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USA 1935
Directed by
Frank Lloyd
132 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)

The 1930s were the heyday of Hollywood adventures and this MGM production, which took out the 1935 Best Picture Oscar is a superior example of the style.

Based on Charles Nordhoff and James Norman’s fact-based novel, Mutiny On The Bounty tells the story of the 1787 journey of the H.M.S. Bounty from Portsmouth to Tahiti under the command of Captain William Bligh (Charles Laughton) a redoubtable seafarer but a tyrannical disciplinarian. His first mate, Mr Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable), on the other hand has sympathy for the ship’s crew many of whom had been press-ganged into the two-year voyage to get breadfruit plants from the South Seas so as to provide cheap foodstuff for West Indian slave plantations, a prime example of Britain’s imperial avarice. Mr Christian toughs out the outward voyage but the gracious ways of the Pacific Islanders show him such a different side of human nature that he becomes incapable of tolerating Bligh’s cruel authoritarianism. And so the most famous mutiny in history comes to pass.

Mutiny On The Bounty offers stirring adventure on the high seas with life-threatening storms, superbly realized for their time and still looking good, exoticism in the form of the Tahitian islanders and most importantly the stoush between Captain Bligh and Mr Christian, The screenplay by Talbot Jennings, Jules Furthman and Carey Wilson wastes no time establishing the differences between the two, showing Bligh as a insecure little man who has dragged himself through the ranks to a position of command, a power which he takes every opportunity to exercise. Fletcher Christian, on the other hand, is a classic man’s man, tough but with feeling and dashingly charismatic.  Both Laughton and Gable are excellent in their respective roles with the former providing one of his most villainous characterizations and the latter warming to his star-making turn in Gone With The Wind.

Director Frank Lloyd was very well regarded at the time although after this film he gradually sank out of sight and today is a largely forgotten figure in American film history.  Mutiny On The Bounty is, however, a lasting achievement to his skills.




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