Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

Director: Frank Lloyd

Starring: Charles Laughton, Clark Gable, Frachot Tone

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Clark Gable as the daring mutineer in the screen's most exciting adventure story!

Plot: Fletcher Christian successfully leads a revolt against the ruthless Captain Bligh on the HMS Bounty. However, Bligh returns one year later, hell bent on avenging his captors.

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My Rating: 8/10

Would I watch it again? Yup, but not before seeing the '62 version with Brando

This is a great Saturday afternoon flick and that's how I watched it, on a rainy Saturday afternoon-turning-into-evening. Don't be put off by the 132 minute run time. They make every bit of use out of it. There is a lot of movie here and it's fun all the way through.

Pirate movies and sea adventure films are a good time for me. I played pirates as a child like most kids and wanted to be one for the longest time, saying "Yarrr" all the time and dreaming of sailing the seven seas in search of gold. As the years went by it became more about gold and women but the adventurous nature of the escapism these films offered didn't change for me. MotB is not a pirate movie but most of the film is at sea or on a tropical paradise and that's enough for me.

It's a funny thing about Laughton as Captain Bligh. He's often too over-the-top with his sourpuss expressions, milking them for all they're worth. But then when he's being a hardass and brings his cruelty to the forefront, he's a tremendously effective actor. You just have to take the bad with the good and fortunately it's mostly good. How about this acerbic moment?

Bligh: What's your name?

Seaman Ellison: Thomas Ellison, sir. Pressed into service. I've got a wife, a baby!
Bligh: I asked your name, not the history of your misfortunes.

I remember seeing Gable for the first time in a movie when I watched GONE WITH THE WIND (1939). I recall liking the movie OK but when he showed up the game had changed and now it was exciting. Since then I've been hooked on Gable. He's among the rare breed of actors that was a great movie star that could really act...when he wanted to. Here, he's the glue that holds everything together. He's the one that compels you to care and it's in some of his confrontations with Bligh that really bring out the tension. Two unstoppable forces colliding as it were.

I usually can't stand American actors playing Brits with their American accent but with Gable it doesn't call attention to itself. Perhaps it's due to his gruff, commanding voice. For Eddie Quillan as a British sailor shanghai'd for service (shown above in dialogue with Bligh), it's irritating to the extreme.

Tone is good, as well and he reminded me of Trevor Howard who I thought I was watching until I looked at the credits again. On a funny side note, it's Howard who ends up playing Bligh in the '62 remake.

AND THE COOLEST THING EVER IS...James Cagney shows up as an extra!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It turns out that Cagney was sailing his boat off of Catalina Island where they were filming. Cagney was friends with Lloyd, the director, said he could use a couple of bucks and asked if they had any work for him. Sure as shit, they used him as an extra playing a sailor during the mutiny scene.

That's him on the far right with his back turned

Lookie! There he is again!

I love this man's work. He's my favorite actor by a long shot for so many reasons, one of which is that he treated his craft with respect for the art and the fans and he wasn't concerned about the Hollywood machine, the parties, fame and so forth. He did what he wanted and the way he wanted to do it - no exceptions. Movie goers paid good money for the tickets and he wanted to see to it that he did his best to give them their money's worth - Every. Single. Time!

Another interesting tidbit...Gable and Laughton were cast because it was felt that they would not get along AT ALL since Gable was a notorious homophobe and Laughton was a homosexual. Regardless of if that's true or not, their pairing works beautifully and elevates the picture as a result. A great show for a Saturday afternoon or anytime you've got a couple of hours to kill.

And here's something I didn't know. Erica points out that the actors playing the Polynesians were all Mexican! Ahahahahaha. Stupid Hollywood. I guess all of the caucasion extras were too busy playing American Indians and weren't available. Stupid Hollywood.


  1. You forgot to mention the other awesome trivia tidbit about this movie! The actors playing the "Polynesians"? They were all Mexicans.

  2. "Regardless of if that's true or not"

    My opinion is that it was not. This is the trouble when some people writes books about film history with a present-time mindset. For an actor, even more a film actor, and more an actor, or star, playing lead parts, being a "flamboyant homosexual" in the 30s wasn't possible. If you didn't want to hide or mask the fact that you were gay then, you'd loose your job. Take, for instance, the case of William Haynes.

    Hence, and in short, Laughton was gay, but not openly so (the fact wasn't known by the public until Laughton's widow talked it about it in a book years after Charles' death). Of course, some his good, close friends were aware, and possibly those working with him were able to notice some details. Ian Wolfe, for instance, noticed that Laughton and a masseur who often accompanyed him to the set were, hum, rather friendly. Maybe Gable noticed it, too.

    At any rate, and as (gay) writer (and actor) Simon Callow put it rather well, the enmity behind-the-scenes was rather a matter of different acting/working styles, and a bit of jealousy between leading men, too. However, this enmity (which, yes, worked wonders on the final onscreen results) seemed to have mellowed by the end of shooting, according to some anecdotes told by Elsa Lanchester.

  3. I agree. I see that he couldn't publicly be a known homosexual but to those close to him and those he worked with it was known or at least highly suspected by film crews and such. That's interesting about their working relationship having mellowed by the end. Viva la Bride of Frankenstein! LOL.