Best Picture Review: Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

Mutiny on the Bounty, 1935
Mutiny on the Bounty, 1935

Sunday night, Lauren, Roscoe, and I sat down to continue our Best Picture reviews.  The next movie chronologically was 1935’s critically-acclaimed Mutiny on the Bounty.

Mutiny is based on the true story of a 1776 two-year British voyage aboard the Bounty ship to Tahiti to find inexpensive food for slaves, breadfruit trees.

The captain of the ship, Bligh, was an angry man who was determined to break the spirits of his men.  If someone disobeyed his orders, or did anything less than perfect, they’d be savagely beaten.  Men starved and some even died.  As you may expect, both the crew and officers of the ship weren’t pleased.

The Bounty landed in Tahiti, where the men were treated like kings on the island.  An officer of the ship, Fletcher Christian, fell madly in love with a Tahitian woman despite their inability to communicate.  The ship was loaded up with breadfruit trees, and after a few days of relaxation on the island, they set sail for home in Britain.

Not long after their departure, Christian decides he can no longer tolerate the captain, so he and the beleaguered crew declare a mutiny on the Bounty!  The captain and many others are loaded onto a boat with minimal food, water, and a compass, and are left for dead at sea while Christian and his men head back to Tahiti to live the good life.

The men left for dead at sea miraculously survive after 45 days on the open waters, and a year later, they return to Tahiti to cast revenge on Christian and the others.  Some escape and sail to a new island with their Tahitian wives and babies.  Others are captured and are taken back to Britain and put on trial for the mutiny.

I was a pretty big fan of the movie, and would go so far as to put it at #2 of the Best Picture winners we’ve seen, behind only Grand Hotel.  Unlike some of the winners before it, there were no children breaking into song, no random omissions of important scenes, very little confusion regarding the storyline, no dancing around the plot, and all-around superior acting.

Clark Gable was back in top form a year after his award-winning role in It Happened One Night, as were the legendary Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone.  All three were nominated that year for Outstanding Lead Actor, which actually prompted the Academy to then create a new award for supporting roles so this would never happen again!

Charles Laughton
Charles Laughton

I did some light reading on the movie after watching it, and uncovered lots of crazy happenings during filming.  Gable and Laughton were cast for their roles because the characters hated each other, and producers expected the actors would hate each other in real life because of Laughton’s flamboyant homosexuality and Gable’s homophobic ways.  They were correct!  While Laughton frolicked and pranced about Tahiti (where the movie was filmed on location) with his personal male masseur, Gable shouted obscenities and made no secret of his disapproval.

It was also reported that during filming, a boat of cameramen floated away and was lost at sea for days.  One cameraman died in an unrelated 55-foot fall from the ship.

I can’t really think of any complaints about Mutiny on the Bounty!  I really did enjoy it from beginning to end and would certainly recommend it to anyone who enjoys classic films.

So, to recap my ranking up to this point, I’d have to go something like this.

  1. Grand Hotel, 1932
  2. Mutiny on the Bounty, 1935
  3. All Quiet on the Western Front, 1930
  4. It Happened One Night, 1934
  5. Cimarron, 1931
  6. Broadway Melody, 1929

And of course, 1928’s Wings and 1933’s Cavalcade were not available on DVD from Netflix.  Next up on the list is 1936’s The Great Ziegfeld.

2 comments

  1. Interesting post, yet I have a wee complaint…I don’t know where in which books you read some of the things, but the authors of those books sure didn’t bother in checking facts!

    “While Laughton frolicked and pranced about Tahiti (where the movie was filmed on location) with his personal male masseur, Gable shouted obscenities and made no secret of his disapproval.”

    The film was shot near Hollywood, in catalina Island, so the main cast and crew never left the USA: laughton and Gable were never in Tahiti. Only a second-unit crew went to Tahiti to shot some background scenes, using a double for Gable in wide shots (the close-ups of Gable were of course filmed at Catalina)

    “Gable and Laughton were cast for their roles because the characters hated each other, and producers expected the actors would hate each other in real life because of Laughton’s flamboyant homosexuality and Gable’s homophobic ways”
    Irving Thalberg didn’t exactly cast them to hate each other’s guts (because then, he would have gone for Wallace Beery, who was MGM’s first choice for the Captain and with whom, it seems, Gable didn’t work happily in “China Seas”), though when CL and CG clashed in some scenes, he though it was good for the characters’ dynamic. Not that both actors were deliberately mean to each other: Gable complained that Laughton, as Bligh, didn’t look him into the eyes in some scenes… though Laughton didn’t do it to to annoy Gable, but because he thought that that was the way that Bligh related to others.

    And, hum, Laughton wasn’t flamboyantly gay. He was gay, true, but didn’t camp it up… how could he do so in the 1930’s? Had he been an openly gay actor, he wouldn’t have had a movie career at all: film moguls wanted their gay professionals to be gay behind doors, but never in public… closeted, in short. According to one biographer, yes, Laughton had a masseur, and Ian Wolfe, one of the cast, sensed they were fond of each other, but Laughton didn’t go around introducing him as his boyfriend, either.

    Incidentally, I’ve read books and reports that CL and CG became more friendly as the shooting advanced: I wonder if rogue-male and outdoor sports loving Gable was impressed by Laughton’s stoicism when the travel in the Bounty’s boat had to be shot twice due to a continuity error.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.