In 1787, British ship Bounty leaves Portsmouth to bring a cargo of bread-fruit from Tahiti but the savage on-board conditions imposed by Captain Bligh trigger a mutiny led by officer Fletcher Christian.
Midshipman Roger Byam joins Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian aboard 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.Written by
Eric Sorensen <Eric_Sorensen@fc.mcps.k12.md.us>
Clark Gable had to shave off his trademark mustache for this film for historical accuracy. Mustaches were not allowed in the Royal Navy during the time the story takes place. See more »
Captain Bligh is shown keel hauling a sailor for a minor offense. The British Navy discontinued the practice around 1720, decades before the Bounty sailed. The French and Dutch navies discontinued keel hauling in 1750, 37 years before the Bounty's voyage. See more »
If you've never seen one of the three major film versions of the famous mutiny-and therefore have no knowledge of the plot-the opening credits of the 1935 film will give you a pretty fair warning of what is about to happen. I've seen all three versions, 1935, 1962, and 1984, and this version has quickly become my favorite.
Charles Laughton, the famously strict Captain Bligh, leads a two-year voyage from England to Tahiti to procure breadfruit plants and bring them back. His second-in-command, Fletcher Christian, is played by an un-mustached Clark Gable. At first, Gable supports his captain and tries to get the crew to behave and obey their commanding officer to avoid his horrible punishments. But when Laughton repeatedly brutalizes his men for small or nonexistent infractions, Gable leads a mutiny and takes over the ship.
I know Clark Gable was called "The King", but he really wasn't a good actor. Please, nobody throw anything at me, and hear me out. He was very handsome, made girls swoon by taking his shirt off in most of his movies, and had a powerfully confident presence onscreen. But his acting consisted of shouting or smirking, with exception to The Misfits. When you watch Mutiny on the Bounty, it's as if you're watching Rhett Butler on a boat. He's exactly the same.
My criticisms of Clark Gable aside, the rest of the movie is very good! The character of Captain Bligh has to be so much more than just strict and unreasonable. He's obviously a mass of problems, otherwise he wouldn't act the way he does, and in Charles Laughton's interpretation, those problems are written on his brow. He broods, wants to be better than he is, and craves order and respect for deep reasons, and it's obvious without being melodramatic. But it's Franchot Tone who steals the show in his performance. He's the most likable character, and he delivers so much passion into his lines, whether he's interacting with Tahitians and creating a dictionary, falling in love, or finding a balance between loyalty to his captain and to his friend. I like him anyway, but I've never seen him pour so much of himself into a role as in this film.
All three leads were nominated for Best Actor for 1935, and the only nominee who wasn't in Mutiny on the Bounty took home the gold that year. As for the Hot Toasty Rag Awards of 1935, the film swept Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Franchot Tone. This epic was remarkably made in 1935, and it still stands the test of time today.
If you can, keep an eye out for James Cagney, David Niven, and Dick Haymes, as one of the dozens of extras in the film. I never found them, but you can give it a shot. This is very much a man's movie, but I enjoyed it immensely. The characters and production values kept me riveted even past the end!
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