8. Mutiny on the Bounty (1936)

Title: Mutiny on the Bounty

Release Date: 8 November, 1935

Oscar Ceremony: 5 March, 1936

Director: Frank Lloyd

Starring: Charles Laughton, Clark Gable & Franchot Tone

Hello again, Frank Lloyd. This is the director’s second film to win Best Picture (the first being Cavalcade). Thankfully, Mutiny on the Bounty has a bit more substance to it and is much easier to watch. That might also be because Clark Gable’s in it… I had never seen him in any movie until this project of mine, and now I’ve seen him in two movies in one week. Fun fact: this is Clark Gable’s first and last movie without a moustache.

Mutiny on the Bounty is based on a novel by the same name, which in turn is based on a real historical event. The HMS Bounty was a British Royal Navy vessel that set sail from Britain to Tahiti in 1789, with the purpose of bringing back breadfruit plants to the homeland. I know the movie is supposed to be set in 1789, but it still kind of feels like it’s just a bunch of men playing sophisticated dress-up in 1935.

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Anyways, the main three men that you need to know about on this ship are Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable), the ship’s lieutenant, Roger Byam (Franchot Tone), the midshipman, and of course William Bligh (Charles Laughton), the ship’s captain. As you may assume considering the movie’s title, Bligh is a horrible captain that the crew eventually rebels against. Just to give you an idea of how despicable he is, one of the first things that he does onboard is to order the crew to administer lashes to a dead man who had disobeyed the law, and then he forces the crew to watch the whole thing. It didn’t matter that the man was a corpse; rules are rules and anyone who disobeys the captain’s orders is to be punished no matter what. He also cuts the crew’s food rations for his own benefits, works everyone to the bone and even ties a man to a rope and slings him overboard, eventually killing him. As far as ridiculously bad captains go, Bligh is definitely somewhere at the top of the list.

Fletcher Christian, good charming man that he is, eventually cannot take anymore of these shenanigans and confronts the captain. Obviously, this doesn’t go very well or change much. The conflict is temporarily put on pause when the ship reaches Tahiti and the crew spends a few days on the island to collect the breadfruit and mingle with the beautiful Tahitian girls. Some even say they’ve fallen in love. When they have to return to the ship, the captain doesn’t let them keep the souvenirs they’ve collected. Apparently, everything  gathered on this voyage belongs to the nation, which is probably a sly way of saying he’s going to keep everything for himself. Other cruel mishaps ensue, and eventually the crew, led by Christian, organizes a mutiny. I have to tell you that this only happens about one hour and a half into the movie, so I’ve already summarized a large chunk of it for you. I don’t know how I feel about mutinies, but I’m telling you that this one seemed really necessary. Kudos to the actor playing the captain for doing such a good job at making us hate him.

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Surprisingly, a bunch of the men actually take his side! It’s so disappointing. I guess this is what Hillary supporters felt like when Donald Trump got elected. To be fair though, apparently this movie isn’t completely historically accurate (shocker); it portrays the captain as more evil than he actually was in real life. Still, in the context of this movie’s version of the story, I don’t understand who would take his side. He has literally wronged every single man on that ship.

On top of that, Christian doesn’t even decide to kill him or send him overboard; he sends him off on a boat with food and water supplies. Am I the only one who thinks he lets him off the hook WAY too easily? Captain Bligh vows to return someday and make sure every single man who went against him will be prosecuted for unjust mutiny. Christian simply says: “I’ll take my chance against the law. You’ll take yours against the sea.” That’s it!? I would not have taken that chance.

I guess this is where I stop with the plot summary before I actually spoil the whole movie. I don’t have all that much to add. I have to admit that this movie was pretty good, but it’s just not my style. Just to give you an idea, one of the highlights for me was when a crew member said they were headed North-West and I immediately remembered just how dumb Kim Kardashian and Kanye West were when naming their child. I also thought that Clark Gable gave out serious Mel Gibson vibes at certain points throughout the film, only to realize that there was a 1984 remake starring the actual Mel Gibson. How weird is that? I swear I didn’t know. Finally, upon arriving on an island, one of the crew members says “You see one island, you’ve seen them all,” which is pretty much what I felt like about churches when I travelled throughout Europe as a kid. Who says this movie isn’t relatable?

On a more serious note, Mutiny on the Bounty brought up some serious ethical issues. When I say serious ethical issues, I mean SERIOUS ethical issues, not like the ones Cimarron proudly thought it portrayed. It was a good movie with excellent performances, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommended to people who are interested by the story.

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