Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)
Wednesday April, 3 2019 at 03:00 PM
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When MGM decided to green light this lavish re-make of the 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty starring Clark Gable and Charles Laughton, they were just coming off the huge success of another re-make, Ben-Hur (1959) and expected a similar financial and critical hit. The fact-based story from the Nordhoff/Hall trilogy of historical novels recounts the engrossing tale of the 1789 mutiny aboard the H.M.S. Bounty en route from England to the South Seas while under the command of the tyrannical Captain William Bligh. This version stars Trevor Howard as Bligh, Marlon Brando as First Mate Fletcher Christian and Richard Harris as crewmember John Mills. Filmed on location in beautiful Tahiti, Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) was shot in glorious color and Ultra Panavision 70, boasted exciting special effects by A. Arnold Gillespie and his team, a top-notch cast and a rousing musical score by Bronislau Kaper. It was also touted as a 'spectacle' which was one incentive to lure audiences away from their television sets in 1962.
From the beginning, however, problems plagued the production. Both the screenplay and the full-scale Bounty replica arrived late and harsh weather conditions delayed filming. Several writers came and went, and original director Sir Carol Reed was replaced with Lewis Milestone (All Quiet on the Western Front, 1930) when MGM feared he was taking too long. Rumors of turmoil on the set mounted as the film spiraled out of control and went significantly over budget. Many associated with the production blamed the eccentric star, Marlon Brando, as the root of many of the problems. Already sporting a reputation as being difficult, he reportedly was at odds with his replacement director Milestone and fought for his own creative interpretation of the role and the story. Some accounts have Brando, who was being paid 1.25 million dollars for his participation, alienating the other actors by taking wild liberties with his dialogue and holding up production to accommodate his "method" acting style. Director Milestone even accused the actor of wearing earplugs to avoid having to listen to him or his cast mates. "Whenever I tried to direct him in a scene," Milestone later reflected, "he'd say, 'Are you telling me or are you asking my advice?'" Brando claimed that he was only trying to make the character of Fletcher Christian multi-dimensional and more psychologically complex. While MGM executives were tearing their hair out over the film's inflating costs, word spread in Hollywood that Mutiny was shipwrecked before it ever left port.
The onslaught of bad press did nothing to help the success of Mutiny once it finally opened in the fall of 1962 to mostly negative reviews. Marlon Brando's career took a blow as his reputation as a troublemaker was sealed, even if many still considered him the world's greatest living actor. Brando's personal life also changed because of Mutiny on the Bounty. He fell in love with the beauty of Tahiti and subsequently purchased a series of islands where he made his home for many years. He also fell in love with his stunning co-star Tarita who plays his island girlfriend Maimiti. The two embarked on a long-term relationship that produced two children, son Tehotu and daughter Cheyenne. Despite the bad press, the film garnered seven Academy Award nominations that year including Best Picture, Best Cinematography, and Best Special Effects, but was overshadowed by David Lean's epic Lawrence of Arabia.
Interestingly, the Bounty ship replica used in the film was purchased in 1986 by Ted Turner when he acquired the MGM film library. He later donated it to the Fall River Chamber Foundation, which established the Tall Ship Bounty Foundation. In February of 2001 it was acquired by the Tall Ship Bounty Organization LLC in New England, which continues to use the Bounty to teach and preserve the maritime skills once used on the great ships of its day.
Producer: Aaron Rosenberg
Director: Lewis Milestone, Carol Reed (uncredited) (some scenes)
Screenplay: Charles Nordhoff (novel), James Norman Hall (novel), Charles Lederer, Eric Ambler (uncredited), William L. Driscoll (uncredited), Borden Chase (uncredited), John Gay (uncredited), Ben Hecht (uncredited)
Art Direction: George W. Davis, J. McMillan Johnson
Cinematography: Robert L. Surtees
Costume Design: Moss Mabry
Film Editing: John McSweeney, Jr.
Original Music: Bronislau Kaper
Cast: Marlon Brando (Fletcher Christian), Trevor Howard (Capt. William Bligh), Richard Harris (John Mills), Hugh Griffith (Alexander Smith), Richard Haydn (William Brown), Tarita (Maimiti), Gordon Jackson (Edward Birkett), Percy Herbert (Matthew Quintal), Chips Rafferty (Michael Byrne), Henry Daniell (Court Martial Judge).
C-186m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Andrea Foshee