Film Flick: Mutiny on the Bounty

Friday, September 6, 2013

Mutiny on the Bounty tells the true story of of mutiny in His Majesty's navy. Setting off on a two year voyage to Tahiti for breadfruit trees, the HMS Bounty is manned mostly by men who are either convicted or who were pressed into service. They are under the command of Captain Bligh (Charles Laughton)whose cruelty and violent streak is revealed almost at once when he commands a flogging on the corpse of an already-dead sailor. Second under him is Fletcher Christian (as portrayed by Clark Gable sans his famous moustache). Christian rankles at the injustice and inhumanity of Captain Bligh's discipline. Just when things are at their breaking point, the ship reaches Tahiti. Will life back on land cool some people's hot heads. Or will there be mutiny on the Bounty? In a tale about doing your duty, the ultimate fates of both those loyal to the navy and those loyal to their ideals will leave you hanging right up until the credits roll.

Just as the story depicts a trip with less than smooth sailing, so too was the filming experience filled with literal rough waters. One of the production crew actually died when a boat capsized. Others were onboard when one of the ships was accidently set adrift and lost for two days. Even beyond these sombering incidences, there were also personal issues. Tension had been deliberately stoked high by casting the openly homosexual Laughton opposite the homophobic Gable Despite all this, most enjoyed the welcoming atmosphere of the islands they shot at, and they also got some unexpected company. Fellow actor James Cagney- then on break from Warner due to a contract dispute- was sailing near the shooting location and playfully called out to see if they needed any extras. Though never credited, he can clearly be seen early on in the film as one of the sailors.

The film was high-grossing and, in 1935, the film Mutiny on the Bounty was nominated for multiple Academy Awards, including getting all but one of the nominations for Best Actor. None of the cast members won though, and the category of Best Supporting Actor was created to keep such an event from happening again. But you can see why- even decades later both the acting an story remain surprisingly engaging. 

It should be clarified though, that while a mutiny on the HMS Bounty did in fact take place, the movie is actually based on a trilogy of novels, which were in turn only loosely based on the facts. Therefore, it should be remembered that the movie's portrayal of one man's tyranny is two steps removed from fact ; history shows a slightly more complicated view of Captain Bligh. Not the least significant is the fact that his ship actually had fewer floggings and lighter punishments than was common at the time. This true story turns out to be just as fascinating  if less idealistic- as the movie. Viewers will be inclined to forgive such artistic license though, as the film depicts such gripping adventures and feats of endurance. So, trim your sails and set your course for adventure with Mutiny on the Bounty! 


  1. Oh, this is a great movie. The newer versions of the story aren't quite as good as the one made in 1935.

    Heidi’s Wanderings

  2. Oooh, I've never seen this film but it looks wonderful!

    Xo, Hannah

  3. i have seen the one in 1962 that was made! i adored the film posters for it. i must watch this one now!

    oh, i never received an email from you! here is my email address again so you can reach me this time: :)

    lindsey louise

  4. This sounds really interesting, and I love Clark Gable!


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