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Information about 1935 MGM Mutiny on the Bounty film

Frank Lloyd (1888-1960), the director of Mutiny on the Bounty, personally bought the movie rights to the Nordhoff and Hall Bounty trilogy. His terms included a clause that transfer of these rights to any studio required that he would direct the film.

At first, MGM was not interested in making Mutiny on the Bounty, believing that the public would not attend a film that had no love interest and made heroes out of mutineers. But Irving Thalberg convinced Lewis Mayer to make the film.

The production of Mutiny on the Bounty took almost two years and cost $2 million - the most expensive movie ever made until then. It was one of the biggest money-makers in the 1930s - grossing $4,460,000.

Oscar winner 1935 for Best Picture. Clark Gable, Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone were all nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, but lost to Victor McLaglen for his role in "The Informer." The film holds the record for the most Best Actor nominations. Director Frank Lloyd, who won the award two years before, was nominated again as Best Director. The movie was also nominated for Best Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Score. Charles Laughton won a New York Film Critic Circle Award for Best Actor.

Selected to the Library of Congress & National Film Registry as one of the greatest American films.

Clark Gable was originally against accepting the role of Fletcher Christian, believing his audience would find him effeminate in a period costume with breeches and a pigtail. He was eventually convinced by Producer Irving Thalberg to accept the role, but refused to play it with an English accent.

Clark Gable later referred to Mutiny on the Bounty as one of his favorite films, noting: was history, a story about the struggle of real men, without the usual load of cinema romance. Prior to the release of the film, Gable went on a cross-country personal appearance tour. Women rioted in every city in which he appeared. Clark lost handkerchiefs, ties, cuff links, even his watch, when fans mobbed him.

Clark Gable had to shave off his trademark moustache for this film for historical accuracy. Moustaches were not allowed in the British Navy during the time the story takes place.

In choosing the actor to play Captain Bligh, Laughton was not the first choice. Shockingly, the role almost went to Wallace Beery, before he was deemed too American!

Charles Laughton, who portrayed William Bligh, was in reality terrified of the ocean and was violently seasick throughout most of the filming. Laughton, at his own expense, had a Saville Row tailor make the uniform for him that he wore as Bligh. The tailor had the original measurements taken for Bligh’s uniform almost 150 years before, as well as the bills and receipts the company issued for Bligh’s account. Laughton also located the original hatmaker who had made Bligh’s naval tricorn hat, so he was assured that the hat he wore for the film was authentic.

Laughton and Gable disliked each other intensely and life imitated art as the tension between them mirrored the tension between Bligh and Christian. They were in agreement only on one thing: their antagonism towards the film's director Frank Lloyd.

Laughton was put off by Gable's handsome appearance due to his own feelings that he was himself ugly. Laughton played many scenes without looking at Gable. Gable detested Laughton's (secret) homosexuality. Frank Lloyd and Irving Thalberg had to soothe the egos of both men just to keep filming going. Thalberg was not sorry for the disruption between the two, however, as it fueled an intensity in their scenes that was absolutely electric.

MGM wanted Cary Grant to play Byam, but Grant was under contract to Paramount, who refused to release him. Thalberg tehn offered the role to Robert Montgomery, who declined it. Franchot Tone played Byam, and was nominated for an Academy Award.

Actor James Cagney was sailing his boat off of Catalina Island, California, and passed the area where the film's crew was shooting aboard the H.M.S. Bounty replica. Cagney called to director Frank Lloyd, an old friend, and said that he was on vacation and could use a couple of bucks, and asked if Lloyd had any work for him. Lloyd put him into a sailor's uniform and gave him a fake moustache and sideburns, and Cagney spent the rest of the day playing a sailor aboard H.M.S. Bounty.

British actor David Niven also appears as a (uncredited) cameo extra in the film.

Singer Dick Haymes started his career doing stunt work and playing an extra. Haymes was an excellent swimmer and used this ability to good effect in Mutiny on the Bounty. Haymes recalled, "I did the diving from 75 feet up on the mast. The director (Frank Lloyd) said, 'Do it a third time,' so I told him 'Nuts ... the second time was good enough!'"

Sea Scouts J. Albright, S. Boyd, E.E. Lord from S.S.S. Viking of Long Beach, CA at Isthmus Catalina Island while filming Mutiny on the Bounty (June 1935) - this launch is seen in the Portsmouth Harbour scene

Marine Artist Arthur Beaumont painted backdrops for the film set.

During the filming, an erroneous report went out that the H.M.S. Bounty replica vessel had sunk off Catalina, with news outlets reporting that both Gable and Laughton were lost. What actually occurred was that two technicians were nearly lost when the 28 foot model of H.M.S. Bounty used for special effects was blown out to sea after being separated from its tow. The vessel was adrift for two days before being found by a search party.

On July 25, 1935 a 95.6 ft. x 34.4 ft. flat bottomed barge fitted up to resemble HMS Pandora (very likely for the scene where Pandora is wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef?) was being towed back to Adams cove, San Miguel Island, after the completion of shooting. A blast of wind struck the barge near Point Bennett, San Miguel Island, and the vessel capsized causing the 75 filmcrew onboard to be thrown into the water before it sunk. Second unit assistant cameraman Glenn Strong tragicly drowned while trying to retrieve a camera mounted on the vessel's superstructure. $50,000 of vital equipment was lost with the barge.

While most scenes onboard H.M.S. Bounty and HMS Pandora were shot onbaord the vessels at sea, the scenes of Bligh and his crew in the open longboat were shot in a tank at MGM on the mainland.

A map of Catalina Island greatly resembles Tahiti but is it's mirror image. Both Tahiti and Catalina resemble a large and a small island joined by a narrow istmus. But, while Tahiti is a craggy volcanic island, Catalina is geologically older and has rounded hills.

Most exterior photography for Mutiny on the Bounty was filmed off the California coast on the island of Catalina (at what is called the Isthmus or Two Harbours). Here the narrow istmus of the island is pinched by nature. One side of this "pinch" was redesigned so it resembled the tropical lushness of Tahiti, complete with fishing village and palm trees. The other side had a waterfront built on it that reproduced the harbourside of 18th century Portsmouth, England. The cast and crew lived in barracks and bungalows on Catalina for four months during shooting. The film left its mark on present day Two Harbors as its South Sea look originates from this period. Many of the houses are said to have originally been built either as sets or crew accomodation.The sets were later utilized as the basis for a complete house. A few scenes were also filmed on nearby San Miguel Island. There are said to be palm trees still there that were planted near the beach for the film.

The narrow istmus area at Two Harbours.

The Monterey County Film Commission reports that scenes were filmed in Monterey Harbour aboard the ships Pandora and Bounty

Much background footage was actually filmed in Tahitian villages. The film's trailer speaks of "two expeditions to the South Seas". And the participation of 5,000 "Native" extras from 6 villages. 

Some sources erroneously list Pitcairn Island as a location site for the film. The filmcrew did not visit the island.

1935 Bounty Trailer

There seem to be many other replica vessels in the "Portsmouth" scenes. Flags are flying on them and people can be seen moving about on their decks. The scene appears to have been shot at Long Beach.

The Balclutha (the very large sailing vessel now restored and moored near downtown San Francisco) also appeared in the crowded Portsmouth Harbour scene.

During the "flogging through the fleet scene" in Portsmouth we see the Pandora and the Bounty replicas in the background and we are onboard yet another vessel!

James Curtis Havens was Marine Director of the Gable Mutiny on the Bounty film and Second Unit Director of the Brando Mutiny on the Bounty film.

"Byams" wife (and chief Hitihiti's daughter) in the 1935 film is the actress Movita Castaneda. She was later married (4 June 1960 - 1968) to Marlon Brando who was Christian in the 1962 remake! They have two children son Miko and daughter Rebecca. Brando thereafter married the actress Tarita, who portrayed Christian's wife Miamiti in the 1962 Mutiny on the Bounty in which he portrayed Christian !

The tragic sinking of the barge used to portray the deck of HMS Pandora, offers an explanation for the sighting of a "Spanish cannon" on the beach of San Miguel Island by a William B. Harper in 1954.The movie set featured several muzzle loading cannon. While authentic cannon do not float very well, and are unlikely to wash up on a beach, the same is not true of their movie counterparts, which are often made of wood. The cannon, or prop, has not since been located.

An MGM poster which announced a ship modeling contest in connection with the release of the 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty -- $1000 for the best model of H.M.S.Bounty - was recently (December 2002) found in Washington State USA. Most of the poster (aprox. 24" x 36") consisted of white on blue plans of the ship drawn by the studio. It is not known who won this contest.


Released: 1935
Colour: Black & White
Length:132 minutes
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Director: Frank Lloyd
Producer: Albert Lewin, Irving Thalberg (uncredited)
Screenplay: Talbot Jennings, Jules Furthman, Carey Wilson, based upon the novel by Charles Nordhoff & James Norman Hall
Cinematography: Arthur Edeson
Editor: Margaret Booth
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Arnold Gillespie
Music: Walter Jermann, Gus Kahn, & Bronislau Kaper (song "Love Song of Tahiti'" all uncredited), Herbert Stothart
Cast: Charles Laughton (Capt. William Bligh), Clark Gable (Lt. Fletcher Christian Master's Mate), Franchot Tone (Midshipman Roger Byam), Herbert Mundin (Smith, Ship's Steward), Eddie Quillan (Seaman Thomas Ellison), Dudley Digges (Bachus - the Doctor), Henry Stephenson (Sir Joseph Banks), Donald Crisp (Burkitt), Movita Castaneda (Tehani), Mamo Clark (Maimiti), William Bainbridge (Chief Hitihiti), Spring Byington (Mrs. Byam).

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