Mutiny on the Bounty (1962 film)

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Mutiny on the Bounty
Poster for Mutiny on the Bounty.jpg
Original film poster by Reynold Brown
Directed by Lewis Milestone
Produced by Aaron Rosenberg (uncredited)
Written by Charles Lederer
Based on Mutiny on the Bounty
1932 novel
by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
Starring Marlon Brando
Trevor Howard
Richard Harris
Music by Bronisław Kaper
Cinematography Robert L. Surtees
Edited by John McSweeney, Jr.
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
November 8, 1962
Running time
178 minutes
(UK:185 minutes)
Country United States
Language English
Budget $19 million
Box office $13,680,000[1]

Mutiny on the Bounty is a 1962 American Technicolor epic historical drama film starring Marlon Brando, Trevor Howard and Richard Harris, based on the novel Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall.

The film retells the 1789 real-life mutiny aboard HMAV Bounty led by Fletcher Christian against the ship's captain, William Bligh. It is the second American film to be made from the novel, the first being Mutiny on the Bounty (1935). It was directed by Lewis Milestone, who replaced Carol Reed early in the production schedule, and it turned out to be Milestone's final film.

The screenplay was written by Charles Lederer (with uncredited input from Eric Ambler, William L. Driscoll, Borden Chase, John Gay and Ben Hecht).[2] The score was composed by Bronisław Kaper.

Mutiny on the Bounty was filmed in the Ultra Panavision 70 widescreen process, the first motion picture so credited. It was partly shot on location in the South Pacific. Behind the scenes, Marlon Brando effectively took over directing duties himself and caused it to become far behind schedule and over budget — resulting in director Carol Reed pulling out of the project and being replaced by Lewis Milestone who is credited as director of the picture. The film was heavily panned, and was considered a box office bomb, having lost over $6 million.

A replica of the Bounty was constructed for the film. Fifty years after the release of the film, the vessel sank in Hurricane Sandy with loss of life.

Plot

In the year 1787, the Bounty sets sail from Britain for Tahiti under the command of captain William Bligh (Trevor Howard). Her mission is to transport breadfruit to Jamaica, where hopefully it will thrive and provide a cheap source of food for the slaves.

The voyage gets off to a difficult start with the discovery that some cheese is missing. Bligh, the true pilferer, is accused of the theft by seaman John Mills (Richard Harris), and Bligh has Mills brutally flogged for showing contempt to his superior officer, to the disgust of his patrician second-in-command, 1st Lieutenant Fletcher Christian (Marlon Brando). The tone for the months to come is summarized by Bligh's ominous pronouncement that "cruelty with a purpose is not cruelty, it is efficiency." Aristocrat Christian is deeply offended by his ambitious captain.

Bligh attempts to reach Tahiti sooner by attempting the shorter westbound route around Cape Horn, a navigational nightmare. The strategy fails and the Bounty backtracks east, costing the mission much time. Singleminded Bligh attempts to make up the lost time by pushing the crew harder and cutting their rations.

When the Bounty reaches her destination, the crew revels in the easygoing life of the tropical paradise — and in the free-love philosophies of the Tahitian women. Christian himself is smitten with Maimiti (Tarita Teriipaia), daughter of the Tahitian king. Bligh's agitation is further fueled by a dormancy period of the breadfruit: more months of delay until the plants can be transplanted. As departure day nears, three men, including seaman Mills, attempt to desert but are caught by Christian and clapped in irons by Bligh.

On the voyage to Jamaica, Bligh attempts to bring back twice the number of breadfruit plants to atone for his tardiness, and must reduce the water rations of the crew to water the extra plants. One member of the crew falls from the rigging to his death while attempting to retrieve the drinking ladle. Another assaults Bligh over conditions on the ship and is fatally keelhauled. Mills taunts Christian after each death, trying to egg him on to challenge Bligh. When a crewman becomes gravely ill from drinking seawater, Christian attempts to give him fresh water in violation of the Captain's orders. Bligh strikes Christian when he ignores his second order to stop. In response, Christian strikes Bligh. Bligh informs Christian that he will hang for his action when they reach port. With nothing left to lose, Christian takes command of the ship and sets Bligh and the loyalist members of the crew adrift in the longboat with navigational equipment, telling them to make for a local island. Bligh decides instead to cross much of the Pacific in order to reach British authorities sooner and arrives back in Britain with remarkable speed.

The military court exonerates Bligh of misdeed and recommends an expedition to arrest the mutineers and put them on trial, but also comes to the conclusion that the appointment of Bligh as captain of The Bounty was wrong. In the meantime, Christian sails back to Tahiti to pick up supplies and the girlfriends of the crew, then on to remote and wrongly charted Pitcairn Island to hide from the wrath of the Royal Navy. Once on Pitcairn, Christian decides that it is their duty to return to Britain and testify to Bligh's wrongdoing and asks his men to sail with him. To prevent this possibility the men set the ship on fire and Christian is fatally burned while trying to save it.

Cast

Production

Development

Following the success of 1935's Mutiny on the Bounty, director Frank Lloyd announced plans in 1940 to make a sequel which focused on Captain Bligh in later life, to star Spencer Tracy or Charles Laughton. No film resulted. In 1945 Casey Wilson wrote a script for Christian of the Bounty, which was to star Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian and focus on Christian's life on Pitcairn Island.[3]

In the 1950s MGM remade a number of their earlier successes in colour and widescreen. They decided to film Mutiny on the Bounty. In 1958 it was announced Aaron Rosenberg would produce the film and Marlon Brando was mentioned as a possible star[4] Eric Ambler was signed to write a script. It was intended to combine material from the Nordhoff and Hall novels Mutiny on the Bounty and Pitcairn Island (MGM also owned the rights to a third book, Men Against the Sea, which dealt with Bligh's boat voyage after the mutiny).[3]

In 1959 it was announced Paramount would make a rival Bounty film to be written and directed by James Clavell called The Mutineers, which would focus on the fate of the Muntineers on Pitcairn Island.[3] However this project was not made.

Brando eventually was signed, with Carol Reed to direct. It was decided to shoot the film in Tahiti itself to take advantage of color and widescreen, being shot in Cinema 65. Robert Surtees would be the cinematographer, The film was to start 15 October 1960 and the film was called "MGM's Ben Hur of 1961."[5]

A replica of the Bounty was built in Nova Scotia and was to be sailed to Tahiti.[6]

Rosenberg said the film would focus more on the fate of the crew after the mutiny, with Captain Bligh only in a minor role and the mutiny dealt with in flashback. "It was Brando's idea," said Rosenberg. "And he was right. It has always been fascinating to wonder what happened to the mutineers afterwards."[6]

"The mood after the mutiny must be one of hope," said Reed. "The men hope to live a different sort of life, a life without suffering, without brutality. They hope for a life without sick ambitions, without the pettiness of personal success. They dream of a new life where nobody is trying to outdo the next person."[6]

Trevor Howard signed to play Bligh.[7] Brando personally selected a local Tahitian, Tarita, to play his love interest.[8]

Charles Lederer was brought on to work on the script.[9]

Shooting

Filming began in Tahiti. More than 150 cast and crew arrived, and MGM took over 200 hotel rooms.[8]

Filming was extremely difficult, in part because the script was being rewritten and Brando was ad-libbing much of his part. Also costs were high due to the remote location.[10] The replica of the Bounty took nine months to make rather than the scheduled six and arrived after filming had started.[11]

Lewis Milestone takes over

In January 1961, after three months of filming, Reed flew back from location with, reportedly, an "undisclosed ailment".[12] In actual fact he had quit over differences in the direction of the story.[11] He was replaced by Lewis Milestone, who later estimated only five minutes of the final film was Reed's.[9]

"Reed was used to making his own pictures," said Milestone. "He was not used to producer, studio and star interference. But those of us who have been around Hollywood are like alley cats. We know this style. We know how to survive."[9]

Filming continued to be difficult with production plagued by bad weather and script problems. Richard Harris clashed with Brando.[11]

"Marlon did not have approval of the story," said Milestone. "But he did have approval of himself. If Brando did not like something he would just stand in front of the camera and not act. He thought only of himself. At the same time, he was right in many things that he wanted. He is too cerebral to play the part of Mr Christian the way Clark Gable played it."[9]

Milestone says the script was constantly being rewritten with input from Rosenberg, Sol Siegel and Joseph Vogel, plus Brando.

The film ended up costing $10 million more than originally expected.[9]

"I have been in this business a few days but I never say anything like this," said Milestone. "It was like being in a hurricane on a rudderless ship without a captain. I thought when I took the job that it would be a nice trip. By the time it was finished I felt as though I had been shanghaied."[9]

"The big trouble was lack of guts by management at Metro," said Milestone. "Lack of vision. When they realised there was so much trouble with the script they should have stopped the whole damn production. If they did not like Marlon's behaviour they should have told him that they must do as they wished or else they should have taken him out of the picture. But they just did not have the guts."[9]

Reception

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote that "there's much that is eye-filling and gripping as pure spectacle," but criticized Marlin Brando for making Fletcher Christian "more a dandy than a formidable ship's officer ... one feels the performance is intended either as a travesty or a lark."[13] Variety called the film "often overwhelmingly spectacular" and "generally superior" to the 1935 version, adding, "Brando in many ways is giving the finest performance of his career."[14] Brendan Gill of The New Yorker wrote that the screenwriter and directors "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!"[15] Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post called the film an "unquestionably handsome spectacular" that "teeters headlong into absurdity" in its third hour, summarizing: "It would seem that the mutiny occurred only because the hero blew his top and is egotistically disturbed because he did so."[16] The Monthly Film Bulletin of the UK criticized Brando for an "outrageously phony upper-class English accent" and the direction for "looking suspiciously like a multiple hack job."[17] Time wrote that the film "wanders through the hoarse platitudes of witless optimism until at last it is swamped with sentimental bilge."[18]

The film presently holds a rating of 72% on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes based on 18 reviews, with an average score of 6.5/10.[19]

Box office

Given its enormously inflated budget of $19 million, the film was a box office flop,[20] despite being the 6th highest-grossing film of 1962. It grossed only $13,680,000 domestically,[1] earning $9.8 million in US theatrical rentals.[21] It needed to make $30 million to recoup its budget.[10]

Awards

The 1962 movie did not win any Oscars but was nominated for seven:[22]

Honors

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Comic book adaption

See also

References

  1. ^ a b "Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)". The Numbers. Nash Information Services. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  2. ^ "Mutiny on the Bounty (1962): Full Cast & Crew". IMDb. Retrieved March 29, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c Special to the New York Times (November 2, 1959). "TWO STUDIOS PLAN A BOUNTY 'MUTINY'; M-G-M and Paramount Race to Complete Productions of Films on Sea Adventure". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. p. 39. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  4. ^ Hopper, Hedda (October 9, 1958). "MGM Wants Brando in 'Mutiny' Remake". Los Angeles Times. p. B10.
  5. ^ Scott, John L. (May 31, 1960). "Britons to Support Brando in 'Mutiny': Producer, Director Will Cast 20 'Bounty' Roles in England". Los Angeles Times. p. A7.
  6. ^ a b c Schumach, Murray (June 5, 1960). "Producer, Director Log a Few Plans On Their 'Mutiny on the Bounty'". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. p. D5. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  7. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (October 20, 1960). "'Sheik' griffith to sail on bounty". Los Angeles Times. p. B11. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  8. ^ a b Hugdins, Morgan (February 19, 1961). "RETURN TO 'PARADISE' ABOARD THE 'BOUNTY'". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Schumach, Murray (March 25, 1962). "HOLLYWOOD AT SEA; 'Bounty' Director Blames a Timorous Management for Tumultuous Saga". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  10. ^ a b "TAHITI WAS PARADISE". The Times of India. The Times Group. December 17, 1961. p. A6. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  11. ^ a b c Scheuer, Philip K. (October 21, 1962). "The Story Behind an $18 Million Mutiny: THE BOUNTY'S OTHER MUTINIES". Los Angeles Times. p. 1. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  12. ^ "Mackin takes municipal court seat". Los Angeles Times. January 14, 1961. p. 12. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  13. ^ Crowther, Bosley (November 9, 1962). "Screen: New Version of 'Mutiny on Bounty' Seen at Loew's State". The New York Times: 31.
  14. ^ "Mutiny On The Bounty". Variety: 6. November 14, 1962.
  15. ^ Gill, Brendan (November 17, 1962). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 208.
  16. ^ Coe, Richard L. (November 21, 1962). "'Bounty' Sets Freudian Sail". The Washington Post: B8.
  17. ^ "Mutiny on the Bounty". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 30 (348): 4. January 1963.
  18. ^ Kanfer, Stefan (2008). Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando. Faber and Faber. p. 178. ISBN 9780571278787.
  19. ^ "Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  20. ^ "Mutiny on the Bounty (1962): Trivia". IMDb. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  21. ^ "Top Rental Films of 1963". Variety. Penske Business Media. January 8, 1964. p. 37.
  22. ^ "Mutiny on the Bounty (1962): Awards". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Archived from the original on October 20, 2012. Retrieved December 25, 2008.
  23. ^ "Official Ballot" (PDF). AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores. American Film Institute. September 23, 2005. Retrieved August 6, 2016.
  24. ^ "Gold Key: Mutiny on the Bounty". Grand Comics Database.
  25. ^ Gold Key: Mutiny on the Bounty at the Comic Book DB

External links

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