Friday, February 26, 2021

The Mutiny on the "HMAV (His Majesty's Armed Vessel) Bounty" in Motion Pictures

On April 28, 1789, a "Mutiny", took place onboard "HMAV (His Majesty's Armed Vessel) Bounty"!

Mutinies, of different sizes, occurred on both British and American ships frequently, because of the conditions put upon their "Impressed Crews". Sometimes referred too, by the colorful name of having been, "Shanghighed", by both nations.

That April, 1789,  mutiny should have become forgotten within British Royal Naval History, and it would have, if a trilogy of novels by two American authors hadn't been written.

To give my reader and example of why British Royal Naval History would have overtaken the events on "HMAV Bounty". Just eight years later, two other Royal Navy mutinies occurred. Both were over the conditions imposed upon "Able-bodied Seamen". The first was within the English Channel at the "Spithead" anchorage in Hampshire, near Portsmouth. It started on April 16, 1797 and lasted until May 15th. The second mutiny was located at the "Nore" anchorage, on the Thames Estuary, and took place during May, 1797. 

Both mutinies formed one of the two sources for the unfinished novella, "Billy Budd", by American author Herman Melville. The novella was published after Melville's death in 1891. In it, "Able-bodied Seaman Billy Budd" is impressed, by being removed from a British merchant ship, into service onboard the Royal Navy's ship, "Bellipotent". Onboard, "Billy" accidently kills the tyrannical master-at-arms, "Claggart", and knowing that "Budd" is innocent of any intent to kill. The ship's Captain, under "The Mutiny Law", has "Billy Budd" hung. The name of "Billy Budd's" merchant ship was the "Rights-of-Man".

The second source for Melville's novella, pertained to the treatment of "Able-bodied Seamen" on United States merchant ships. The, 1840, memoir was written by Richard Henry Dana, Jr., based upon the two American merchant ship he served upon, and entitled, "Two Years Before the Mast". n. 


Above the 1790 painting of the mutiny by Robert Dodd.

The "HMAV Bounty" wasn't the "Bounty" when it was built in 1784. She was christened "Bethia" and was a "Collier", or merchant Navy bulk cargo ship. In May, 1787, the Royal Navy purchased the "Bethia" and renamed her. The ship was 91 feet long over all and at its widest point 25 feet, had three-masts, and 230 tons of cargo space. 

The armament consisted of four short four-pounder carriage guns, and--.

Ten half-pounder swivel guns.

Along with small arms and muskets.

As the "HMAV Bounty" was commissioned as a "Cutter", the smallest category of a British warship, by the Admiralty. The Commanding Officer would not have the normal command rank of a "Post-Captain", but  only be a "Royal Navy Lieutenant". While, on-board, to maintain discipline, the "Lieutenant" would be referred to as "Captain" by the crew. However, the "Lieutenant/Captain" would be the only "Royal Navy Commissioned Officer" on the "Bounty" and it would be up to the him to determine who would be his other "Temporary Officers". 

Because the "Bounty" was a "Cutter", there would be no "Marine Detachment" to enforce the "Captain's" authority. Thereby, putting all authority to enforce discipline under directly in the hands of "Lieutenant William Bligh" as he saw fit.

Who Was Captain Bligh?

William Bligh was born on September 9, 1754, in Plymouth, Devon, England.

At the age of seven, William Bligh, was signed to the Royal Navy. A custom for "Young Gentlemen" who planned to enter the Royal Navy. In 1770, sixteen years old, Bligh set sail as an "Able-bodied Seaman", on-board "HMS Hunter", because there were no billets for a "Midshipman" at that time. The following year, a midshipman post opened on the "Hunter" and William Bligh was assigned to it.

In 1776, William Bligh was selected for the position of "Sailing Master" on the "HMS Resolution" with Captain James Cook. This was Cook's third voyage to the Pacific Ocean and during it, he was killed. In 1780, William Bligh and the "HMS Resolution" returned to England and the "Sailing Master" was able to tell the tale of Cook's final voyage.

On February 4, 1781, William Bligh married Elizabeth Betham, the daughter of a customs collector on the Isle of Man. They would have seven children. A few days after their wedding, William was promoted to "Master (Senior Warrant Officer)" and was responsible for the navigation of "HMS Belle Poule". On August 5, 1781, "HMS Belle Poule", under Vice Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, was involved in the "Battle of Dogger" during the "Fourth Anglo-Dutch War". For perspective. there was still two years remaining in the "American Revolutionary War". Which the British were fighting at the same time.

As a result of the "Battle of Dogger", William Bligh, was promoted to "Lieutenant". For the next eighteen months he was assigned to several ships.

Between 1783 and 1787, William Bligh, temporarily left the Royal Navy and served as a full "Captain" in the "Merchant Service". This move was forced on him. because new promotions within the Royal Navy had become very sparse. England had been at war with France during the "American Revolutionary War" and too many promotions had taken place, but now, in peace, the Royal Navy had too many officers.

Then, on August 16, 1787, William Bligh accepted command of "HMAV Bounty" as a Royal Navy Lieutenant. It should be pointed out that Bligh, at the time, was a full "Captain" of the "Merchant Ship Britannia".

However, "Lieutenant Bligh", wanted a Royal Navy Career, because from a strictly financial point of view. The move from the "Britannia" to the "Bounty" had reduced his year pay from 500 British Pounds a year to 70 British Pounds.

Who Was the Real Fletcher Christian?

Fletcher Christian was born on September 25, 1764, in the family home called "Moorland Close", Eaglesfield, Cumberland, England. 

Unlike William Bligh, Fletcher Christian was born to wealth, his father being Charles Christian of "Moorland Close" and the "Ewanrigg Hall" estate in Dearham, Cumberland, England. Charles was an Attorney-at-Law, a descendant of the "Manx Celtic" gentry on the Isle of Man. Fletcher's mother was Ann Dixon and had also come from the gentry. Christian had two brothers, Humphrey and Judge and Law Professor Edward.

The average age for a "Cabin Boy" was twelve to fifteen years old. Fletcher was seventeen, when he became the "Ship's Boy", on the 80 gun, Royal Navy "HMS Cambridge", in March, 1782. On April 25, 1783, Fletcher Christian became a "Midshipman" on the 24 gun, "HMS Eurydice". On May 24, 1784, he was promoted to "Master's Mate". A rank that would evolve into s Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, and Senior Petty Officer in the United States Navy. Then, in June, 1785, Christian was discharged and paid off from the Royal Navy.

In 1786, Fletcher Christian applied to the "Merchant Service" and found himself servicing as an "Able-bodied Seaman" on-board the "Britannia" and would be promoted to "Second Mate". The Captain of the "Britannia", was of course, William Bligh.

In September, 1787, one month after "Royal Navy Officer, Lieutenant William Bligh", accepted command of "HMAV Bounty", "Fletcher Christian, became the ship's "Master's Mate". 

The Other Crew Members of "HMAV Bounty".

It should be noted that between Bligh and Christian, in the chain of command, were Four Warrant Officer's.

John Fryer the "Sailing Master", William Cole the "Boatswain", William Peckover the "Gunner" and William Purcell the "Carpenter". 

Also, above Christian was Thomas Huggan, the "Ship's Surgeon".

Below, Fletcher Christian were found the following other Ships Officer's and Gentlemen:

William Elphinstone was the second "Master's Mate" , Thomas Ledward the "Surgeon's Mate", the two "Midshipman" were John Hallett and Thomas Hayward and the four "Honorary Midshipman" were Peter Heywood, George Stewart, Robert Tinker and Edward "Ned" Young. While David Nelson was the "Botanist" and William Brown the "Assistant Gardner" 

The Other Ranks were:

Peter Linkletter "Quartermaster", Jim Norton "Quartermaster", George Simpson "Quartermaster's Mate", James Morrison "Boatswain's Mate", John Mills "Gunner's Mate", Charles Normon "Carpenter's Mate", Thomas McIntosh "Carpenter's Mate", Lawrence Lebogue "Sailmaker", Charles Churchill "Master-at-Arms", Joseph Coleman "Armourer", John Samuel "Captain's Clerk", John Smith "Captain's Servant", Henry Hillbrant "Cooper" the maker and repairer of barrels, Thomas Hall "Cook", Robert Lamb "Butcher", William Muspratt "Assistant Cook".

Able-bodied Seamen:

Michael Byrne or Byrn "The Musician", Thomas Burkett, Thomas Ellison, William McCoy or McKoy, Isaac Martin, John Millward, Matthew Quintal, Richard Skinner, John Adams aka: Alexander Smith, John Sumner, Matthew Thompson, James Valentine and John Williams

The "HMAV Bounty's" Voyage to Tahati, an Overview

On, October 15, 1787, "HMAV Bounty" left Depford, on the south bank of the Thames, in south-east London. Their destination was Spithead, within the English Channel, but adverse weather delayed the ship's arrival until November 4th. Where they laid at anchor awaiting orders from the Admiralty. It would be another three weeks, before they arrived.

"Captain Bligh's" orders were to sail to Tahiti, collect breadfruit plants, and bring them to the British colonies in the West Indies. This was the reason of having a Botanist and his Assistant assigned to the warship.

The ship set sail on November 28th, but the direction of the wind within the Channel caused another delay. It wasn't until December 23, 1787, before "HMAV Bounty" finally cleared Spithead and reached the open sea. There were two ways around Africa, either by the faster, but bad weather prone route of "Cape Horn", or the second, slower and safer route of the "Cape of Good Hope". "Bligh" made his choice, "Cape Horn", but weather conditions forced him to double back and go for the "Cape of Good Hope" on April 2nd.

Three things now took place:

Bligh had established a warm and working relationship with Fletcher Christian and promoted him to "Acting Lieutenant" over John Fryer. Who would normally have received that promotion, but Fryer appeared not to be upset by moving his Junior to a Senior position over him, or, apparently, were the other three Warrant Officers.

Bligh changed the normal British Navy watch system of, four hours on and fours hour off duty, to a three-watch system, which provided each crewman with eight full hours off duty to rest up! He also provided regular entertainment and music for the crew. 

Everything appeared to be fine between Bligh and the crew until Fryer reported Matthew Quintal for punishment. He demanded Quintal be flogged for "insolence and mutinous behavior" and the Able-bodied Seaman received 12 lashes. From this event forward, the good relations between Bligh and his crew started to deteriorate. 

"HMAV Bounty" continued a tension filled voyage to Tahiti

On May 24, 1788, "HMAV Bounty" anchored in False Bay in the extreme south-west of South Africa, near the Cape of Good Hope. For the next five weeks the crew made repairs caused by the bad weather and replenished the food stores. On July 1st, the ship set sail across the Indian Ocean for their next Port-of-Call, Adventure Bay, in Tasmania.

It was in Adventure Bay, that tension between the Officers and Captain Bligh began.

On land, the Captain exchanged words over how Carpenter William Purchell was cutting wood for the ship. William Bligh demanded that Purchell now follow his instructions to the letter rather than what the experienced carpenter was doing. Thereby, making it harder to use the wood for repairs and barrel making. William Purchell was refusing and Bligh threatened to cut his rations and the Carpenter, reluctantly, complied to the determent of the ship.

On October 9th, as "HMAV Bounty" was on the final leg to Tahiti. Warrant Officer John Fryer refused to sign the ship's account books, which he believed the Captain was playing with, unless Bligh gave him a certificate acknowledging Fryer competence throughout the voyage. Instead, Captain William Blight summoned the entire crew and read the "Articles of War", resulting in Fryer backing down to avoid being falsely charged.

Part of the trouble with his officers and gentlemen wasn't Bligh's fault, but that of Surgeon Huggan. Who was a drunkard and had been drinking before surgery on Able-Bodied Seaman James Valentine and the man died! To cover himself, Huggan, claimed the man had died of scurvy and the Captain now applied his own harsh dietary rules on the crew as a result. However, the crew, not knowing the facts, blamed Bligh.


"HMAV Bounty" reached Tahiti on October 26, 1788.  Fletcher Christian was put in charge of establishing a compound for the breadfruit plants. The crew developed relations with the Polynesian women and Christian specifically with "Mauatua aka: Mamiti". Whom he renamed, "Isabella", after a former girlfriend back in Cumberland.

On December 10th, Surgeon Huggan's died from his alcoholism. Now, Captain William Bligh, was accusing Lieutenant Fletcher Christian of being slack in his work and putting him down in front of both crew and Tahitians. Then, on January 5, 1789, three crewmen, Charles Churchill, John Millward and William Muspratt, deserted by taking a small boat, arms and ammunition. Muspratt had just been flogged for neglecting his duties. Searching the crewmen's belongings, a list of names, including Fletcher Christian and "Honorary Midshipman" Heywood was found in Churchill's possessions. Bligh immediately believed this was a list of those involved in the plot for the three men to escape. He was later convinced that Christian was not involved and the matter was dropped. Three weeks later and the three deserters were found, brought before Bligh, and flogged.

On April 5, 1789, "HMAV Bounty" left Tahiti for the return trip to England. Twenty-three days later, the Mutiny took place.

I will return to the actual events after I speak to:


THE MUTINY OF THE BOUNTY released in Australia on September 2, 1916

This silent motion picture is the earliest known film version of the tale of  "HMS Bounty" and was an Australian and New Zealand co-production. The picture is divided into five parts, but I could only find title information on four of them. These are, the Mutiny on the "HMS Bounty", Captain Bligh's journey back to England, the recapture of the mutineers that returned to Tahiti, and what happened on "Pitcairn Island". 

However, based upon the cast listings, there was either an opening sequence in England, or a closing one. I vote for the closing, because the cast included "Midshipman Peter Heywood's" older sister, "Nessy Heywood", portrayed by Lottie Lyell and "Mrs. Heywood", played by Ida Guildford. Both who supported Peter Heywood at his Royal Navy court-martial.

The film was Produced and Directed by Raymond Longford. Longford and Lottie Lydell wrote the screenplay.

Above is George Cross as Captain Bligh

Above, Wilton Power as Fletcher Christian.

The 1916, 55-minute long, motion picture is considered a "Lost Film".

IN THE WAKE OF THE BOUNTY premiered March 15, 1933 in Sydney, Australia

The motion picture was Produced, Written and Directed by documentary Australian film maker, Charles Chauvel. In, March, 1932, with his wife, Elsa, and cameraman Tasman Higgins. Chauvel and company spent three months shooting footage on Pitcairn Island and then another two months shooting footage on Tahiti. Afterwards, he wrote his screenplay for what was initially entitled, more appropriately, "The Story of Pitcairn Island".

The film has a narrator and recreates scenes of the Mutiny interspersed with Chauvel's narrated documentary footage. The story of the "HMS Bounty" is only used as a lure to the audience and is not the films main focus, but what happened to the descendants of Fletcher Christian and the eight other mutineers on Pitcairn and their current relations appears to be.

British actor Mayne Lynton portrayed "Lieutenant William Bligh". Lynton only made 13 films between 1924 and 1958. There was a thirteen-year gap between this film and his next movie and then another eight gap. He had the uncredited role of the "Zoo Keeper", in 1955's "The Quartermass X-periment" aka: "The Creeping Unknown".


What makes the 66-minute-long motion picture of interest to film historians. Is that portraying "Fletcher Christian" in his first on-screen role was Errol Flynn. It would be another six forgotten motion picture until Flynn starred in 1935's "Captain Blood".

Published in October, 1932, was the first novel in what became a trilogy, "Mutiny on the Bounty".

The exciting novel was written by Americans Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. Their book tells of the Mutiny aboard "HMS Bounty" and the events that followed. It is related to an Admiralty court-martial Board by the fictional, "Roger Byam".  Who is based upon "Midshipman Peter Heywood".

Published initially as a "Saturday Evening Post" serial, from November 18, 1933 through December 9, 1933, was "Men Against the Sea"! The story is told in flashback form to the events in the first novel by "Thomas Leward", originally the ship's "Assistant Surgeon".

This is the story of "Captain Bligh", his eighteen loyalists, and their incredible journey in the "Bounty's Launch" across the Pacific ocean to the Dutch East India Company controlled island of Timor and the town of Kupang, on June 14, 1789.


"Pitcairn's Island", the final novel of the "Bounty Trilogy", was also a "Saturday Evening Post" series, from September 22, 1934 through November 3, 1934. With the exception of Chapters 16 through 21, told by "John Adams", the assumed name taken by the only survivor of the original mutineers, "Alexander Smith". The novel is told in the third person and covers what happened to Fletcher Christian and eight of the mutineers that settled on "Pitcairn".

Now came a motion picture that revived the story of the "HMS Bounty" across the World.

MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY released November 8, 1935

 The picture has a running time of two hours and twelve minutes.

The motion picture was from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Produced by Irving Thalberg and the picture's Director, Frank Lloyd. Lloyd started directing motion pictures in 1914. Three of his Silent movies of note are, the 1917 version of Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables", the 1920, the original version of "Madame X", the tear jerker would be remade in 1929, 1937 and 1966. Then, the young Jackie Coogan, "Uncle Fenster" on televisions "The Addams Family", and Lon Chaney's, 1922 version of Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist". Lloyd's sound pictures of note, include the Ronald Coleman and Basil Rathbone, 1938, "If I Were King", 1940's, "Howards of Virginia", that starred Cary Grant and Sir Cedric Hardwicke, and 1955's, "The Last Command". Which was about "Jim Bowie" and "The Alamo". Lloyd would be nominated for an "Academy Award" for "Mutiny on the Bounty".

There were five writers that turned the Nordhoff and Hall 1932, "Mutiny on the Bounty", into a "Best Picture Academy Award" winning film. Only three were nominated for the "Best Screenplay Academy Award".

The three are:

Jules Furthman, who was one of the writers on Director Howard Hawks', 1944, "To Have and Have Not", 1946's, "The Big Sleep", and 1959's, "Rio Bravo". He also worked for the other Howard, Hughes, and wrote the screenplays for 1944's, "The Outlaw" and 1957's, "Jet Pilot".

Talbot Jennings had only written one screenplay, without any credit, prior to this motion picture. In 1940, Jennings, wrote the screenplay for the Spencer Tracy and Robert Young, "Northwest Passage", in 1946 it was "Anna and the King of Siam" starring Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison, 1953, saw the Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner and Mel Ferrer "Knights of the Round Table".

Carey Wilson had been writing screenplays since 1920. He wrote the Lon Chaney, 1924, "He Who Gets Slapped", did the scenario for 1925's, "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ", and Wilson was one of the writers on the John Barrymore and Lionel Barrymore, 1932, detective mystery, "Arsene Lupin".

Not nominated for her work on the screenplay was Margret Booth. Booth was actually a motion picture film editor and had only written one other screenplay. The "Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences" did nominate Margaret Booth for the "Best Film Editing Oscar" for "Mutiny on the Bounty".

The fifth writer was John Farrow. Farrow started screenplay writing in 1927 and would work upon 29 motion pictures. John Farrow became a motion picture director in 1934 and made his name Directing motion pictures like 1939's, "Five Came Back", with one of Lucille Ball's overlooked dramatic roles, the Maureen O'Hara drama, 1940's, "A Bill of Divorcement", and John Farrow turned Richard Henry Dana, Jr's, "Two Years Before the Mast" into a 1946 motion picture starring Alan Ladd and Brian Donlevy as Dana.

Charles Laughton portrayed "Captain William Bligh". Laughton had appeared in Director James Whale's 1932, "The Old Dark House", Cecil B. DeMille's 1932, "The Sign of the Cross" and the same years version of H.G.Wells' "Island of Dr. Moreau", renamed, "Island of Lost Souls". Laughton's, 1933 feature film, "The Private Life of Henry VIII", earned him the "Academy Award for Best Actor". Charles Laughton would be nominated for the "Best Actor Oscar" for "Mutiny on the Bounty".

Clark Gable portrayed "Fletcher Christian". Gable started on-screen in 1923 and was a "Roman Guard" in 1925's "Ben-Hur". He started making a name for himself with films like, 1931's, "Hell Divers", co-starring Wallace Beery, 1932's, "Red Dust", co-starring Jean Harlow and Mary Astor. Which, changing the plot's location, Gable would remake as 1953's, "Mogambo", co-starring with Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly. Just prior to the release of this movie, was the 1935 version of Jack London's "Call of the Wild". That Clark Gable co-starred with Loretta Young and Jack Oakie. Gable was also nominated for the "Best Actor Oscar" for "Mutiny on the Bounty".

Franchot Tone portrayed the fictional "Roger Byam". A future leading man, Tone started his film career in MGM's, 1932, "The Wiser Sex". The picture starred Claudette Colbert and Melyvn Douglas, and for a starting motion picture, Franchot Tone had sixth billing. Besides this film, in 1935, Tone co-starred with Gary Cooper in "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer", in 1936 the actor was second billed to Jean Harlow in "Suzy". The third billing went to Cary Grant. He would immediately follow that movie with 1936's, "The Gorgeous Hussy", starring Joan Crawford, Robert Taylor and Lionel Barrymore. Tone would be the third actor from "Mutiny on the Bounty" to be nominated for the "Best Actor Oscar".

All three "Oscar" contenders would cancel themselves out at the 1936 award ceremony and Victor McLagen would win for "The Informer". As would Director John Ford win over Frank Lloyd for "The Informer".

Above Clark Gable and Franchot Tone.

"Tehani" was portrayed by eleventh billed Movita Castaneda. The Mexican-American actress had been appearing, mostly without credit, in both Spanish and English films since 1930. Her Career total, at retirement, in 1989, was 39 roles. Her last being 14 episodes of televisions "Knotts Landing". However, her claim to fame is as the Second Wife of actor Marlon Brando between 1960 and 1968.

Above, Movita Castaneda, Franchot Tone and Clark Gable.

"Maimiti" was portrayed by twelfth billed, USC Graduate and Hawaiian actress Mamo Clark. 

The Basic Plot:

The screenplay opens with a "Press Gang" entering a local tavern and taking all the men of sailor age prisoner. One man asks what ship they'll be sailing upon and is told "HMS Bounty". Another asks who the Captain is and when told, "William Bligh", attempts to escape, because "Bligh" is known to administer harsh punishment to crew and officers alike. In one sailor's words, he's a tyrant.

The "Bounty" now leaves on its two-year voyage across the Pacific Ocean.

"Fletcher Christian" is presented as a Royal Navy Lieutenant from his first appearance on-screen. He is also portrayed as a formidable man to cross, but also very compassionate. "Midshipman Byam" is portrayed as an idealistic man. Who finds himself torn by family tradition to follow the Navy and be loyal to "Captain Bligh" and  his friendship with "Christian".

During the voyage, "Fletcher Christian" has been challenging "William Bligh's" actions toward the crew. When the "Bounty" reaches Tahiti, "Captain Bligh" punishes "Christian" for challenging his methods since they left England. He orders him to stay on-board the "Bounty" while it's in Tahiti and orders "Byam" to set up the habitat for the breadfruit plants on land. 

"Byam" stays with the Tahitian Chief and his family. There he falls in love with "Tehani", the daughter of the Tahitian Chief "Hitihiti's", played by William Bainbridge. Meanwhile, "Hitihiti" convinces "Bligh" to let "Christian" have one day ashore. However, after "Fletcher" comes ashore, "Bligh" reverses the order, but "Fletcher Christian" decides to ignore it and meets ""Maimiti".

When the "HMS Bounty" is ready to leave Tahiti, "Fletcher Christian" promises "Maimiti", that he will return to the island someday for her. 

The voyage back to England starts out peaceful, but soon "Captain Bligh's" harsh discipline results in the death of the beloved ship's surgeon, "Mr. Bacchus", played by Dudley Diggers. 

Although the novel, by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, retains the ships surgeon's name as "Thomas Huggan". The screenplay changes it, with an inside joke, to "Bacchus" the Greek God of wine making. Although, the doctor's liking of "Spirits" is shown in the above still.

Next, "Captain Bligh", cuts the crews ration of water to use on the breadfruit plants. The crew now starts to speak of  mutiny and they go to "Mr. Christian" for help. "Christian" puts them off to permit him to talk to the Captain one more time.

In the end "Fletcher Christian" joins the mutineers and the mutiny takes place. 

The crew wants to kill "Captain Bligh", but "Christian" prevents that from happening. The Captain and his loyal crewman are placed in the "Bounty's" launch with supplies and a map to help in their survival.

At his point the movie splits into two stories and the audiences sees "Bligh" prove the seaman he is by getting the launch to a Dutch island.

The other story has "Fletcher Christian" taking command of the "HMS Bounty" and ordering the crew to set sail for Tahiti. While, "Byam", who was in his cabin during the mutiny, tells "Christian" he disapproves of what he's done and the two can no longer be friends.

Months pass on Tahiti and during that time, "Byam" is married to "Tehani" and "Christian" to "Maimiti". The two men finally reconcile their friendship and everyone is very happy until the "HMS Pandora" is spotted approaching the island.

A very fast meeting takes place and it is decided that the two friends must part ways. "Byam" and some of the crew want to return to England and will await the arrival of the "Pandora". While, "Christian", the other "Bounty" crew members and several Tahitians, including "Fletcher's" wife  "Maimiti" and their baby girl, will take the "HMS Bounty" back to sea and find another place to live.

When the "HMS Pandora" arrives in the harbor, "Byam" goes out to the ship, and to his surprise finds "William Bligh" as its Captain. Back in England, "Byam" is brought before a court-marital with "Bligh" in attendance.

Before he is sentenced, "Byam" is able to tell the court-martial members of the cruel treatment of both officers and crew by "Captain Bligh". "Byam" is informed of the court's verdict, GULITY OF MUTINY. However, both "Sir  Joseph Banks", played by Henry Stephenson, and "Lord Hood", played by David Torrence, intervein on "Byam's" behalf with "King George III", not seen on-screen. "Byam" gets a royal pardon and is able to resume his Naval career at sea.

Note: Royal Navy Lieutenant William Bligh was never on-board the "HMS Pandora" in any capacity and never attended even one trial of the mutineers found on Tahiti.

Then with a typical uplifting "Hollywood Ending":

"Fletcher Christian", and those on-board "HMS Bounty", according to the screenplay, by accident discover "Pitcairn Island". "Christian" realizes the official navigational charts have the island at different coordinates. Moving closer to the land, the ship crashes upon the rocks around the island. "Fletcher Christian" orders everyone to the island for their safety. Already, he realizes that there is no fear of discovery by the Royal Navy. Next, everything useable is stripped from the wreck and then, "Christian", orders the "Bounty" burned. So, the wreck will never be seen by any passing ship causing someone to investigate "Pitcairn".

According to MGM, the budget was $1,900,000 dollars and the picture had a total Worldwide Box Office of $4,460,000 dollars.

In 1938, Walt Disney had a little fun with Charles Laughton's "Captain Bligh", Spencer Tracy's "Manuel" from, 1937's, "Captains Courageous", and Freddie Bartholomew's 1938, "Lord Jeff". Disney's cartoon was, "Mother Goose Goes Hollywood", released during Walt's RKO Pictures period.

In 1940, Frank Lloyd announced plans for a sequel to the 1935 motion, but for Universal Pictures. It would focus on "William Bligh's" life after the mutiny. Lloyd planned to have Spencer Tracy portray "Bligh", but no motion picture was ever started. In 1945, a screenplay by Carey Wilson, one of the 1935 writers, was submitted to MGM, entitled "Christian of the Bounty". The proposed motion picture was to star Clark Gable, once again, as "Fletcher Christian" and was based upon Nordhoff and Hall's second novel, "Pitcairn Island". The production was also never made and the now, trilogy, sat, untouched until 1962.

In 1950, Warner Brothers animator Fritz Freleng, put "Bugs Bunny" and "Yosemite Sam" in "Mutiny on the Bunny". 

While in, 1952, "Classics Illustrated", had a "Captain Bligh", with a bit of Charles Laughton thrown in for good measure.

In 1959, Paramount Pictures announced that they would make a "Revisionist" film about the "HMS Bounty". The studio hired James Clavell, the screenplay for 1958's "The Fly" and the novels, "King Rat, and the trilogy, "Tai-Pan", "Shogun" and "Noble House", to write the screenplay, but the picture never went into production.

MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY released November 8, 1962

There were be two versions of the final motion picture. In the United States and everywhere else, except the United Kingdom, the motion picture ran two hours and fifty-eight minutes, but in the U.K. it ran three hours and five minutes. I haven't been able to locate what those extra minutes were about.

The motion picture was mainly Directed by Lewis Milestone. Among Milestone's excellent work are, 1930's antiwar war film, "All Quiet on the Western Front" starring Lew Ayres, 1936's, "The General Died at Dawn" starring Gary Cooper, 1945's classic World War 2 film, "A Walk in the Sun" starring Dana Andrews, the 1952 version of Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables" starring Michael Rennie and Robert Newton, the brutal Korean War film, 1959's, "Pork Chop Hill" starring Gregory Peck, and the original, 1960, "Ocean's 11" starring Frank Sinatra and his "Rat Pack".

Without on-screen credit, British Director Carol Reed, 1948's "The Fallen Idol" starring Sir Ralph Richardson and 1949's "The Third Man" starring Joseph Cotton and featuring Orson Welles, 1956's, "Trapeze" starring Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis and Gina Lollobrigida, and, 1959's, "Our Man in Havana" starring Sir Alec Guinness, would direct some sequences.

Then came the ending of the picture as written and Lewis Milestone refused to shoot "Christian's Death Scene". Director Billy Wilder, 1950's, "Sunset Boulevard" starring William Holden and Gloria Swanson, 1959's, "Some Like It Hot" starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, was working on the screenplay as a "Consultant" and suggested using George Seaton, 1947's "Miracle on 34th Street" starring Maureen O'Hara, John Payne and Natalie Wood, and 1958's, "Teacher's Pet" starring Clark Gable and Doris Day, to shoot the scene.

The screenplay was based upon the first book of the Nordoff and Hall trilogy once more with added ideas such as the death scene.

Charles Lederer, the Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell 1940, "His Girl Friday", the same year's Clark Gable and Hedy Lamarr "Comrade X", 1951's, "The Thing from Another World", 1953's, "Gentleman Prefer Blondes" starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell and 1957's, "The Spirit of St. Louis" starring James Stewart as Charles A. Lindberg and Directed by Billy Wilder, was the actual credited screenplay writer.

Before the movie was completed, Billy Wilder, Eric Amber, who was originally signed to write the screenplay and adapt all three Nordhoff and Hall novels, Borden Chase, William L. Driscoll, John Gay and Ben Hecht would all, without credit, contribute to the final screenplay. While, Charles Lederer kept having to rewrite scenes for especially Marlon Brando.

Marlon Brando portrayed "Fletcher Christian". Brando had just been seen in his Produced and Directed, Western, 1961's, "One Eyed Jacks". In "Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me", the actor said he was offered the role of T.E. Lawrence for Director David Lean's, 1962's, "Lawrence of Arabia", but turned it down because of the desert locations and choose this film that was to be shot in Tahiti.

It should be noted that Brando's "Fletcher Christian" isn't either what was known about the real man, how Nordhoff and Hall described him, or Gable and even Flynn portrayed him. Brando's performance was criticized by many and he is part of Brendan Gill's, November 17, 1962, review for "The New Yorker" magazine. Which started out complementing the work of the screenwriting and directing teams by saying that they:
haven't failed, but a genuine success has been beyond their grasp. One reason for this is that they've received no help from Marlon Brando, who plays Fletcher Christian as a sort of seagoing Hamlet. Since what Fletcher Christian has to say is so much less interesting than what Hamlet has to say, Mr. Brando's tortured scowlings seem thoroughly out of place. Indeed, we tend to sympathize with the wicked Captain Bligh, well played by Trevor Howard. No wonder he behaved badly, with that highborn young fop provoking him at every turn!
Others, such as "Variety" called Brando's performance his best to that point. Having seen the motion picture, I tend to agree with Gill, but point out that was also partly caused by the way the screenplay appeared to present "Christian".

Trevor Howard portrayed "Captain William Bligh". Howard had just been seen with William Holden and Capucine in the African Adventure Drama, 1962's, "The Lion". After this feature, Howard would be seen in two television productions, Henrik Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler" in 1963 and "Invincible Mr. Disraeli" in 1964. Howard's performance was his own and there was no comparisons made to Charles Laughton's as Brando's was to Gable by the critics.

Richard Harris portrayed "Seaman John Mills".  Harris had just been seen, for one scene, in 1961's "The Guns of Navarone", and would follow this picture with, 1963's, "This Sporting Life".

Tarita Teriipaia portrayed "Maimiti". She was a local Tahitian girl that Brando personally chose for the role. She would also become the actor's third wife from 1962 into 1972.

Although, there are actually named members of the "Bounty's" crew. Neither the Botanist, or Ship's surgeon are listed in the cast, or is there a role for either on the Official Cast Listing.

The Basic Plot:

When we first see "Fletcher Christian" he is dressed as a "Dandy" of the period and his actions fit his appearance as he first reports to "Captain Bligh". The class difference between "Christian" and "Bligh" is first illustrated by the "Captain's" interactions with some young woman that are with "Fletcher Christian". This difference will remain throughout the screenplay making. Once again, "Christian", is already an officer in the Royal Navy as compared to the historical facts.

Once the crew are on-board "HMS Bounty". The ship puts to sea for Tahiti to get breadfruit plants to take specifically to the island of Jamaica.

Next, some cheese is found missing from the food locker. However, "Seaman John Mills" accuses "Bligh" of stealing the cheese, which is true, and "Bligh" has "Mills" flogged for showing contempt to a superior officer. 

After the flogging, "Captain Bligh" tells "Christian" that: 
Cruelty with a purpose is not cruelty, it is efficiency.

The comment from "Bligh" does not sit well with the Aristocratic, "Fletcher Christian". Again, indicating how the screenplay is portraying the class status of the two main men involved in the upcoming mutiny and the tone used to portray "Lieutenant William Bligh".

Now, "Bligh" attempts to reach Tahiti earlier than scheduled and heads for "Cape Horn", but encounters extremely bad weather.

As a result, instead of saving time, "Captain Bligh" has lost time, and must backtrack to the "Cape of Good Hope". In an attempt to make up that time, "Bligh" now pushes the crew harder, but, strangely, also cuts their rations. 

"HMS Bounty" finally reaches Tahiti.

"Bligh" becomes more agitated to learn they have now arrived too early to pot the breadfruit plants. This means the ship will have to remain in Tahiti for several more months during the breadfruit's dormancy period. At this news, the crew becomes more relaxed and enjoys the pleasure of the free loving Tahitian women, much to the Captain's disgust, and "Fletcher Christian" meets "Maimiti". Who in this screenplay is the daughter of the Tahitian King.

Next, three sailors including "Seaman Mills", attempt to desert and are found by "Fletcher Christian" and clapped in irons by "Captain Bligh".

With the breadfruit plants now on-board. The "HMS Bounty" sets sail for Jamaica.

However, because of the lateness of the ship's arrival to Tahiti. "Captain Bligh" takes on twice the amount of breadfruit plants he was to bring and reduces the crews water rations to keep the extra plants alive. Then, to maintain his hold upon the crew, "Bligh" has placed the drinking ladle high up on the rigging and it's brought down only when water is to be given out. One of the thirsty crew starts to climb the rigging to get at the ladle, but falls to his death.

Another crew member assaults "Captain Bligh" over the conditions he's imposing and is keelhauled. "Seaman John Mills" keeps taunting "Fletcher Christian" after each death to take command.

A thirsty crewman now starts to drink seawater and he becomes ill from it. "Bligh", to teach the crew a lesson, orders that no man is to help that sailor. "Christian" disobeys the order and goes to the man's aid. "Bligh" now orders "Christian" to stop assisting the man, but "Christian" ignores him. A second time, "Bligh" orders "Christian" to stop and a second time, the other ignores the order. "Bligh" suddenly slaps his Second in Command and "Christian" strikes back. "Captain William Bligh" now informs "Lieutenant Fletcher Christian" that he will be hanged upon reaching England for striking a superior officer under "The Articles of War".

With nothing now to lose, "Fletcher Christian" leads the crew in the mutiny and "William Bligh" and his loyal crew fight back.

"Christian" now has "Bligh" and his loyalists placed in a long boat with water, supplies and a map. "Fletcher" figures that "William" will head for the nearest island to await a passing ship. However, once at sea, "Bligh" will surprise those with him and sets sail for the nearest Dutch colony across the Pacific Ocean.

When, "Captain Bligh", finally arrives in England. He goes before a court-martial and is exonerated, but the court also states that the appointment of "Lieutenant William Bligh" to command the "HMS Bounty" was a wrong decision by the Admiralty. The court also recommends an expedition to find and arrest the mutineers.

While, "Fletcher Christian" and the mutineers take the "Bounty" back to Tahiti for supplies. They also pick-up the girlfriends of the crew including "Maimiti" and some other Tahitian men and women. Under sail they spot an island that shouldn't be there and checking the charts, "Christian", determines that this must be "Pitcairn", but its marked incorrectly on the official Naval charts. Realizing the chances of the British Navy locating them is extremely remote, because they would stay with the official charts.

However, as time starts to pass, "Fletcher Christian" has a change of heart and feels it's their duty to return to England and testify against "Captain Bligh". To prevent this from happening, the crew set fire to the "HMS Bounty", but "Christian" goes on-board in a failed attempt to stop the fire. "Fletcher Christian" is brought back to the island and dies from his burns.

The budget for 1962's, "Mutiny on the Bounty", was $19,000,00 dollars, but the Worldwide Box Office was only $13,600,00. The movie was a financial failure for MGM. It would be another 22 years before a new motion picture was made.

The fifth motion picture about the Mutiny took a semi-revisionist look at the events.

THE BOUNTY released on May 4, 1984 in Canada and the United States

This entry from the United Kingdom was Directed by Rodger Donaldson. Australian Director Donaldson started making motion pictures in 1971 in New Zealand. This was his first film work outside of that country. Among his later work would be Kevin Costner's 1987, "No Way Out", the 1994, Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger remake of Steven McQueen and Ali McGraw's, 1972, "The Getaway", and 1997's, "Dante's Peak", starring Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton.

The screenplay was based upon Richard Hough's 1972 book, "Captain Bligh and Mr. Christian".

The screenplay was written by British writer, Robert Bolt. Bolt started in 1957 on British television with a script for his own play, "A Man for All Seasons", about Sir Thomas Moore, and would revise it for a 1964 television version and the 1966 motion picture. In 1962, Bolt wrote the screenplay for "Lawrence of Arabia" and in 1965, Bolt wrote the screenplay for "Doctor Zhivago". 

Mel Gibson portrayed "Fletcher Christian". Although Gibson is associated with Australian motion pictures like the original 1979, "Mad Max". He was born in Peekskill, New York, but at age 12, his parents moved the family to Australia. Prior to this motion picture, Mel Gibson was seen in 1982's, "The Year of Living Dangerously" with Linda Hunt portraying a real life Indonesian man, and followed this feature with 1984's, "The River" with Sissy Spacek.

Anthony Hopkins portrayed "Lieutenant William Bligh". At this time, Hopkins was appearing on British television in different mini-series and the picture was a break for the actor.

Above Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins.

The Officers, Gentlemen and Able-bodied seamen of the "HMS Bounty" are all properly named in the screenplay.

The Basic Screenplay:

The story opens with "Lieutenant William Bligh" appearing in his court-martial, being held in Portsmouth, for his loss of "HMS Bounty", from mutineers led by "Fletcher Christian", known to be his friend. The mutiny having taken place during an expedition to Tahiti to obtain breadfruit pods to transplant in the Caribbean.

The first of several flashbacks tells of how "William Bligh" and his friend "Fletcher Christian" agree to sail as Captain and second in command.

The "Bounty" sets sail in December 1787, but "Bligh" decides to sail west from England and around Cape Horn to satisfy his own ambition to circumnavigate the globe. However, the ship encounters severe weather and now, "Captain Bligh", is forced to take the longer eastern route he had attempted to avoid.


As a result, the "HMS Bounty" doesn't arrive in Tahiti until October 26, 1788.

"Bligh" is now faced with winds blowing in the wrong direction for a return voyage to England. He has no problem getting the breadfruit pods, but the "Bounty" cannot leave Tahiti until the winds change direction in four months time.

During those four months the discipline dissolves as the men enjoy the pleasures of the women of Tahiti and "Fletcher Christian" marries a native girl named "Mauatua", played by Tevaite Vernette. 

The long delay is adding pressure on "Bligh" and he starts imposing strict discipline. Finally, having to leave their wives and girlfriends behind, the "HMS Bounty" sets sail for England.

Conditions on-board the ship have changed from the original voyage to Tahiti. The pressure has gotten to "Captain Bligh" and he becomes a tyrant demanding strict discipline. The ship is to be cleaned several times a day, without even as little as an hour since the last cleaning. Now, many of the sailors feel the lash on "Bligh's" words and this includes "Christian". 

Playing on "Fletcher Christian's" building resentment of "William Bligh's" treatment of the men and himself. The more militant crewmen starting working upon "Christian" to take command of  "HMS Bounty". This eventually succeeds and "Bligh" is awoken in his cabin as the mutiny takes place.

"Bligh" and those loyal to him are put into the longboat with water, food and supplies. Again, "Christian" is thinking he will sail to the nearest island. However, as with the other versions, the screenplay splits and we see "William Bligh's" journey to a Dutch East Indies port in harsh detail.

The mutineers sail the ship back to Tahiti, but "King Tynah", played by Wi Kui Kaa, is concerned that if they stay there. That eventually a ship will come and "King George" might take action against the island people. "Fletcher Christian" agrees and plans to take the mutineers on-board "HMS Bounty" and find a safe haven from the Royal Navy. "Christian" takes his wife, the mutineers their wives and girlfriends and are joined by some Tahitian men and women.

Finding that safe haven is another question as "Fletcher Christian" and those on-board realize that the Royal Navy knows the same islands they would attempt to hide upon. As time passes, the crew wants "Christian" to turn around and sail back to Tahiti. In fact, it appears a second mutiny is about to begin, but then the "HMS Bounty" comes upon Pitcairn Island. "Fletcher" realizes it's not marked on any charts in the correct area and the "HMS Bounty" is burned to keep it from being seen by passing ships.

The flashback ends as "William Bligh's" court-martial finds him not guilty of loosing the "HMS Bounty" and commends him on his voyage in the ships long boat. The movie ends with "Christian" and the mutineers knowing they will never go back to England again.

My reader has read how the five motion pictures, to date, relate the tale of the mutiny. Now, I'll briefly relate what happened on and after April 28, 1789.

"Lieutenant Bligh" was bound in his cabin on April 28th and his loyal crewmen did not put up a fight out of fear he would be killed. Although the 22 loyalists outnumbered the mutineers. "Bligh" and 18 sailors were put in the "Bounty's" 23-foot-long launch with supplies. The launch was so overloaded that the water touched the gunwales, or the top edges of the launch. So started what would be a 3,618 nautical mile, or 4,160-mile trip across the Pacific Ocean ending at the Dutch held Island of Timor. Where he immediately sent home a letter to his wife explaining what had happened.

In October, 1790, "Lieutenant William Bligh" was "Honorably Acquitted" at a court-martial hearing. "Bligh" would end his Royal Naval career as a "Vice-Admiral" and had severed as the "4th Governor of New South Wales, Australia" from August 13, 1806 through January 26, 1808. 

William Bligh died on December 7, 1817 at the age 63.

"Master's Mate Fletcher Christian" first attempted to form a colony on "Tubuai", part of an island group south of Tahiti, but the mutineers came into conflict with local natives and left. At which point, Christian and the mutineers returned to Tahiti and he married a local chief's daughter named Maimiti, on June 16, 1789. While on Tahiti, Christian dropped off sixteen of the crewman. Which included four of "Bligh's" loyalists left behind and two men who had neither participated in the mutiny, or attempted to stop it. 

This left Fletcher Christian with eight mutineers, six Tahitian men who wanted to go with him, and Maimiti and ten Tahitian women. They set sail from Tahiti and discovered the incorrectly charted "Pitcairn Island". The "HMAV Bounty" was stripped of everything that they could use on shore. Later, unknown to Christian, Matthew Quintal went out to the ship and set her on fire. So that nobody could leave the island and reveal their location.

In 1808, the American seal-haunting ship "Topaz" anchored at "Pitcairn Island". They found only one of the original mutineers, John Adams aka: Alexander Smith, and nine Tahitian women including Fletcher Christian's wife Mamiti. There were several children fathered by the mutineers who had died earlier. Quintal had been killed by the two remaining mutineers, Adams and Neal Young, after he attacked them. 

As to the death of Christian, Adams and Mamiti, told the seal-hunters that a conflict between the mutineers and the Tahitian men had developed over time and he was killed in battle between the two. Further supportive information came from a Tahitian woman named, Jenny, who left "Pitcairn" in  1817. She stated that "Fletcher Christian" had been shot and killed while working by a pond next to the home of his pregnant wife. Besides Christian, Jenny stated that four other of the mutineers and six of the Tahitian men were killed at that time. 

Of the four surviving mutineers, a drunken William McCoy fell off a cliff. Jenny, confirmed that Quintal had been killed by Adams and Young.. While, Young became the new leader of the remaining group. 

However, over time, John Adams gave various stories to visitors about the death of Fletcher Christian.  He either died by natural causes, was murdered by the other mutineers, killed by the Tahitian men, committed suicide, or went insane. 

Fletcher Christian was survived by his and Mamiti's son Thursday October Christian born in 1790. 
Christian also had two other children, Charles Christian, born in 1792 and Mary Ann Christian, born in 1793. Thursday and Charles are the ancestors of all residents of "Pitcairn Island" with the last name of Christian.


The following link take my reader to Nigel Erskine's 1999 article, "Reclaiming the Bounty", looking at the remains of "HMAV Bounty".

No comments:

Post a Comment

Gordon Douglas: The Little Rascals (Our Gang) - Giant Ants - and Francis Albert Sinatra

When asked to name a "Classic Film Director", depending upon how much you're into motion pictures, what's your favorite ge...