Tuesday, December 19, 2006

this is about ten coconuts and two wheels of cheese

Last night I watched Mutiny on the Bounty, the old one with Charles Laughton and Clark Gable from 1935, all high-waisted pants.

I like that Clark Gable wasn't some testosterone-muscled freak, the way male movie stars are expected to be today.

I developed a small and fleeting crush on the actor who played the earnest, wholesome and easy-going Roger Byam. As it turns out, that was a fellow with the improbable name of Franchot Tone, who in real life was a chain smoker who married three or four times, including once to Joan Crawford, for heaven's sake.

Also, Charles Laughton as Captain Bligh looks a lot like the sister of someone I knew. She had the same always-downturned mouth. Like Bligh (in this version of the movie), she had a bone to pick with just about everyone, and would interpret anything anyone said in the worst possible light. Sometimes she was fun and had a wacky sense of humour, but overall she just took everything too darned seriously. For example, I once greeted her warmly and told her she looked good (she was dressed nicely for some event or another), and she snapped, "You're so obsessed with these Western standards of superficial appearance!" (Seriously, if you knew how I dressed, you would really find this extra funny.)

A few things to note about the production:
  1. When Bligh orders a sailor keelhauled, there is this really creepy low-tech image flashed on the screen of an almost featureless doll being dragged through some murky fluid. I paused and replayed it a few times and couldn't make head or tail of it.

  2. When Clark Gable as Christian Fletcher kisses the Tahitian woman he would later "take as his wife", they briefly superimpose a sunset, and then on the second kiss, wind-swept palm trees. I guess kisses are sometimes like that.

  3. In the DVD version, there is a special feature - a 1935 short about Pitcairn Island "An Oddity". No fucking kidding.

  4. I think Laughton was wearing prosthetic eyebrows.


At December 20, 2006 9:19 a.m., Anonymous blackbeltbarrister said...

Clark Gable was extremely handsome but I can never look at him without thinking of how he apparently had ferociously bad breath because he had false teeth he would never clean and he smoked and drank heavily. Vivien Leigh had to give it her all in Gone With the Wind during those romantic scenes.

I actually attended a lecture about Pitcairn Island a month ago because a former judge of the High Court of New Zealand is a visiting fellow at my college and he was one of the judges presiding over the sexual abuse trial involving the Pitcairn people. There's only about forty people living on the island, descendants of the Mutiny's crew and Polynesians, and sadly but unsurprisingly, the men of the community have been seeing fit to 'educate' the girls as to a woman's duties for the last fifty years or so. Apparently they've had to build a jail on the island to hold the accused but it's actually the best accommodation there, with indoor toilets and everything.

At December 20, 2006 11:26 a.m., Blogger Gloria said...

Laughton as Bligh always reminded me the mother superior of the nun's school where I studied in my childhood. She was extremely thin and humourless, had that downturned mouth and could be a real b*tch... in fact, Bligh at her side would seem Mother Theresa.

You're right about the eyebrows: they weren't Laughton's own, but usually actors have some make-up when playing a role. The historical William Bligh actually had bushy eyebrows and so had Frank Lloyd, the film director... so Laughton was either being physically accurate or pulling a sly joke on the director.

Incidentally, Laughton was wearing a wig as well: he had shaved his head a few months earlier while trying the role of Micawber in "David Copperfield" (which was finally played by WC Fields). By the time he was working in "Mutiny on the Bounty" his hair had grown a bit, but his crew cut probably wasn't considered right for the character by the make-up boys.

At December 20, 2006 1:12 p.m., Blogger Slinger said...

Interesting fact about this film:
The only film in Oscar history that had three nominees for Best Actor: Clark Gable, Charles Laughton, and Franchot Tone. They all lost to Victor McLaglen for The Informer (1935), the only nominee not in this film.


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