Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
Release Date: November 8,1935
Directed by: Frank Lloyd
Gable is legendary historical figure Fletcher Christian in this adaption of the famous tale of mutiny on the high seas in 1787. He is first mate to the tyrannical Captain Bligh (Laughton) on a two year voyage from England to Tahiti to obtain breadfruit plants. Bligh beats and starves the sailors, all while Christian and fellow officer Bynum (Tone) stand and watch. Christian finally can’t stand it anymore and rallies the men to overthrow Bligh and take over the ship. They send Bligh and his supporters adrift at sea in a small boat and take the Bounty back to Tahiti. They live there peacefully, marrying native women and enjoying the island until Bligh and a new crew come searching for them.
Listen to the Radio Commercial
Hollywood magazine, May 1935:
Based on a famous court martial taken from the time-worn pages of the British Admiralty’s records, Mutiny on the Bounty promises to be one of the most colorful sea stories to ever reach the screen. Director Frank Lloyd is recapturing the whole spirit of those rebellious days aboard the Bounty, when human lives were ruthlessly periled by the heartless Captain Bligh.
The story follows much the same course as the book. With a cast of more than fifty feature players, including Clark Gable as the leader of the mutineers, Charles Laughton as the tyrannical Captain Bligh, and Franchot Tone as the lexicographer, Director Lloyd is weaving the amazing plots and counterplots into a historically correct saga of the South Seas.
The principal scene of operations was at the Isthmus of Catalina Island, where a production group of more than 100 persons was housed for several weeks. Six boats, complete with crews, were required for the company. The “MGM Fleet” comprised three speedy water taxis, a tug, and the two square-riggers, The Bounty and The Pandora.
Standing on the Bounty’s deck, many miles off Santa Catalina, visitors became lost in the color and costume of old England as it was 150 years ago. The exactness of costume and dress give the impression that it was only yesterday when those shouting, blustering mutineers hoisted sail and merged into the darkness of a calm tropical night. It is hard to believe that this Bounty is a 1935 film studio creation rather than the boat that left Spithead Harbor, England, in 1787.
Every detail of the ship is an exact duplicate of the original Bounty, from the old-fashioned hardware to the topmost rigging. All of the costumes are essentially the same as those worn by the original crew. Laughton’s is exact in every respect, due to a chance observation of his own.
On a jaunt through London not long ago, Laughton noticed the name “Grieves–Tailors” on a signboard. He recalled having read of it in connection with Bligh, the character he was to portray. Entering the shop, he humorously inquired as to the possibilities of reproducing Captain Bligh’s original clothes. The unsmiling clerk, upon learning that the uniform dated back almost 150 years, disappeared only to return a short time later with a complete description of the original. The patterns revealed where every button and stitch appeared.
To shoot the complete film many trips were required. One group went across the Pacific to Tahiti where background shots were taken in native atmosphere. Other scenes were made in various Southern California spots.
After weeks of waiting to film the sinking of the Pandora–the ship sent from London to round up the mutineers–Lloyd’s vigilance was rewarded by a terrific squall miles off the San Francisco coastline. The filming of that wild storm will go down as one of the unsung feats of motion picture production.
Laughton brings to the screen the same brutal determination of the Javert role in Les Miserables. Gable, as Christian, recaptures that elusive picture which somehow has escaped every chronicler of this great story. Franchot Tone’s role certainly will lift him higher up the ladder of fame. A dozen others in the large cast have done commendable work in making this gigantic production among the finest of the year.
Silver Screen magazine, December 1935:
Out of the pages of a gloriously romantic and adventurous novel comes this magnificent picture which captures all the hearty spirit and all the glamour of the original story. Stirring and thrilling beyond words, this saga of the early British Navy, of peril and hardship on the mysterious sea, of young love on an enchanted tropical island, of hate and horror and torture, holds you fascinated for over two hours.
Charles Laughton, as the sadistic Captain Bligh, Clark Gable as hot-tempered Fletcher Christian, and Franchot Tone as the gentlemanly young Byam reach new highs in screen performances. How you will hate Charles Laughton, but of course the more you hate him it means the better actor he is. Clark Gable has never been more rough, more of a man’s man, than he is as the first mate of the ill-fated “Bounty.” And certainly Franchot Tone does his best work to date—his stirring indictment of the barbarous code of the sea, which makes a thrilling climax in the picture, had even the most lethargic of us at the preview applauding wildly.
The picture is splendidly cast down to the most insignificant character, and special praise should go to Dudley Digges, Eddie Quillan and Herbert Mundin.
Photoplay magazine, January 1936:
From the bare historical truths of a saga of the sea, the greatest maritime since “The Sea Hawk” sugres with virile force across the screen. Some of you, however, may miss the customary love interest and a justice-triumphant ending. For the story of the Bounty’s mutiny–faithfully culled from the Nordhoff-Hall book, is a brutal, sweat-and-blood take of a man’s inhumanity to man, and its tragic condequences. It is not a pretty film, but it is grand and real, and so are its characters.
Charles Laughton is the tyrannous Captain Bligh, whose inhuman bullying of his crew finally moves mate Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable) to seize the ship and casy Bligh and his henchmen adrift, while Christian sails for Tahitiw with his palsand the kidnapped, navy loyal Midshipman Byam (Franchot Tone). Bligh’s voyage back to England and his revengeful return in search of the mutineers nets him Byam in Tahiti. But Christian and his men have sailed, to lose themselves forever on a remote isle. So Bligh vents his hate on Byam in a climactic courtmartial scene.
A suberb sweep of reality distinguishes the enture film, which is fairly mounted. Laughton, Gable and Tone each unforgettable characters, seconded by Edgar Quillan, Dudley Digges, and Donald Crisp. A brief capitulation to tenderness shows Gable and Tone with their South Seas wives. Herbert Mundin supplies a grim pinch of humor.
“…in the king’s name! Well, we’ve got all the fish we need in one neck!” first line
“I was like you when I first came to sea—tumble and moss all over me—now it’s turned to barnacles!”
“My advice, sir, f you’ll take it, is not to be too harsh with them. We’re sailing ten thousand miles locked up together on this ship for the next two years. It’s like a powder magazine.”
“Is that the face that launched a thousand ships?”
“Any more of that and I’ll clap you in irons!”
“I’ve never known a better seaman but as a man he’s a snake! He doesn’t punish for discipline, he likes to see men crawl! Sometimes I’d like to push his own poison down his throat!”
“The captains I’ve served with before didn’t starve their men! They didn’t save money by buying up the stinking meat that you couldn’t have bought! They didn’t buy yams that would sicken a pig and force them on their crew! They didn’t call their men thieves and flog them to the bone because they complained about it!”
“Mr. Bligh, may I recall the outward voyage—some harsh things were said then but I’ve been hoping the return trip would be more fortunate.”
“What do you expect, Mr. Bligh? The man’s dead. I call the ship’s company to bear witness: you killed him!”
“I can’t stand this devil’s work much longer! One of these days I’ll forget all this discipline and break his neck!”
“That butcher! I’ve had enough of this bloodshed! He’s no master of life and death on a quarter deck above the angels!”
“I’m sick of blood! Bloody backs, bloody faces! Well, you’ve given your last command on this ship. We’ll be men again if we hang for it!
“I’ll take my chance against the law. You’ll take yours against the sea!”
“Your ship? The king’s ship you mean! And you’re not fit to command it! Into the boat!”
“When you’re back in England with the fleet again and you hear the human cry against me…from now on they’ll spell mutiny with my name. I regret that. But not the taking of the ship. Every time I think of Bligh…well, I’d do it again.”
“We’re not afraid of a new life anywhere, as long as we can live it with decency and self respect. We can and we must, for ourselves and our children!”
“Good English oak.” last line
Behind the Scenes:
Gable did not want to play the role of Fletcher Christian. He was not keen on the idea of shaving off his now-trademark mustache, having a ponytail and wearing knee britches; he thought he would look like a sissy. It took a lot of convincing from producer Irving Thalberg before Gable finally accepted the role.
Gable received his second Academy Award nomination for the film. Laughton and Tone were also nominated, all for Best Actor. Noticing that it seemed odd that three actors from the same film were up for the same award, this prompted the Academy to start issuing awards for supporting actors and actresses. All three lost to the only Best Actor nominee not in the film, Victor McLaglen, for The Informer.
The exteriors were shot off the coast of Catalina, California.