This one is Hollywood at its very best. For plot the scenarists have used, with some variations, the first two books of the Charles Nordhoff-James Hall Norman trilogy on the mutiny of Fletcher Christian. Beginnings of the first book and the picture are pretty much the same, as are the details up to the arrival of the hunted mutineers on Pitcairn’s Island. Picture ends there, omitting the third book almost entirely.
First hour or so of the film leads up, step by step, to the mutiny, with a flexible ‘story’ backgrounding some thrilling views of seamanship on a British man-o’-war in the early 18th century, and the cruel Capt Bligh’s inhuman treatment of his sailors.
Bligh, through the cruelties he performs and due to the faithful portrait drawn by Charles Laughton, is as despicable a character as has ever heavied across a screen.
Laughton, Clark Gable and Franchot Tone are all that producer Al Lewin and director Frank Lloyd could have wished for in the three key roles. Laughton is magnificent. Gable, as brave Fletcher Christian, fills the doc’s prescription to the letter. Tone, likeable throughout, gets his big moment with a morality speech at the finish, and makes the most of it.
1935: Best Picture.
Nominations: Best Director, Actor (Clark Gable, Charles Laughton, Franchot Tone), Screenplay, Editing, Score