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Mutiny on the Bounty

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Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), starring Charles Laughton, Clark Gable
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Synopsis of Mutiny on the Bounty

Academy Award winner Clark Gable stars as the first mate who leads his ship’s exploited and abused crew in the Mutiny on the Bounty.

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), starring Charles Laughton, Clark Gable

Lt. Fletcher Christian: When you’re back in England with the fleet again, you’ll hear the hue and cry against me. From now on they’ll spell mutiny with my name.

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Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) (DVD)

Academy Award winner Clark Gable stars as the first mate who leads his ship’s exploited and abused crew in the Mutiny on the Bounty.The South Pacific, 1789. On the far side of the Earth from their home inEngland, the crew of the H.M.S. Bounty suffers under the sadisticleadership of its captain, William Bligh (Academy Award winner CharlesLaughton). Months from its return to port, the ship’s first mate,Fletcher Christian (Gable), realizes that many of the crewmembers willnot survive the voyage unless he takes control of the ship. But hisdecision to mutiny means that none of the crew can ever return home inthis enduring, true adventure.

[Byam enters the courtroom and sees that the midshipman’s dirk on the table points toward him; he knows that he has been condemned to death]
Lord Hood: Have you anything to say before the sentence of this court is passed upon you?
[long pause]
Byam: Milord, much as I desire to live, I’m not afraid to die. Since I first sailed on the Bounty over four years ago, I’ve know how men can be made to suffer worse things than death, cruelly, beyond duty, beyond necessity.[turns to Captain Bligh] Captain Bligh, you’ve told your story of mutiny on the Bounty, how men plotted against you, seized your ship, cast you adrift in an open boat, a great venture in science brought to nothing, two British ships lost. But there’s another story, Captain Bligh, of ten cocoanuts and two cheeses. A story of a man who robbed his seamen, cursed them, flogged them, not to punish but to break their spirit. A story of greed and tyranny, and of anger against it, of what it cost.
[turns to Lord Hood]
Byam: One man, milord, would not endure such tyranny.
[turns again to Captain Bligh]
Byam: That’s why you hounded him. That’s why you hate him, hate his friends. And that’s why you’re beaten. Fletcher Christian’s still free.
[back to Lord Hood]
Byam: Christian lost, too, milord. God knows he’s judged himself more harshly than you could judge him.
[turns to Fletcher Christian’s father]
Byam: I say to his father, “He was my friend. No finer man ever lived.”
[addresses the court again]
Byam: I don’t try to justify his crime, his mutiny, but I condemn the tyranny that drove ‘im to it. I don’t speak here for myself alone or for these men you condemn. I speak in their names, in Fletcher Christian’s name, for all men at sea. These men don’t ask for comfort. They don’t ask for safety. If they could speak to you they’d say, “Let us choose to do our duty willingly, not the choice of a slave, but the choice of free Englishmen.” They ask only the freedom that England expects for every man. If one man among you believe that – *one man* – he could command the fleets of England, He could sweep the seas for England. If he called his men to their duty not by flaying their backs, but by lifting their hearts… their… That’s all.

Editorial review of Mutiny on the Bounty courtesy of

The highlight of Mutiny on the Bounty is undoubtedly Charles Laughton’s bracingly evil performance as Captain Bligh, a man so mean that he insists on having a dead sailor flogged. Bligh pushes his men beyond physical endurance, slashes their rations for his own profit, and drastically cuts down their frolicking time with scantily clad Tahitians. Finally, the moment everyone has been waiting for arrives: first mate Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable) hits his limit and all hell breaks loose.

Gable holds doggedly onto his American accent through the entire movie, but in a way it makes Christian come off as a Regular Guy in opposition to Bligh’s institutionalized cruelty. Once you get past the hurdle of his diphthongs, Gable makes an excellent Fletcher Christian–strong, fair, and noble, and he effectively conveys the struggle of a man who loathes the idea of mutiny but can’t stand see his men mistreated.

And Charles Laughton is just superb. His Bligh is thoroughly appalling, yes, but it’s far from a one-note performance–when he is cast adrift on the open sea in a lifeboat and tries to make an impossible journey to land, you can’t help but root for himMutiny on the Bounty won the 1935 Academy Award for Best Picture and picked up a Leading Actor nomination for each of its male leads. Check it out or be tied to the mizzenmast. –Ali Davis

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