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Mutiny on the Bounty is a 1935 film starring Charles Laughton and Clark Gable, and directed by Frank Lloyd based on the Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall novel Mutiny on the Bounty.

The film was one of the biggest hits of its time and remains a classic today and, although its historical accuracy has been seriously questioned (inevitable as it is based in a novel about the facts, not the facts themselves) it is considered by film critics to be the best film inspired by the mutiny.


The movie chronicles the real-life mutiny aboard the Bounty led by Fletcher Christian against the ship's captain, William Bligh. Like the novel, it portrays Captain Bligh as an abusive villain whose cruelty towards the crew and most of the officers leads Christian to mutiny. It contains scenes of the trials of those who had been put off the ship on the launch. It also deals with the aftermath.

Historical inaccuracies

The movie does contain a few historical inaccuracies. Captain Bligh was never on board HMS Pandoramarker, nor was he present at the trial of the mutineers who stayed on Tahitimarker. At the time he was halfway around the world on a second voyage for breadfruit plants. Fletcher Christian's father had died many years before Christian's travels on board the Bounty—the movie shows the elder Christian at the trial. It should be noted though, that the movie was always presented as an adaptation of the Nordhoff and Hall trilogy, which already differed from the actual story of the mutiny.

Bligh is depicted as a brutal, sadistic disciplinarian. Particular episodes include a keelhauling and flogging a dead man. Neither of these happened. Keelhauling was used rarely, if at all, and had been abandoned long before Bligh's time. Indeed the meticulous record of the Bounty's log reveals that the flogging rate was lower than the average for that time. Prior to the Mutiny the Bounty had only two deaths—one seaman died of scurvy (not keelhauling) and the ship's surgeon died apparently of drink and indolence and not as a result of abuse by Bligh. Likewise the movie shows the mutineers taking over the ship only after killing several loyal crewmen when in fact none died—although one crewman came very close to shooting Bligh until stopped by Christian. Lastly Christian is shown being inspired to take over the ship after several crewmen have unjustly been put into irons by Bligh; this is fictional license.

However, some historically accurate aspects exist in the film. Clark Gable reluctantly had to shave off his famous moustache because the sailors in the Royal Navy in the eighteenth century had to be clean-shaven.

In the final scene of the film Gable gives a rousing speech to his fellow mutineers speaking of creating a perfect society of free men on Pitcairnmarker away from Bligh and the Navy. The reality was very different. Free from the restraints of Naval discipline the mutineers proved incapable of self-government. Pitcairn degenerated into a true hell on earth of drunkenness, rape and ultimately murder. Apart from John Adams and Ned Young all the mutineers perished, most of them by violence. Whether the film intended the irony is not known.


Filming locations

Hollywood star James Cagney (then on a hiatus from Warner Bros. during a contract dispute) and future stars David Niven and Dick Haymes were uncredited extras in the movie.

Awards and honors

Academy Awards

This film is, as of 2008, the last Best Picture winner to win in no other category.

Award Nominee Won
Outstanding Production Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
(Irving Thalberg and Albert Lewin producers)
Best Director Frank Lloyd John FordThe Informer
Best Actor Clark Gable Victor McLaglenThe Informer
Charles Laughton
Franchot Tone
Best Writing, Screenplay Jules Furthman, Talbot Jennings and Carey Wilson Dudley NicholsThe Informer
Best Music, Scoring Nat W. Finston and Herbert Stothart
("Love Song of Tahiti" written by Walter Jurmann, uncredited)
Max SteinerThe Informer
Best Film Editing Margaret Booth Ralph DawsonA Midsummer Night's Dream

Awards the film missed out on.

Other honors

American Film Institute recognition


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A 1962 three-hours-plus widescreen Technicolor remake, starring Marlon Brando as Fletcher Christian and Trevor Howard as Captain Bligh, was a disaster both critically and financially at the time, but has come to be reevaluated by critics. In 1984, Mel Gibson played Christian opposite Anthony Hopkins as Bligh in a lavish remake called The Bounty. This final version, which gives a far more sympathetic view of Bligh, is considered to be the closest to historical events.

The 1935 version was itself not the first film account of the mutiny. In 1933, an Australian film entitled In the Wake of the Bounty, with the then-unknown Errol Flynn as Fletcher Christian, was released, but was not successful and received few bookings outside of Australia.


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