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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. 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 »
When the Bounty is crashed against the rocks at Pitcairn Island, the film is reversed to stretch out the scene. See more »
Captain William Bligh:
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
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Based on the then-popular novel by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, the 1935 MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY is among a series of legendary films of the 1930s that have been repeatedly celebrated for cinematic achievement. And small wonder: the film has a host of powerful assets.
The single most obvious among these is the star power involved: led by two Oscar-winning stars, the critically formidable Charles Laughton and the incredibly popular Clark Gable, the cast reads like a Who's Who of mid-1930s male actors ranging from leading man Franchot Tone to the memorable character actor Donald Crisp. In a visual sense, the film is also a knockout: filmed on location in a full-size replica of the Bounty, it set a new standard for capturing the sea on film. And the story itself is powerful, the tale of the battle between the cruel and autocratic Bligh and the humane and populist Fletcher Christian. Taken together, it makes for a powerful ride.
Still, some viewers may not find MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY all it is cracked to be. Then as now, Hollywood was less interested in getting the facts right than in telling a good story--and from a factual point of view the film is perhaps twenty percent accurate and eighty percent nothing more nor less than historical tarradiddle. That is no real hindrance per se; after all, we're not watching a documentary. But seen from a modern standpoint the cast now feels somewhat problematic.
Charles Laughton was so critically well regarded that he received star billing over Clark Gable for the film, and seen today his performance is easily the single most powerful in the entire film. Autocratic, brilliant, and immediately and increasingly unlikable, he drives the film from start to finish--and it is here, really, in which most of the film's historical accuracy resides. The rest of the cast, however, is extremely Hollywood. Clark Gable, Franchot Tone and all the rest give an excellent show, full of power and drive--but you never for a moment forget that they are indeed Hollywood stars and not members of the British Navy.
This is very much a "big" film in the MGM tradition, often brilliant, often memorable, and often setting new standards for the motion picture industry. And when regarded from that point of view it is extremely, extremely entertaining. But it may also be a film whose power has slightly faded with the passing of time.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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