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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>
Actor James Cagney was sailing his boat off of Catalina Island, California, and passed the area where the film's crew was shooting aboard the Bounty replica. Cagney called to director Frank Lloyd, an old friend, and said that he was on vacation and could use a couple of bucks, and asked if Lloyd had any work for him. Lloyd put him into a sailor's uniform, and Cagney spent the rest of the day as an extra playing a sailor aboard the Bounty. Cagney is clearly visible near the beginning of the movie. See more »
Bligh was never aboard the HMS Pandora, and did not attend the mutineers' trial. He was half a world away at the time of the trial, being on a second breadfruit expedition. See more »
In a decade that saw some spectacular movies in a variety of genres (from "All Quiet On The Western Front" in 1930 to "Gone With The Wind" and "The Wizard Of Oz" in 1939) "Mutiny On The Bounty" is in every way at least equal to and in my opinion better than any of the others. It is a classic example of movie-making at its finest.
Technically the film is superb. Well filmed and with realistic sets, the viewer feels as if he really is on an 18th century British Navy vessel. I remember as a teenager coming across this movie halfway through and not really knowing what it was about but being captured by the vividly realistic portrayal of life at sea. That feeling has never gone away when I watch it. The performances are breath-taking. Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian and Franchot Tone as Roger Byam are excellent, but it is Charles Laughton as Bligh who steals the show. Everything about Laughton in this film screams "Captain Bligh," and his is almost certainly the face that comes to mind when one contemplates the historical figure of Bligh. All three were nominated for Oscars, as was director Frank Lloyd (and inexplicably failed to win, although the film itself was named 1935's Best Picture.) The film mixes adventure, gripping drama and even humour into about two and a quarter hours of sheer enjoyment.
You can quibble about a few things. Apparently history suggests that Bligh might not have been quite this sadistic nor Christian quite so noble. There's a strange shot of the Bounty being run aground by Christian at Pitcairn Island, and as the ship is about to crash into the island the film inexplicably reverses and the end of the shot is clearly going backward for about 2 seconds. I admit that it was passing strange that both Fletcher Christian and Roger Byam speak with American accents, making one wonder how these guys were in the British Navy (but for the sake of Gable's and Tone's performances that can be overlooked) and at the end the movie gets a bit preachy (particularly Byam's speech to his court-martial.) But these are minor and do not detract from one's enjoyment of the film.
Watch this if you never have. Watch it again if you have, and watch it over and over if you can. It is a masterpiece. 9/10
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