Friday, August 9, 2013

Mutiny On The Bounty (Best Picture 1935)

I must have seen this movie before, or it must have been parodied or somehow part of popular culture because as soon as I heard Charles Laughton yelling, "Mis-tuh Christian!" I had an immediate sense of having heard it before.

I can imagine MGM executives casting this film: Clark Gable had just won Best Actor last year, and Charles Laughton had won in 1932. "Let's put them together against each other and watch the sparks fly!" Whoever that casting director was, he was right. These two actors are by far the best part of this film. The third so-called lead in the film is an actor I have never heard of, Franchot Turot as Ensign Byam. After watching the movie I was not surprised that I didn't know him! In a role that should have been the lynchpin between the two, Turot has little real acting (or re-acting) to do here; he has one scene at his court-martial where he emotes but other than that his job is to be a victim of circumstance. He's more of a cypher than a lynchpin, and the script is the worst for this. By the way, I recently read a biography of Cary Grant that said he was in consideration to get this part. I would have liked to have seen that!
If you have never seen this film then I recommend it for the beautiful scenery and the dramatic tension between Laughton and Gable. The mutiny does not occur until ninety minutes into the film, so by that time the emotions and tension have been ratcheted up so high that I was on pins and needles. "Is *this* going to set it off? Is *that*?" Therefore, when the mutiny actually does come it is almost anti-climactic. The eventual reason for the mutiny is, I guess, just the straw that breaks the camel's back, but I really did expect some grand gesture of antagonism or malice to light the embers. Because the actual cause is just one more order of Captain Bligh's, the mutineers do come off somewhat as whiny malcontents; the line between Bligh and the mutineers is not black-and-white, and the moral high-ground that Mr. Christian was hoping to maintain is lost as well. Perhaps that was the whole point, but if so the incidents were not staged to make the audience fully understand that intent. As it is presented just seemed clumsily done.
However, the film works as well as it does because of its story, and not in the specific details. For example, we never see what eventually happens to Captain Bligh. He makes it back to civilization, but then disappears from the story. His character appears to remain unchanged by his experiences, although the strong impression is that the Royal Navy does not approve of him. Mr. Christian stays in Tahiti, apparently a prisoner in paradise, although in real-life the crew kidnapped Tahitian women and enslaved Tahitian men, some of whom later murder Christian. And Byam returns to duty in His Majesty's Navy, somehow fully vindicated or pardoned by His Majesty. I think this is the only time that a film had all of its leads nominated for Lead Actor only to have none of them win (Victor McLaglen won for The Informer). This is definitely another Best Picture that seems to have received the award for the sum of its whole and not for its individual parts. 
Another point in its favor was its photography. Only twice in the whole film did I notice scenes that were obviously not filmed at sea. The vast majority of the motion picture appeared to have been filmed on a body of water on a ship made up to be The Bounty. Whether this was actually filmed off the coast of Los Angeles, Hawaii, or Tahiti doesn't really matter: it was filmed on a ship on a body of water. In fact, a few times I well imagined the feeling of claustrophobia and sea-sickness that must have plagued the actual crew. I don't know if the movie crew actually went to Tahiti, but there are scenes filmed on or around a coast somewhere; I surmise Hawaii was asked to play the part. Either way, although some scenes set in huts or in the jungle are obviously on Hollywood sound-stages, some of the scenes definitely were filmed at some outside location that was *not* Los Angeles. That adds to the feeling of "wonder" of the film and perhaps had something to do with it winning.
The "set" of The Bounty was awesome

Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)
*Academy Award Best Picture 1935*
Produced by Irving Thalberg
Directed by Frank Lloyd
Screenplay by Jules Furthman, Talbot Jennings, & Carey Wilson 

This Trailer actually shows a lot of what I was talking about....
the wonderful set, the exotic locations, the great acting....

Also Nominated:
(in alphabetical order)
Alice Adams
Broadway Melody 1936
Captain Blood
David Copperfield
The Informer
Lives Of A Bengal Lancer
Midsummer Night's Dream
Les Miserables
Naughty Marietta
Ruggles of Red Gap
Top Hat
I'm not sure why, but this year *again* there were twelve films nominated. This is the all-time record, shared by 1934. After this year and for ten years thereafter ten films is the standard number of nominees. It is not until 1944 that the field is whittled down to five, which is the number I always assumed it had been set at. Still, I only recognize a few of these...Captain Blood features Errol Flynn, but I've never seen it. Midsummer Night's Dream features a young Mickey Rooney as Pip, but I don't think I've seen all of that the whole way through, either. Top Hat is another Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie. The Informer I know by name because its lead, Victor McLaglen, and its director, John Ford, both won Academy Awards. The others I don't know at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment