Friday’s Favorite Flix – Mutiny on the Bounty
Put your history books down for a moment and we'll watch the original black & white version of a film that while based on a historical event, is a bit loose when it comes to disseminating the facts. This week's Friday's Favorite Flix is Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)'s 1935 award-winning (Oscar for Best Picture) film, “Mutiny on the Bounty.” Produced and directed by Frank Lloyd, “Mutiny on the Bounty” is a film that lifts its story above what it was to begin with and brings forth top-notch performances by the cast (three Oscar nominations for Best Actor) and exceptional work by the crew (Oscar nominations for Directing, Screenplay, Editing and Score).
“Mutiny on the Bounty” tells the tale of HMS (HM Armed Vessel) Bounty. Bounty was a small (90 feet with 44 officers and crew plus two civilian botanists) three-masted sailing ship purchased by England to transport Breadfruit plants from Tahiti to the West Indies to feed the slave labor there.
Captained by Commanding Lieutenant William Bligh (played by Charles Laughton), the Bounty set sail from England in October, 1787, trying to make for Tahiti around Cape Horn. Bad weather forced Bligh to turn the ship eastward to sail around the Cape of Good Hope. Bounty finally made Tahiti in October 1788. The ship stayed in Tahiti until April, 1789 to nurture the breadfruit the crew acquired there until it could be safely transported.
Friday’s Favorite Flix are descriptions of those movies we love – We either own them or when channel surfing, we’ll stop when we find them and settle down to watch.
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After leaving Tahiti for the West Indies, the crew, led by Fletcher Christian (played by Clark Gable) mutinied and set Bligh along with most of his loyalists adrift in the ship's boat to make their own way. In an amazing feat of seamanship, Bligh and crew did make their way to civilization at Timor some 3,500 nautical miles (more than 4,000 miles) away. Christian and the Bounty headed back to Tahiti and later to Pitcairn Island, East of Tahiti.
History Versus Motion Pictures
I won't go into details in case you haven't seen the film yet. I will say that the movie does track pretty well with the historical record. As you would expect from a motion picture, “Mutiny on the Bounty” contains some slight inaccuracies that I'm guessing were caused by story pacing. For example, Christian didn't start out being Bligh's second in command. And Midshipman Byam (played by Franchot Tone) is an amalgamation of the seven seamen (some were mutineers and some were loyalists) that were brought to court martial and acquitted (three of the crew were hanged).
The film leaves the history to the history books when personal motivations are involved. In the film, Captain Bligh is made out to be a paranoid, blood-thirsty tyrant of the worst magnitude. I can't stress this enough – He is pure evil to his crew. If the historians are to believed, Bligh wasn't evil and didn't start out being a tyrant until towards the end of Bounty's stay in Tahiti.
According to the historians, Bligh was fanatical about cleanliness and order aboard his ship, but he wasn't a mean taskmaster. All was well with Captain and crew until Tahiti. The island was a paradise where the crew had very light duty and could embrace a hedonistic lifestyle. The slovenly living and neglect got to Bligh and he started verbally taking it out on his men and in particular, Christian.
The film would have you believe that the mutiny was caused by Bligh's verbal and physical cruelty along with the crew's taste of the paradise they were leaving behind. The historians tell us that while Bligh's verbal abuse of the men contributed, it was mainly the crew's desire to keep the lifestyle in paradise they had grown accustomed to.
There are other inaccuracies that are too slight to mention in this kind of piece. I will say that knowing the history doesn't detract from one's enjoyment of the motion picture.
It is said, by themselves, by those in the motion picture industry, by critics and by some viewers that “Mutiny on the Bounty” brought out the best performances the actors could give. On this, I tend to agree. As for scenery and cinematography, it's all best-of-class (mostly shot on Catalina Island, California and on sound stages and in water tanks at MGM). The story is thrilling – Perhaps a bit too thrilling for young children – one scene scared the bajiminies out of me and left me with nightmares when I first saw the movie on TV when I was a very young child. The pacing is quick and the 132 minutes of superb motion picture storytelling will go by in a flash. Buy, rent or stream this movie – You won't be sorry.
About Steve Cooper
Steve Cooper is an applications software developer who also builds custom home media solutions. His interests include reading, music & movies, guitar, woodworking and motor racing.
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