Based (Loosely) on a True Story
"Can you understand this, Mr. Byam? Discipline is the thing. A seaman's a seaman. A captain's a captain. And a midshipman, Sir Joseph or no Sir Joseph, is the lowest form of animal life in the British Navy...
—Captain William Bligh, 1935 version
, this is a classic novel so fondly remembered they filmed it twice (In fact, there's even a remake of the book). The first version, with Clark Gable
and Charles Laughton
, was the 1935 Oscar-Winner for Best Picture. The second adaptation of the novel, with Marlon Brando
, was 1962's most notorious flop.
Both films tell the true story of a mutiny on the ship, the Bounty.
In 1789, the small British naval ship HMS Bountynote
is sent to Tahiti under the command of Lieutenant William Bligh with the mission of bringing breadfruit plants to the Caribbean. The crew spends five months in the South Pacific island paradise while the plants grow, and the British sailors become accustomed to the good life there, basking in the sun and enjoying the company of the friendly natives (especially the women).
When the time comes to leave, the men have a hard time readjusting to the "jack tar" life of a sailor, especially under the command of their sharp-tongued Lieutenant. A few weeks after setting sail, a mutiny breaks out with second-in-command Fletcher Christian as the leader. Lieutenant Bligh is set adrift in an open launch with just over half the men and, in an impressive feat of seamanship, is able to navigate to the safety of Dutch-held Timor with only a sextant and a pocket watch.
The mutineers initially return to Tahiti. Some stay there, knowing they will be tried (and possibly executed) as soon as the next British ship arrives. 9 of the 22 mutineers (including Fletcher Christian), intending to evade capture, take the Bounty and head for the very isolated Pitcairn Island in the company of several Tahitian men and women. After reaching their goal and intending to start a new life, they burn the Bounty.
While most adaptations break off at this point, the drama actually continued for the mutineers and their companions, resulting in a decidedly non-happy ending for most: After several years on Pitcairn, violence broke out between the mutineers and the Tahitian men, and ultimately the women too. Almost all of the island's men, including Christian, died in these fights, while some others were killed by accidents, disease and excessive alcohol consumption. The net result was that when the island was first visited again in 1808, only one of the men, John Adams, was still alive, along with nine of the women and a number of children. The descendants of the mutineers continue to live on Pitcairn to this day.
See also The Bounty
, a 1984 film that did not use the Mutiny on the Bounty
novels but instead told a more historically accurate version of the real-life mutiny.
The Various Film Adaptations Contain Examples Of: