Mutiny on the Bounty
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

Taking command in 1787 as Captain of the British merchant ship, the HMS Bounty, William Bligh (Charles Laughton) sets sail from England to Tahiti to obtain breadfruit plants and transport them to the West Indies as cheap food for slaves. During the journey, Bligh becomes so abusive to the crew that first officer Lieutenant Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable) sees no alternative but to mutiny against the captain and take control of the Bounty.

Yes. Mutiny on the Bounty is based on true events as told in a 1932 historical novel by American authors Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. The screenplay for the movie was credited to American screenwriters Talbot Jennings, Jules Furthman, and Carey Wilson. It is the first of three American movies to be filmed about the mutiny, followed by Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), The Bounty (1984), and a TV movie, Mutiny on the Bounty (2011).

What is breadfruit?

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) is a tree in the Moraceae (Mulberry) family that grows to be about 85 feet tall and prefers warm, tropical climates. The fruit is grapefruit-sized and starchy. When cooked or baked, breadfruit is said to taste like potatoes or freshly baked bread. A photo of a breadfruit tree can be seen here, and a close-up of a breadfruit can be seen here.

What is keelhauling?

Keelhauling is a medieval form of punishment where a convicted sailor's arms were tied to long ropes, and he was tossed off the bow into the water. Sailors on either side of the deck used the ends of the ropes to 'haul' his body under the ship's keel, either from one side of the ship to the other or down the length of the ship (from bow to stern). If the sailor was not ripped to shreds by the barnacles encrusting the ship's hull, he most certainly drowned.

Where is Pitcairn Island?

Pitcairn Island lies in the South Pacific Ocean about 1,359 miles (2170km) southeast of Tahiti, which itself lies about 3,800 miles (6,130km) east of Australia. It is inhabited mostly by descendents of the Bounty mutineers and the Tahitians who accompanied them. A map of the South Pacific, showing Australia, Tahiti, and Pitcairn can be seen here.

How does the movie end?

While Christian, his supporters, and their families leave Tahiti and sail off in the Bounty looking for an unchartered island on which to settle, Bligh has midshipman Roger Byam (Franchot Tone) and the other seamen who remained behind arrested for mutiny and returned to England to face court-martial. Byam is found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. Meanwhile, Christian has chosen to land at Pitcairn Island and burned the Bounty so that she can never be found. Back in England, Sir Joseph Banks (Henry Stephenson) and Lord Hood (David Torrence), believing Byam to be innocent, petition King George to pardon him, noting that Byam's testimony has inspired a new understanding between officers and crewman on His Majesty's ships. In the final scene, Byam is shown boarding the ship of his next assignment, having been allowed to resume his naval career.

Three. Thomas Burkitt,Thomas Ellison, and John Millward were all hung from the yardarm on the HMS Brunswick at Spithead on 29 October 1792. Peter Heywood (Roger Byam in the movie) was sentenced to be hanged but was pardoned by King George. James Morrison and William Muspratt were also convicted but didn't hang. Morrison received a pardon, as it was disclosed that he had no part in the mutiny. Muspratt had taken part in the mutiny, but he was released following an appeal, and he was eventually pardoned. All the other men on trial were acquitted as the evidence clearly showed they had not taken any part in the mutiny.

William Bligh [1754-1817] went on to captain several more ships in the Royal Navy. In 1805, he was appointed governor of New South Wales, Australia. In 1811, he was made a rear admiral. He died in London on 6 December 1817 and is buried in the Garden Museum in a tomb topped by a breadfruit.

Page last updated by bj_kuehl, 11 months ago
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