Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

Mutiny on the Bounty
Charles Laughton and Clark Gable

'Mutiny on the Bounty is a rousing sea adventure movie made in 1935, directed by Frank Lloyd and starring Clark Gable as Spencer Christian and Charles Laughton as Captain Bligh with Franchot Tone as Roger Byam.

The film, which was based on real-life events in the British Navy of the eighteenth century, was an enormous box-office success and won the Academy Award for Best Picture with seven further Award nominations. It is still regarded today as a classic adventure movie and is memorable as an early pace-setter for the art of production design and of studio moviemaking.

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Set in the late 18th century when the British Empire ruled from the decks of the Royal Navy, the crew of the ship HMS Bounty, en route to Tahiti to collect breadfruit plants, mutinies after months of savage mistreatment by their sadistic Captain Bligh (Charles Laughton).

Led by Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable), the mutineers succeed in taking over the ship and they set their cruel captain and his supporters adrift in a boat and return the Bounty to Tahiti. Bligh manages to find port in a remarkable demonstration of seamanship and soon returns to Tahiti to look for the mutineers. He returns to England with some of the mutineers who face trial. Christian and the remainder find refuge on an isolated island. In between are a number of nominal sub-plots. It is generally regarded as the best movie made on the mutiny.

Interestingly, 3 Hollywood stars appear in the movie, uncredited - James Cagney, David Niven and Dick Haymes.

Main Cast

Charles Laughton ... Captain Bligh
Clark Gable ... Fletcher Christian
Franchot Tone ... Roger Byam
Herbert Mundin ... Smith
Eddie Quillan ... Thomas Ellison
Dudley Digges ... Bacchus
Donald Crisp ... Burkitt
Henry Stephenson ... Sir Joseph Banks
Francis Lister ... Captain Nelson
Spring Byington ... Mrs. Byam
Movita ... Tehani
Mamo Clark ... Maimiti (as Mamo)
Byron Russell ... Quintal
Percy Waram ... Coleman
David Torrence ... Lord Hood

The mainly American cast imbue this British tale with an unusual Depression-era optimism. The trio of Charles Laughton, Clark Gable, and Franchot Tone set a remarkably high standard and indeed shared three Best Actor nominations between them, thus splitting the vote and ensuring that none of them won. They lost out to Victor McLaglen who won the Oscar for 'The Informer'. The category of Best Supporting Actor was created by the Academy as a result.

Charles Laughton was the star of this extraordinary cast and gave a bravura performance as Captain Bligh. He relished playing the unusual character roles that many leading men would turn down, such as Bligh, Henry the Eighth, and Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Despite various remakes of the movie it s difficult to imagine anyone else in the role. His magnificent performance makes his character one of the greatest villains in cinematic history, and in the process lifts the entire film into the classic genre.

Clark Gable was one of the most popular and successful actors of the Golden Age and had already won the Best Actor Oscar the previous year (1934) for his performance with Claudette Colbert in the romantic comedy 'It Happened One Night'. In 'Mutiny', as the dashing and decent Fletcher Christian he appears without his moustache, as per the rules of the Royal Navy in the 18th century, and he still get the female hearts fluttering. He is the perfect contrast in looks and acting style to Laughton and matches him well in scene after scene.

Franchot Tone plays the pivotal role of Roger Byam, a fictional character unlike the other main protagonists who are all actual historical figures. Tone was a trained stage actor and he performs well, not being overshadowed by his illustrious fellow actors, particularly at the end when he gives a stirring and powerful speech to a naval court.

Donald Crisp, as Burkitt, also gives a strong performance and there are various fine character actors such as as Herbert Mundin, Eddie Quillin, Dudley Digges, Ian Wolfe, Henry Stephenson, Spring Byington and Francis Lister in important smaller parts.


Director ... Frank Lloyd
Producer ... Irving Thalberg
Production Company ... Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Story ... Based on the novel by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
Screenplay ... Jules Furthman, Carey Wilson, Talbot Jennings
Format ... B & W
Music Score ... Herbert Stothart
Cinematography ... Arthur Edeson
Initial Release ... 11 August, 1935
Running Time ... 130-132 minutes

Academy Awards

One Win:
Best Picture ... Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Seven Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Director ... Frank Lloyd
Best Actor ... Clark Gable
Best Actor ... Charles Laughton
Best Actor ... Franchot Tone
Film Editing ... Margaret Booth
Music (Scoring) ... Nat W. Finston, MGM dept. head, Herbert Stothart
Screenplay ... Jules Furthman, Carey Wilson, Talbot Jennings