Seizing the Boat

Mutiny on the Bounty is a classic sea voyage elevated by deeper themes. Once again I have The Simpsons to thank for introducing me to the story. Since it was parodied in the episode “The Wettest Stories Ever Told.” The 1935 film is based on the 1932 book based on an actual mutiny that occured in 1789. Mutiny on the Bounty is set aboard the HMS Bounty. The movie has a perfect three act structure. The first act features the crew sailing with the British Navy. The second act features the crew reaching their destination in Tahiti and the third act features the aftermath caused by the mutiny.

The primary crewmembers are the good Mr. Christian, the bad Captain Bligh, and the neutral Midshipman Byam. Clark Gable shaved his mustache to play Mr. Christian and his dedication shows. Charles Laughton is absolutely despicable as Captain Bligh. His ruthless dictator-like treatment of the crew is what leads to Christian’s mutiny. The only time you feel slight remorse for the captain, but I still wish his punishment was more severe. Franchot Tone is somewhere in the middle since Byam’s loyalty shifts between the Navy and his friend.

Both men find love in the island paradise of Tahiti where the Bounty has to trade breadfruit plants. Bligh seeks revenge, but Christian manages to evade capture and Byam gets the recognition he deserves. Mutiny on the Bounty was nominated for 8 Academy Awards including an unprecedented 3 Best Actor nominations for all three leads. Yet the only Oscar win it got was Best Picture. It’s not entirely historically accurate, but the larger than life production value makesย Mutiny on the Bounty a big success.

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

Mr. Christian answers to Captain Bligh

4 thoughts on “Seizing the Boat

  1. One of the first solidly made Action/Adventure films with a Historical background. Gable and Laughton made a fine pair of onscreen rivals, while in real life they got along amicably, Gable even asking Laughton if he wanted to join him at a House of Pleasure, not knowing Laughton preferred men. James Cagney and David Niven have split-second cameos as dockworkers.

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