut as Fletcher Christian in an Australian adaptation of the novel called In the Wake of the Bounty. When Flynn became a star, Warner Bros.' publicity department claimed he was a descendant of Christian. Actually, he was descended from Midshipman Young, who does not appear in the MGM version.
Director Frank Lloyd acquired the rights to the Nordhoff and Hall novel, planning to direct himself as Captain Bligh and shoot the film on a replica of the original Bounty during an extended ocean voyage to Tahiti. When he sold the rights to MGM, production chief Irving Thalberg convinced him (mainly by raising the fee for the rights) to stick to directing and forgo the ocean voyage. Some sources claim that Lloyd only agreed if the makeup department would outfit the actor in the role with bushy eyebrows like his own. Others state that Laughton was so intrigued by his eyebrows he asked the MGM makeup department to copy them for the role.
When Louis B. Mayer balked at the expense of making Mutiny on the Bounty, particularly since the story had no roles for MGM's leading ladies, Thalberg told him "People are fascinated by cruelty, and that's why Mutiny will have appeal."
Feeling himself ill suited for period roles, Clark Gable tried to get out of playing Fletcher Christian. In particular, he objected to wearing the breeches that were part of the British naval uniform of the time, feeling they were too feminine.
Another objection Gable had to the role was that it would require him to shave his trademark moustache. Facial hair was forbidden under British maritime law during the film's period.
Gable's friend journalist Ben Maddox tried to talk him out of doing Mutiny on the Bounty, arguing that he would never be able to master a British accent (none of the film's American actors did except Eddie Quillan) and could not hold his own against Charles Laughton. It didn't help when Gable's father told the press that the period pigtail and breeches, not to mention having to shave his moustache, would make his son look like a sissy.
Thalberg finally got him to accept the role by promising never to ask him to take another part he didn't want if Mutiny on the Bounty didn't become his biggest hit.
The first screenplay, by Carey Wilson and John Farrow, didn't please Thalberg, so he sent it to Talbot Jennings. Then Robert Hopkins was brought in to add some comedy. Allen Rivkin added more comedy. Eventually the script was credited to Wilson, Jennings and Jules Furthman.
The script drew on all three Bounty novels and, on Thalberg's orders, focused largely on the conflict between Bligh and Christian.
Thalberg hoped that some real life animosity between Gable and whoever played Captain Bligh would add to the dramatic fireworks on screen, so he offered the latter role to Wallace Beery. The actor disliked Gable so much, however, that he didn't want to spend the long location shoot working with him.
When Thalberg turned to Charles Laughton to play Bligh, he hoped that Gable, a notorious homophobe, would dislike the gay actor. He also thought Gable would be intimidated working with the classically trained British actor. Adding to the animosity between the two was Laughton's belief that he should have been nominated for the Oscar® and won for his performance in The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934). Gable had won that year for It Happened One Night.
Laughton was only available to play Bligh because plans to make a long-dreamed-of film version of Cyrano de Bergerac fell through.
Robert Montgomery was the first choice to play Byam, but his MGM schedule wouldn't allow for the lengthy location shoot.
MGM also wanted to cast Cary Grant as Byam, but his home studio, Paramount, refused the loan out.
Eventually the role went to Franchot Tone, a member of Broadway's Group Theatre whose patrician good looks had won him an MGM contract. He had been languishing in secondary roles since signing with the studio.
Gable didn't care for Tone either, since the two had been rivals for Joan Crawford's attentions (she married Tone after the film was completed). During location shooting, however, they bonded because of their mutual interests in alcohol and romantic conquests.
During his research for the role, Laughton discovered the original order for Captain Bligh's uniform at Gieves, Ltd., the famous tailor's on Bond Street in London. He had duplicates made there at his own expense and wore them in Mutiny on the Bounty.
by Frank Miller
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
A year before principal photography started on Mutiny on the Bounty, director Frank Lloyd supervised the building of full-sized replicas of the Bounty and the ship that captured the mutineers, the Pandora. He then sailed them to Tahiti for location footage.
MGM hired 2,500 Tahitian natives to serve as extras. The canoes which the natives used to paddle out to greet the Bounty's crew were all shipped to Tahiti from Hollywood.
When Lloyd and his crew returned to Hollywood, they discovered that most of their location footage had been destroyed because of poor storage conditions. They had to sail back to Tahiti and re-shoot almost everything.
MGM was not about to send the principal cast and crew members so far away, but they were dispatched to Catalina Island for a lengthy location shooting. For a scene in which Mr. Christian spoke to some island women, technicians cut together Clark Gable on Catalina with extras in Tahiti.
The MGM art department built a Tahitian village on the shores of Catalina Island and planted specially imported coconut trees and tropical grass. They also drew on period art to create a detailed duplicate of England's Portsmouth, from which the Bounty set sail.
The studio found an actual 19th century sailing ship, the Balcutha, to serve as the Pacific Queen. The ship is now on display at the Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco.
For full-scale scenes of the Bounty at sea, MGM bought a refurbished two-mast schooner named Lily built in the late 19th century.
An 18-foot replica of the Bounty broke from its tow during shooting and was lost, along with the two men on board, for two days.
Rivaling the battles between Bligh and Christian were the fights on the set between Thalberg and director Frank Lloyd. Concerned that the director was making the ship the film's star and leaving the actors with little direction, both Laughton and Gable called Thalberg frequently to complain, leading to regular location visits during which the production executive upbraided Lloyd for upsetting the actors.
To save time during location shooting, lunch was delivered on a special launch sailed out to the ship, even though there was nowhere to sit on the ship.
Laughton often lightened the mood during location shooting. When rain kept the cast and crew waiting on Catalina, he did imitations of his co-stars and of Joan Crawford, who was also shooting on the island. On days when the food was not particularly good, he kept people laughing by making up outlandish names for the dishes.
Gable's chief objection to working with Laughton was the fact that his co-star rarely looked him in the eye during scenes. Actor Simon Callow, who has written the definitive biography of Laughton, suggests that this was the way Laughton saw many of his characters, "each man a self-contained universe of pain." (Callow, Charles Laughton: A Difficult Actor). Many times, Gable would storm off the set complaining that Laughton was trying to cut him out of the picture. But the conflict only underlined the strained relationship between Captain Bligh and Mr. Christian.
In all, the cast and crew lived on Catalina Island for four months during location shooting on Mutiny on the Bounty.
The scenes of Bligh and his supporters surviving in the longboat after the mutiny were shot in the studio tank on the MGM lot. Only Bligh's denunciation of Christian as the boat is cast adrift was filmed on location. The studio shots were no less grueling for being shot indoors, as Laughton and his cast mates were drenched with water, rocked by cables and baked under the studio lights. After Lloyd had spent a week on the sequence, he realized that one of the characters on the longboat was not supposed to be there. He was supposed to have stayed with the mutineers. As a result, the entire sequence had to be shot again. When Laughton delivered Bligh's line, "We have conquered the sea!" the crew members were so moved they cheered, and Laughton broke down in tears.
Whenever Laughton wasn't happy with his work in a shot, he would do something to ruin the take, a habit that drove many of his directors mad. At the end of a lengthy shot of Bligh pacing the deck of the Bounty, filmed on the studio mock-up of the ship, Lloyd was about to yell "Cut! Print!" when Laughton stopped and said, "I wasn't in any of my marks!" In this case, the crew thought it was hilarious.
The final scenes shot were a storm at sea after the mutineers are apprehended and confined to the Pandora under Bligh's doleful eye. A duplicate ship was specially built at MGM so the scenes could be shot in the studio tank. The rocking was so rough Laughton had to be tied to the ship's wheel. When it came aground on a reef, the ship lurched so violently that some cast members actually suffered broken bones.
The barge shooting matching shots for the storm scene capsized, killing assistant cameraman Glenn Strong. Some news sources erroneously reported that Laughton and Gable had been killed in the accident, and reporters called Laughton's wife, Elsa Lanchester, in London to ask her reaction to her husband's supposed death. A few hours later they called with the real story.
Laughton marked his last day of shooting not by delivering a speech in his own words, but by reciting the Gettysburg Address, re-creating one of the most touching moments from another of his hits, Ruggles of Red Gap (1935).
Between studio work and the two locations, the crew shot 652,228 feet of film. Only 12,000 ended up in the film.
Mutiny on the Bounty cost almost $2 million to make, the largest budget for any MGM film since Ben-Hur (1925).
by Frank Miller
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
One of MGM's greatest classics, Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) is the rousing adventure story of the sailing of the H. M. S. Bounty in 1787 and was adapted from the first two volumes of the Charles Nordhoff-James Norman Hall 1932 best seller.
The ship is captained by a tyrannical, sadistic disciplinarian, Captain William Bligh (Charles Laughton), and his well-respected First Officer Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable). Bligh's contempt for his crew and officers is immediate and permeates most scenes. He lectures the seamen: "The ship's company will remember that I am your captain, your judge, and your jury. You do your duty and we may get along. Whatever happens, you'll do your duty." At one point, Bligh orders a flogging of a dead man, to punish the infraction to the letter of the law. The incident that triggers the famous mutiny on board is Bligh's insistence that the sick, elderly ship's Dr. Bacchus (Dudley Digges) come topside to witness the flogging of five crew members caught attempting to desert the ship and return to Tahiti. When the deathly-ill, alcoholic doctor dies struggling to the deck, Fletcher breaks. He calls for mutiny, and the mutineers tie the Captain to the mast and taunt him. Christian saves Bligh from certain death at the hands of the mutineers, but refuses to give up the mutiny, charging Bligh with murder.
As fascinating and complex as this story sounds, it is actually rivaled by some of the behind-the-scenes struggles to create the film version. For one, Clark Gable did not want to play the part of Fletcher Christian. He felt this role (complete with pigtails, breeches and knee-pads) would attack his virile screen image. "I'll be damned if I'll shave off my mustache just because the British Navy didn't allow them" he was heard bellowing to the front office (interestingly, this would be the last time he would appear on screen without a mustache). For all of his reasons, many felt (including director Frank Lloyd and producer Irving Thalberg) that Gable's real apprehension was his insecurity as an actor. He was up against strong competition from the likes of Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone, both of whom were classically trained actors from the stage. Gable was worried that his voice would sound flat against theirs, while at the same time underestimating his star power.
In choosing the actor to play Christian's nemesis, Captain Bligh, Laughton was not the first choice. Shockingly, the role almost went to Wallace Beery, before he was deemed too American! Thalberg felt Laughton was a good choice, not just because of his acting pedigree, but his growing popularity at that point. He had just won an Oscar for The Private Life of King Henry VIII (1933) and was receiving excellent notices for a recent Hollywood hit The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934) which was produced by MGM. Thalberg's decision was fortutious as Laughton's searing portrayal of the duty-obsessed Captain Bligh made the character one of the screen's most memorable villains.
The tension that is generated between Gable and Laughton really did have some behind-the-scenes resonance. It seemed that Laughton had the habit of not always looking into the eyes of the other actors he was playing. Laughton biographer Simon Callow justified this technique as Laughton's "view of his characters - a self-contained universe of pain, one that doesn't need to react off others". Still, this did not endear him to Gable, who felt Laughton was trying to exclude him from the scenes. Wisely, director Lloyd allowed this tension to serve the animosity between Christian and Bligh giving their conflict an extra dimension.
Mutiny on the Bounty took almost two years in the making, attaining an expenditure of almost $2 million - an extremely high budget at the time. Much of the overhead went into Lloyd's insistence upon authentic locale shooting in the South Pacific. Also, life-size replications of the ships Bounty and Pandora were built and actually sailed 14,000 miles from California to Tahiti, encountering torrential seas in the process. There were expensive repairs needed when both ships suffered damages while on the voyage. To make matters worse, the camera barge sank in a mishap and with it went $50,000 in vital equipment and, tragically, one technician drowned while trying to save it.
For all these problems and then some, the heads at MGM were understandably skeptical about the film's return profit. Happily, the film not only earned critical recognition (it won the Best Picture Oscar that year) but it would prove to be one of the biggest moneymakers in the 1930s, returning a gross of $4,460,000 during its initial run!
After 65 years, time has not diminished the fascination of this film, which remains a vintage example of superb Hollywood storytelling. It says much that despite two more recent versions with top stars: Mutiny on the Bounty (1962, starring Marlon Brando and Sir Trevor Howard) and The Bounty (1984, Mel Gibson and Sir Anthony Hopkins) both critics and fans alike consider Frank Lloyd's film to be the most exciting and definitive version.
Director: Frank Lloyd
Producer: Albert Lewin, Irving Thalberg (uncredited)
Screenplay: Talbot Jennings, Jules Furthman, Carey Wilson, based on the novel by Charles Nordhoff & James Norman Hall
Cinematography: Arthur Edeson
Editor: Margaret Booth
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Arnold Gillespie
Music: Walter Jermann, Gus Kahn, & Bronislau Kaper (song 'Love Song of Tahiti' all uncredited), Herbert Stothart
Cast: Charles Laughton (Capt. William Bligh), Clark Gable (Lt. Fletcher Christian Master's Mate), Franchot Tone (Midshipman Roger Byam), Herbert Mundin (Smith, Ship's Steward), Eddie Quillan (Seaman Thomas Ellison)
BW-133m. Close captioning. Descriptive video.
by Michael Toole
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
AWARDS & HONORS
Charles Laughton won the first New York Film Critics Award for Best Actor for his performances in Mutiny on the Bounty and Ruggles of Red Gap (1935).
Mutiny on the Bounty was the leading contender at the Academy Awards®, with eight nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Laughton, Clark Gable and Franchot Tone), Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Score. It won for Best Picture, with The Informer beating it for Best Actor (Victor McLaglen), Director (John Ford), Screenplay and Score.
The film's unprecedented (and still unmatched) three Oscar® nominations for Best Actor helped prompt the Motion Picture Academy® to add awards for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress the following year.
Mutiny on the Bounty was the last film to win the Oscar® for Best Picture without taking any other Academy Awards®. Sharing that distinction were The Broadway Melody (1929) and Grand Hotel (1932), which wasn't even nominated for any other Oscars®.
The film was the first remake to take the Oscar® for Best Picture, although MGM probably would not have considered it a remake of the 1933 Australian film In the Wake of the Bounty.
The Critics' Corner: MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY
"Mutiny on the Bounty is the cinema at its best, and it does a job which the legitimate stage, lacking sweep and scope and sky and sea, could never hope to achieve. The only reservation is that those two Tahitian sweethearts seemed snatched right out of the Vassar daisy chain."
- Don Herold, Life
"Seemingly destined to be one of the most important in the industry's history, this production commands attention. Long in the making, a fact that bespeaks the care and effort exerted to assure authenticity in every detail, MGM's purse strings were pulled wide open."
- Richard Watts, Jr., New York Herald Tribune
"Those who were thrilled by the book will find that the film meets all expectations. It is a story of brutality, fierce courage, unquenchable hope, powerful drama, against a wide sweep of sea and sky. Charles Laughton achieves a superb characterization as Captain Bligh. Gable and Tone give vivid performances, while the members of the crew are individuals, not types; we learn to know them well. If the picture leaves any regret, it concerns the scenes in Tahiti, which are so sensuous and languid that they mar the tone and retard the tempo of the film. On the whole, the direction is outstanding."
- John Mosher, The New Yorker
"Charles Laughton's performance as Captain Bligh in the Mutiny on the Bounty fixes him in my mind at any rate as by far the best of living actors."
- Mark Van Doren, The Nation
"An exotic and gripping piece of Hollywood mythology, made with all the technical skill and gloss one associates with Irving Thalberg's MGM....Laughton scowls magnificently, and paints a remarkable portrait of Bligh's humourless character, while Gable injects a startling (and unintentional) bisexuality into the Tahitian sequences."
- Adrien Turner, TimeOut Film Guide
"A still-entertaining adventure film which seemed at the time like the pinnacle of Hollywood's achievement but can now be seen to be slackly told, with wholesale pre-release editing very evident. Individual scenes and performances are however refreshingly well-handled."
- Halliwell's Film & Video Guide
"A stirring 18th-century sea adventure in the big M-G-M manner...As Charles Laughton plays him, the corrupt, sadistic Bligh is the strongest person on the screen...He's a great villain - twisted and self-righteous - and you can't laugh him off. He transcends campiness...The director, Frank Lloyd, goes after "human interest" details in a broad, conventional manner, and some of the bits of business of the minor characters are tediously simple-minded. But for the kind of big budget, studio controlled romantic adventure that this is, it's very well done."
- Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies
"Film hasn't the sense of adventure, eroticism, or psychological complexities of the 1962 remake with Trevor Howard and Marlon Brando...or the revisionist 1984 film, The Bounty, starring Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson. But it's the superior film. Its power comes from neither Bligh or Christian ever backing down from each other during an argument, even when the other has the upper hand. Laughton's Bligh is one of the screen's most memorable tyrants..."
- Danny Peary, Guide For the Film Fanatic
"...an example of Hollywood studio craftsmanship at its most accomplished.."
- The Oxford Companion to Film
"The confrontation of good and evil is not subtle or ambiguous. The only real dramatic interest lies in the depths and curlicues of Laughton's depression, and the way he rallies when cast adrift. It was as if he knew that he had found his most hateful role and the role that every impersonator would hammer at."
- David Thomson, Have You Seen...?
Compiled by Frank Miller