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Mutiny on the Bounty
Director: Frank Lloyd (Dir)
Release Date:   8 Nov 1935
Production Date:   8 May--11 Sep 1935
Duration (in mins):   130-132
Duration (in reels):   13
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Cast:   Charles Laughton ([Captain William] Bligh)  
    Clark Gable ([Fletcher] Christian)  
    Franchot Tone ([Roger] Byam)  
    Herbert Mundin (Smith)  
    Eddie Quillan ([Thomas] Ellison)  
    Dudley Digges (Bacchus)  
    Donald Crisp ([Thomas] Burkitt)  
    Henry Stephenson (Sir Joseph Banks)  
    Francis Lister (Captain Nelson)  
    Spring Byington (Mrs. Byam)  
    Movita (Tehani)  
    Mamo (Maimiti)  
    Byron Russell (Quintal)  
    Percy Waram (Coleman)  
    David Torrence (Lord Hood)  
    John Harrington (Mr. Purcell)  
    Douglas Walton (Stewart)  
    Ian Wolfe (Maggs)  
    DeWitt Jennings (Fryer)  
    Ivan Simpson (Morgan)  
    Vernon Downing (Hayward)  
    William Bambridge (Hitihiti)  
    Marion Clayton (Mary Ellison)  
    Stanley Fields ([William] Muspratt)  
    Wallis Clark (Morrison)  
    Craufurd Kent (Lieutenant Edwards)  
    Pat Flaherty (Churchill)  
    Alec Craig (McCoy)  
    Charles Irwin (Thompson)  
    Dick Winslow (Tinkler)  
    Robert Livingston (Young)  
    Hal LeSueur (Millard)  
    David Thursby (McIntosh)  
    John Powers (Hillebrandt)  
    King Mojave (Richard Skinner)  
    Doris Lloyd (Cockney moll)  
    Lucy Chavarria (Hina)  
    William Stack (Judge advocate)  
    Robert Adair (Warden)  
    Harold Entwistle (Captain Colpoys)  
    Eric Wilton (Captain of board)  
    Lotus Thompson (Moll)  
    Lilyan Irene (Moll)  
    Vivien Oakland (First moll)  
    Will Stanton (Postsmouth Joe)  
    Harry Allen (Wherryman)  
    Lionel Belmore (Innkeeper)  
    Harry Cording (Soldier)  
    Nadine Beresford (Ellison's mother)  
    Mary Gordon (Pedler)  
    Winter Hall (Chaplain)  

Summary: In Portsmouth Harbour, England, in December of 1787, preparations are made to sail the H.M.S. Bounty to Tahiti, where her crew will collect breadfruit trees and import them as a cheap source of food for slave camps in the West Indies. Before sailing, a press gang headed by Fletcher Christian, the ship's lieutenant, strongarms Thomas Ellison, William Muspratt, Quintal and others into the King's Navy for the two-year voyage. Roger Byam, a descendent of a long line of decorated naval officers, is made a midshipman on the Bounty and is commissioned by Sir Joseph Banks to help him research his Tahitian dictionary. As the ship is about to set sail, Ellison, who does not want to leave his wife and child, is caught trying to break ship. When Christian learns of Ellison's attempted desertion, he reasons with Ellison and gently persuades him to return and serve his country. Soon after boarding his ship, William Bligh, the Bounty's sadistic captain, orders his crew to witness a "flogging through the fleet," a brutal form of punishment in which court-martialed seamen are flogged in view of every ship in the fleet. Although the master-at-arms pronounces the court-martialed seaman dead as he approaches the Bounty , Bligh insists that he proceed with the flogging. Later, Bligh, who respects only one law, the "law of fear," and tolerates no dissent among his crew, upbraids Christian when he complains about the ship's indecent food supply. Once at sea, Byam is severly punished by Bligh after he and another seaman are caught engaging in a minor fistfight, and is ordered to stand perched on top of the masthead during a storm. Christian tries to end Byam's cruel punishment by calling him down, but Bligh immediately sends him back. Later, Bligh keel-hauls a sailor because he asked for water to treat a wound. When Bligh accuses his crew of stealing cheese from the ship, seaman McCoy informs him that he witnessed Maggs, Bligh's clerk, remove the cheese in Portsmouth under his superior's orders. McCoy is soon punished for exposing the captain's scheme. Desperate for food, seaman Thomas Burkitt and others decide to risk their rationed dinner and use it as bait for shark fishing. They succeed in capturing a shark, but when Maggs insists on a share of the catch, a quarrel ensues and Bligh intercedes. Christian accuses Bligh of starving his crew, and Bligh calls Christian a "mutinous dog." Just as Christian is about to strike Bligh, land is spotted on the horizon and the crew makes preparations for landing. Once in Tahiti, Bligh is greeted by island chief Hitihiti, an old friend of the King's Navy who greeted Captain Cook's ship when Bligh was a sailing master on it ten years earlier. Following the polite exchange of salutations, Bligh puts his crew to work harvesting the breadfruit trees. When Bligh denies Christian shore leave, the kind-hearted Hitihiti manages to secure his freedom and then introduces the lieutenant to his granddaughter Maimiti. Christian falls in love with Maimiti, and before he leaves Tahiti, he instructs Byam to tell her that he will come back for her someday. At sea once again, Bligh orders the flogging of four seamen who attempted to desert and insists that the ship's ailing surgeon witness the punishment. The brutality proves too much for the physician, and he collapses and dies. Christian blames Bligh for the doctor's death and decides to put an end to Bligh's ruthless tyranny by leading the crew in a mutiny. Christian takes over control of the ship by forcing Bligh and his allies into the ship's launch and casting them out to sea. He then turns the ship around and sails it back to Tahiti, where he marries Maimiti. Christian then abandons Byam and other seamen who were loyal to Bligh and were not loaded onto the ship's launch with the captain. As Christian leaves Tahiti to sail the Bounty to a new island, another British ship, the Pandora , is seen approaching on the horizon. The Pandora lands in Tahiti carrying the rescued Bligh, who quicky arrests Byam and the others for mutiny, despite their sworn loyalty to him. Determined to find Christian and see him "hanging from a yardarm," Bligh navigates the Pandora into heavy seas and breaks the ship on a reef. Bligh, Byam and other survivors are rescued and then taken to England. Meanwhile, Christian sails the Bounty to Pitcairn Island, where he sets the ship ablaze and settles his men to begin life anew. Five years pass and Byam, who has been convicted of high treason, receives a pardon when the King learns of Bligh's cruel disciplinary practices. Byam is soon restored to the Royal Navy, and is assigned to its flagship, which is set to fight the French in the battle of Trafalgar and "sweep the seas for England." 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's, Inc.)
Production Text: A Frank Lloyd Production
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Frank Lloyd (Dir)
  J. Walter Ruben (2d unit dir)
  James Havens (Marine dir)
Producer: Frank Lloyd (Prod)
  Irving G. Thalberg (Prod)
  Albert Lewin (Assoc prod)
Writer: Talbot Jennings (Scr)
  Jules Furthman (Scr)
  Carey Wilson (Scr)
Photography: Arthur Edeson (Photog)
  Charles G. Clarke (Photog)
  Sidney Wagner (Photog)
  Glenn Strong (Asst cam)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Arnold Gillespie (Art dir assoc)
Film Editor: Margaret Booth (Film ed)
Costumes: Western Costume Company (Ward)
Music: Herbert Stothart (Mus score)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
  William Steinkamp (Sd)
Production Misc: Alfred Alexander (Tech adv)
  Ulrich Busch (Unit mgr)
  Bob Roberts (Prod asst)
  John Waters (Prod asst)
  Major Oscar Bagley (Tech adv on English background)
  Howard Dietz (Press agent)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall (Boston, 1932) and their novel Men Against the Sea (Boston, 1934).
Authors: James Norman Hall
  Charles Nordhoff

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. 4/11/1935 dd/mm/yyyy LP5986 Yes

PCA NO: 1531
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Adventure
Sub-Genre: Historical
 
Subjects (Major): Captain William Bligh
  Fletcher Christian
  Great Britain. Navy
  H.M.S. Bounty
  Mutiny
  Sailors
  Sea captains
  Ships
  Tahiti
  Torture
 
Subjects (Minor): Castaways
  Courts-martial and courts of inquiry
  Desertion, Military
  Island life
  Marriage
  Miscegenation
  Pardons
  Pitcairn Island (Polynesia)
  Portsmouth (England)
  Royalty
  Ship fires
  Shipwrecks
  South Seas
  Whips and whippings

Note: In the early 1930s, authors Bernard Nordhoff and James Norman Hall co-wrote a trilogy of novels based on the facts surrounding the late 18th century mutiny on H.M.S. Bounty in the South Pacific. This film was adapted from the first two novels of the trilogy; the third book was entitled Pitcairn's Island . Although it is not implied in the film, the real Captain Bligh was later exonerated by the English authorities. According to a biography of Clark Gable, after purchasing the rights to the novels, director Frank Lloyd tried to sell the project to producer Irving Thalberg with the stipulation that he be allowed to direct and star in the film, and that the entire picture be shot on a Tahiti-bound replica of the Bounty . Thalberg agreed to let Lloyd direct, but rejected his other two demands.
       Although copyright records list director Frank Lloyd as the producer of the film, most contemporary sources list Irving G. Thalberg as the sole producer. A biography of Thalberg notes the following about the writing of the screenplay: Carey Wilson and John Farrow were the first writers assigned to work on the screenplay. Thalberg was dissatisfied with the Wilson and Farrow screenplay and later assigned Talbot Jennings to the script. He then had Jennings collaborate with Robert Hopkins to come up with comedy bits to offset the film's seriousness. Still not satisfied with the script, Thalberg brought on writer Allen Rivkin, who came up with the running comedy bit of Herbert Mundin trying to dump a bucket of refuse into the wind. A Nov 1934 HR news item notes that Lew Lipton was given an unspecified writing assignment on the film. One week prior to the commencement of principal filming, a HR news item noted that it was "probable" that Harold Rosson would be the first cameraman, but Rosson's participation in the final film has not been confirmed.

       Contemporary sources indicate that M-G-M undertook extensive research efforts to insure the authenticity of every detail pertaining to the customs, wardrobe and maritime laws of the late 18th century, as well as the historical account of the mutiny itself. British genealogy charts were consulted for the purpose of contacting and interviewing living descendents of the original Bounty crew. Also consulted was a first edition print of a rare book published in 1790, entitled A Narrative of the Mutiny on His Majesty's ship "Bounty," authored by the captain of the ship, Captain William Bligh. British Admiralty records of the mutiny were also examined, as were construction specifications of the original ship. According to a NYT article, Charles Laughton discovered that the Gieves Company, the very same London tailoring establishment that outfitted Captain Bligh a century and a half earlier, still possessed one of Bligh's original transaction records, which contained the price as well as the measurements and type of material of his uniforms. At Laughton's request, the tailor used the records to reproduce Bligh's uniforms for the picture. According to a HR pre-release news item, Charles Laughton was so intrigued by Frank Lloyd's bushy eyebrows that he had the makeup department duplicate them for his Captain Bligh character.

       According to a Sep 1934 DV news item, Myrna Loy was originally slated for the female lead. According to HR pre-release news items, the film was also intended as a starring vehicle for Wallace Beery and Robert Montgomery. Beery was replaced by Charles Laughton. The first HR production chart for the film, which appeared in the 8 Apr 1935 issue, listed Robert Montgomery, William Stelling and Granville Bates in the cast, but they did not appear in the released film. Montgomery was replaced by Franchot Tone, but sources conflict as to whether he was taken off the picture due to an illness or whether a scheduling conflict with No More Ladies (see below) prevented him from taking the role. Although HR pre-release news items and production charts list actors Beryl Mercer, Robert Corey, Harold Howard, Elsie Prescott, Charles Trowbridge, Melville Cooper and Earle Hodgins in the cast, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Also unconfirmed is the appearance of retired lieutenant commander of the British navy, Alfred Alexander, who, according to HR , was engaged as a technical advisor and was set for a part in the film.

       According to Clark Gable's biography, Gable was initially against taking a part in the picture and complained about having to shave off his "lucky mustache." He also complained that he would look ridiculous in knee pants and a sailor's pigtail, and that Laughton and Tone were given better parts than he. M-G-M producer Eddie Mannix persuaded Gable to take the part after assuring him that he would have the film's key romance with Movita. Another Gable biography claims that the actor accepted the role when M-G-M offered him a South American promotional tour at the end of production.

       Principal filming on the picture was preceded by an expeditionary voyage to the South Seas, where background shots were filmed beginning in Feb 1935. According to a NYT article, 50,000 feet of film and 30,000 feet of sound brought back from the expeditionary journey was unusable because the film was underexposed. A second trip was made to the South Seas to reshoot the backgrounds. The NYT article also notes that two replicas of the original H.M.S. Bounty were constructed: the first, an exact and seaworthy copy of the British vessel, was sailed to Tahiti; and the second, a stationary set, was shipped on two barges to Santa Catalina Island, CA, where it was re-assembled in the town hall and used for interior shots. The town hall was used as a makeshift studio during production. Soon after returning from Tahiti, the replica of the Bounty was anchored in Point Rey, CA, where, according to a 9 Apr 1935 HR news item, local citizens started a movement to acquire the ship as a historical monument. In Oct 1939, a HR article noted that the Bounty and Pandora replicas were to be outfitted for use in the 1940 M-G-M film New Moon (see below). Additional filming took place on Pitcairn Island (the South Seas island populated by the descendants of Bounty mutineers), and on San Miguel Island near Santa Barbara, CA, where, according to a HR pre-release news item, forty Santa Barbara State College athletes were used as extras. Twenty-five hundred South Sea natives were used to populate two wholly reconstructed 18th century island villages that were built by the studio in Papette, Tahiti. According to studio publicity material, more than 600 cast and crew members were housed for several months on Santa Catalina Island. Reproductions of six native villages were constructed in various coves on the island. England's Portsmouth Harbor was also reconstructed on the island at a reported cost of over $150,000. Oarsmen from UCLA and Compton Junior College were used as extras for the flogging scene.

       According to DV , assistant cameraman Glenn Strong was killed and several technical workers were severely injured when a barge being used by the second unit capsized on 25 Jul 1935 in heavy seas off San Miguel Island. Camera equipment valued at $50,000 was also lost in the tragedy. According to Thalberg's biography, a second tragedy was narrowly averted when an eighteen-foot replica of the Bounty with two crewmen aboard was separated from its tow in heavy seas near Catalina and was lost for two days before being rescued by a search party. Thalberg reportedly refused to notify the Coast Guard of the missing boat because he feared that the "news would reach the public and destroy the illusion of the film." A Nov 1935 HR news item notes that Robert Brooks, owner of San Miguel Island, sued M-G-M for $25,000, claiming that the production crew caused considerable damage to his sheep grazing land. According to a NYT article, at a cost of between $1,800,000 and $2,000,000, Mutiny on the Bounty was the most expensive Hollywood production of 1935. A 2 Aug 1935 HR news item claimed that the picture was the most expensive talking picture made to date by M-G-M. A contemporary study guide to the film notes that a total of 652,228 feet of film was shot for the picture, a figure far less than the grossly exaggerated 131,000,000 feet reported in Time magazine.

       According to contemporary sources, Mutiny on the Bounty was banned in Japan on the grounds that it promoted revolt against law and order. Italian censors removed a number of references to the British and British nationalism, including the title "Portsmouth, England, 1787," a shot of the British flag, and the dialogue: "We're off for the Mediterranean lad....We'll sweep the seas for England."

       A NYT news item notes that as part of the film's exploitation, M-G-M released a short film entitled Pitcairn Island . The short may have been the same film as Pitcairn's Island Today , a one-reel film that was copyrighted by M-G-M in Sep 1935. In the 1935 Warner Bros. animated short film, Porky's Road Race , caricatures of Laughton and Gable in their Mutiny on the Bounty costumes are seen. Laughton's Captain Bligh was also parodied in the Walt Disney cartoon short Donald Duck Goes to Hollywood .

       Mutiny on the Bounty received an Academy Award for Best Picture of 1935. It was also nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Best Actor (Clark Gable, Franchot Tone and Charles Laughton); Best Director; Best Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Score. FD voted the picture one of the ten best films of the year. In addition, the Screen Actors Guild gave Charles Laughton an award for Best Performance of the Year, and Eddie Quillan received second honorable mention. The Writers Guild recognized Jennings, Furthman and Wilson for writing the best screenplay of the year.

       Other films about the Bounty mutiny include a 1916 Australian film entitled Mutiny on the Bounty ; a televised version entitled Bounty Court Martial , which aired on the CBS network in 1955; a 1962 M-G-M film entitled Mutiny on the Bounty , directed by Lewis Milestone and Carol Reed and starring Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films: 1961-70 ; F6.3360); and a 1984 film, entitled The Bounty , directed by Roger Donaldson and starring Mel Gibson, Anthony Hopkins and Lawrence Olivier. According to a 1940 NYT news item, Frank Lloyd announced his intention to film a follow-up to Mutiny on the Bounty , called Captain Bligh , which he planned to produce on an independent basis at Universal following his work on The Howards of Virginia . Lloyd's sequel, which was never made, was to cover Bligh's career as governor of the Australian penal colony, with Laughton recreating his Captain Bligh role. According to 1945 and 1946 HR news items, Charles Nordoff wrote a novel length sequel to the Fletcher Christian story, which was to be produced by Carey Wilson and have Clark Gable reprise his role as Christian. The sequel, which was never produced, was to take Christian back to England and to South America. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   25 Sep 34   p. 3.
Daily Variety   1-Mar-35   
Daily Variety   10 May 35   p. 1.
Daily Variety   26 Jul 35   p. 1.
Daily Variety   28 Oct 35   p. 3.
Daily Variety   13 Dec 35   p. 1.
Film Daily   1 Nov 35   p. 7.
Hollywood   1 Sep 35   p. 25.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Nov 34   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Jan 35   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Feb 35   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Apr 35   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Apr 35   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Apr 35   p. 2, 4
Hollywood Reporter   10 Apr 35   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Apr 35   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Apr 35   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   4 May 35   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   8 May 35   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   10 May 35   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   14 May 35   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   15 May 35   p. 7, 8
Hollywood Reporter   16 May 35   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   21 May 35   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   27 May 35   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Jun 35   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Jun 35   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Jul 35   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Jul 35   p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Jul 35   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Aug 35   p. 4, 6
Hollywood Reporter   20 Aug 35   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Aug 35   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Sep 35   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Oct 35   p. 1, 3
Hollywood Reporter   22 Nov 35   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Nov 35   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Jan 37   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Oct 39   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Aug 45   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Apr 46   p. 18.
Motion Picture Daily   29 Oct 35   p. 5.
Motion Picture Herald   28 Sep 35   pp. 346-47.
MPSI   1 Feb 35   p. 17.
MPSI   1 Jan 37   p. 7.
New York Times   14-Apr-35   
New York Times   3 Nov 35   p. 4.
New York Times   9 Nov 35   p. 19.
New York Times   17 Nov 35   p. 5.
New York Times   10-May-36   
New York Times   26 Jul 36   p. 4.
New York Times   9-May-37   
New York Times   26-May-40   
Time   11 Nov 35   p. 3.
Variety   13 Nov 35   p. 16.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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