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Best Picture Movie Marathon, Part 77

Part 77: 1963


MOVIES:

  • The Longest Day

  • Lawrence of Arabia (winner)

  • To Kill a Mockingbird (hidden gem)

  • The Music Man

  • Mutiny on the Bounty



The Longest Day

Director: Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki

Starring: Henry Grace, Allen Swift, Alexander Knox, Nicholas Stuart, John Meillon, Mel Ferrer, Edmond O'Brien, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, John Crawford, Eddie Albert, John Wayne, Bill Nagy, Fred Dur, Rod Steiger, Steve Forrest, Ray Danton, Stuart Whitman, Tom Tryon, Gary Collins, Jeffrey Hunter, Tony Mordente, Bob Steele, Richard Beymer, Red Buttons, Sal Mineo, Roddy McDowall, George Segal, Robert Wagner, Paul Anka, Mark Damon, Peter Helm, Fabian, Tommy Sands, Joseph Lowe, Mickey Knox, Ron Randell, Marlon Brando, Trevor Reid, John Robinson, Simon Lack, Louis Mounier, Walter Horsbrugh, Leo Genn, Peter Lawford, Patrick Barr, Kenneth More, Richard Todd, Howard Marion-Crawford, Richard Wattis, Jack Hedley, Leslie Philips, Lyndon Brook, Richard Burton, Donald Houston, John Gregson, Sian Phillips, Richard Dawson, Harry Fowler, Bernard Fox, Norman Rossington, Sean Connery, Frank Finlay, Michael Medwin, Leslie de Laspee, Victor Maddern, Bryan Coleman, Jean Servais, Christian Marquand, Georges Riviere, Bernard Fresson, Irina Demick, Yves Barsacq, Maurice Poli, Jean Champion, Andre Bourvil, Georges Wilson, Jean-Louis Barrault, Madeleine Renaud, Arletty, Fernand Ledoux, Pauline Carton, Alice Tissot, Clement Harari, Paul Hartmann, Werner Hinz, Wolfgang Lukschy, Ernst Schroder, Curd Jurgens, Richard Munch, Wolfgang Buttner, Wolfgang Preiss, Karl John, Paul Edwin Roth, Heinz Reincke, Heinz Spitzner, Peter van Eyck, Walter Gotell, Hans Christian Blech, Eugene Deckers, Kurt Meisel, Til Kiwe, Hans Sohnker, Robert Freitag, Rainer Penkert, Dietmar Schonherr, Hartmut Reck, Vicco von Bulow, Gert Frobe, Ruth Hausmeister, Michael Hinz

Oscar Wins: Best Cinematography (Black and White), Best Special Effects

Other Nominations: Best Art Direction (Black and White), Best Film Editing, Best Picture

 

The Longest Day, which clocks in at almost three hours, was a grandiose attempt to tell the story of D-Day from everyone’s point of view. It had three directors, five writers (one of whom wrote the book it’s based on) and featured a large international cast with about as many stars as there are in the American flag.

 

But unlike other films about D-Day, like Saving Private Ryan for example, The Longest Day isn’t so much concerned with the battle as it is with the logistics of the whole thing. There’s a lot of talking in this movie (in several languages, too), and it certainly feels its length at times. It’s by no means perfect, but The Longest Day is still quite the achievement in filmmaking and one that deserves its spot among the great World War II films of recent years.



The film is a retelling – almost a documentary of sorts – of the events of the Normandy invasion of June 5 and 6, 1944. It’s very detailed, almost to a fault, and tells the story from multiple perspectives, including the US Army, the British RAF, the German Army, and the French Resistance movement.

 

We begin just before the invasion, with the British and American soldiers waiting for an invasion order. The Americans, commanded by Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (Henry Fonda) and led by Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort (John Wayne), Brigadier General Norman Cota (Robert Mitchum) and others, are sitting ducks at first, waiting for the order to move forward, all while dealing with horrible weather off the British Isles.

 


The Brits do much of the same, only with more apprehension. Flying Officer David Cambell (Richard Burton) is the perfect symbol for his troops: tired, depressed, and conflicted.

 

Meanwhile, the Germans do what they can to decode enemy transmissions. The higher-ups, including General der Infanterie Gunther Blumentritt (Curd Jurgens), enjoy their time sitting in safe, comfortable offices. After all, what do they have to worry about? They’re not seeing any combat, so any worry about an invasion slides right off their clean, upturned noses.

 

The majority of the film cycles through these three main groups, pausing here and there so all 5 million people who star in this movie can have their little 15 minutes of fame. We get nods to girls back home, memories of childhood days long since past, paratroopers who use their survival skills to woo women, you know, your basic “War Movie” stuff.



I will say, one of the cooler things about The Longest Day is the variety of languages spoken. The Germans speak German. The French speak French. It was actually quite cool to see a war movie not resorting to horrible German American accents. The international segments also featured directors and actors from those countries, offering up a more realistic movie-watching experience.

 

With a cast of so many popular faces, it’s certainly hard to give everyone their due diligence. Some are just on screen for a moment to deliver a joke or offer a punchy line (look out for Sean Connery in one of his first film roles!). And this causes a bit of a distraction, actually – because it’s near impossible to keep up with the story when you’re introduced to dozens of characters just for the sake of getting them on screen. Those that have a longer stay, like John Wayne, are fine. In fact, it seems Wayne was probably cast due to his American symbolism and not so much his actual acting capabilities. 


 

The actual D-Day invasion is probably the most unrealistic segment of the entire film. Many of the soldiers stop mid-run to talk, others run casually from one spot to another, others don’t even seem scared at all. To compare this to the gritty opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan seems unfair, but one can’t help but notice that the Normandy invasion in The Longest Day feels a bit…choreographed.

 

Still, The Longest Day deserves some respect. It was meant to be a statement about history – a statement carried out by the countries that made history – and I think it achieved that. It’s one of the only World War II films I’ve seen that treats everyone with the same level of respect. The Germans are smart, the Brits are noble and resourceful, the French are gallant and brave. Among the Allies, no one curses, no one uses slang…I can’t even recall anyone speaking the word, “Nazi”. This is a film that throws a lot of facts at us, and proudly. Unlike the war films of today, there is no room for emotion here. It’s not a movie that tells us to care about these people – it’s more concerned with us caring about the facts, about history, about how we got here, and how to prevent it from happening again.

 

Lawrence of Arabia

Director: David Lean

Starring: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Omar Sharif, Jose Ferrer, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Wolfit, I.S. Johar, Gamil Ratib, Michel Ray, John Dimech, Zia Mohyeddin, Howard Marion-Crawford, Jack Gwillim, Hugh Miller

Oscar Wins: Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction (Color), Best Director, Best Cinematography (Color), Best Music (Music Score - Substantially Original), Best Sound, Best Picture

Other Nominations: Best Actor (Peter O'Toole), Best Supporting Actor (Omar Sharif), Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

 

Lawrence of Arabia is a movie with no stars, no women, no love story, and no action. Its cinematic backdrop is the desert and most of the story involves watching a guy walk or ride his camel from one place to another. Oh, it’s also 4 hours long. So why is Lawrence of Arabia often considered one of the greatest films of all time?

 

Whether or not you agree that Lawrence of Arabia should be placed on any list of the best films ever made (I do not, but that’s neither here nor there), most people can agree that the best thing about this film is its cinematic presence. This is one of those movies you almost need to see in the theater to get the full experience. Director David Lean’s use of the wide lens 70mm camera allowed him to capture the sweeping landscapes, filmed largely on location, that martyrized this film into Hollywood lore. That famous shot when the shimmering heat of the desert yields the speck that becomes a man doesn’t have nearly the same impact on a TV screen as it does in the theater. The vastness of the desert and its unforgiving harshness is best experienced when it’s on a screen large enough to envelop us properly. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?



Recounting the larger-than-life exploits of T.E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole), an officer in the British army serving in the Middle East during World War I, Lawrence of Arabia begins with his death. Spoiler alert.

 

After his funeral, we quickly jump back more than 20 years to Cairo, where Lawrence is about to begin the greatest adventure of his career. He’s ordered by his commanding officer to trek through the desert to find Bedouin Prince Feisel (Alec Guiness), who is a British ally in the fight against the Turks. What follows is the account of how Lawrence became a pivotal figure in the Arab revolt against the Turks, documenting the Shakespearean rise and fall of his character.



Over the course of 4 hours, the film covers five major events in his life: Lawrence’s initial foray into Bedouin territory and his meetings with Feisel and Ali Ibn El Kharish (Omar Sharif); his trek across the Nefud Desert and attack on Aqaba; his torture at the hands of the Turks; his leadership in the massacre at Tafas; and his victory at Damascus. Each of these events help build Lawrence’s reputation among the Arabs and mold his character, both for better and worse.

 

One issue that’s not addressed directly in this film is Lawrence’s sexuality. Widely believed to be a homosexual, Lawrence lived in an era when gay men did not flaunt their preferences (especially when stationed in the Middle East). There are certainly clues to his sexual desires in the screenplay and the effeminate mannerisms O’Toole exhibits in his performance, but you have to really read between the lines to see them. For what it’s worth, he and Sherif had great chemistry, whether or not it was meant to be sexual. 



For O’Toole, this was his career-defining role. Relatively unknown at the time, O’Toole came to the part without any baggage. His mannerisms suggest the character’s ambivalence about nearly everything – his sexuality, his lot in life, his place in the world around him. While O’Toole was not the first choice (both Marlon Brando and Albert Finney were approached first), he was certainly the best. His lack of experience only added to the big head Lawrence has at the beginning of the film and his near 240 minutes of screentime gave him more experience in one go than some actors have in their entire career.

 

Since both O’Toole and Sharif were new to Hollywood at the time, Lean stuffed better-known actors in supporting roles. Alec Guiness, Anthony Quinn, Jose Ferrer, and Claude Rains helped boost the cast list a bit.

 


But no actor, however popular, could compare with the scenery. Lawrence of Arabia is littered with majestic, unforgettable shots that have helped immortalize this film. Mirages, blazing sunsets, majestic dunes, camel rides, and stunning rock formations both beautified and villainized the desert. Similar to films like The Revenant, Lawrence of Arabia isn’t a film you watch, it’s a film you experience.

 

But cinematography alone doesn’t make a film great. As stunning as this was, I still found it hard to sit through a 4-hour war film that focused more on the political battlefield than the actual one. By the end, I was glad I saw it, but happy it was over.



Famously, Lawrence of Arabia took longer to produce than the real Lawrence spent with the Arabs during World War I (Lean said it took nearly 3 years, start to finish). It had a $15 million budget (bringing in 5x that at the box office) and was nominated for 10 Oscars, winning seven. Watching it today, it’s easy to see how strongly this film influenced many directors, namely Steven Spielberg, who called Lawrence of Arabia “a miracle”. He considers it his favorite film of all time and the one that inspired him to become a filmmaker. It’s also said to have inspired a variety of adventure, sci-fi and fantasy stories, including Dune, Star Wars, and Mad Max: Fury Road.

 

Like the sand that fills so many of the frames of this film, it’s clear that Lawrence of Arabia has infiltrated almost everything that’s come after it, hiding in the crevasses of the stories that transport us to another time, another place, another world.

 

To Kill a Mockingbird

Director: Robert Mulligan

Starring: Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Phillip Alford, John Megna, Frank Overton, Rosemary Murphy, Ruth White, Brock Peters, Estelle Evans, Paul Fix, Collin Wilcox, James Anderson, Alice Ghostley, Robert Duvall, William Windom, Crahan Denton, Richard Hale

Oscar Wins: Best Actor (Gregory Peck), Best Art Direction (Black and White), Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Other Nominations: Best Supporting Actress (Mary Badham), Best Cinematography (Black and White), Best Music (Music Score - Substantially Original), Best Director, Best Picture

 

It would be hard to find someone who’s never read To Kill a Mockingbird at least once. Harper Lee’s first novel was an instant classic when it was first published, not only winning the Pulitzer Prize but receiving a film adaptation just two years after publication. Even today, To Kill a Mockingbird is widely considered to be one of the best books of all time, teaching students of all ages about bigotry, racism, kindness and humanity through the story of a Southern Alabama lawyer and his children.

 


The film version, which almost acts as a time capsule of a kinder, gentler America, hit theaters in December of 1962. America was on the cusp of entering the Vietnam War. The assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy, and Malcom X were just months away. Acts of bigotry and racial hatred peppered the evening news as the Civil Rights movement gained momentum. For a film as unflinching (un-Finch-ing? Haha) as this one to arrive in theaters during this turbulent period in our history is frankly nothing short of astounding. To Kill a Mockingbird confronted prejudice head-on and shows us that justice is not always color blind. In this story, right does not always triumph, the good guy doesn’t always win, and kindness – no matter how genuine – can’t fix a broken system.

 

Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) is a lawyer in Macon County, Alabama, an area hit hard by the Great Depression. A true man of the people, he often trades legal work for consumables from farmers and neighbors who can’t afford to pay him. These acts of generosity and understanding, as well as his calm demeanor when dealing with crotchety old neighbors, help showcase Atticus as a man worthy of trust and respect.



On the home front, Atticus is a single father to his two children, Jem (Philip Alford) and Scout (Mary Badham), who spend the summer scurrying about town, getting into bits of trouble with their new friend, Dill Harris (John Megna). As residents of a poor, small town, the kids must craft their own fun. They dare each other to touch the door of the nearby house of Boo Radley (Robert Duvall in his first film role) – the town “boogeyman” who is never seen but has a legend worthy of his moniker.

 

Meanwhile, Atticus is appointed as the defense attorney for Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), a black man indicted for raping the white daughter of Bob Ewell (James Anderson). The whole town turns up for the trial, including Scout and Jem. Piece by piece, Atticus breaks down the prosecution, showcasing evidence that would have this trial thrown out in virtually any other state. But Atticus is in Alabama. He’s defending a black man. He’s presenting to an all-white jury. The entire courtroom, including Scout and Jem, bear witness to a flawed system at work, fanned by forceful prejudices. For Tom, justice is not served, and tragedy results.



Gregory Peck gives the performance of his career here, earning his first and only Best Actor award for his role. Natural, understated, quiet and observant, Peck is at his best as Atticus. It’s not only a favorite among his fans, but his own personal favorite performance as well. But by no means is To Kill a Mockingbird entirely Peck’s film.

 

The two younger Finch’s, Jem and Scout, are just – if not more – entertaining. Both 9-year-old Mary Badham and 13-year-old Philip Alford make their film debuts as Peck’s children. Badham as Scout easily carries the majority of the film, as it’s told from her perspective. Her effortless performance works in perfect harmony with Peck and it’s no wonder the two remained lifelong friends after filming ended.



The main irony of this story has to do with the meaning of justice. When Boo Radley, a white man who is clearly not all there mentally, becomes involved in a confrontation involving a murder, the sheriff decides to turn a blind eye to it. No good would be served by accusing Boo of murder – that would be like “killing a mockingbird,” a creature that simply exists to bring music to the garden. Yet Tom, an innocent black man, was framed and sentenced for a crime that never happened. Boo seems to get a pass, since the man that was murdered was the same man responsible for the atrocities against Tom, but do the dead REALLY bury the dead? Is justice given to Tom now that the man who destroyed his life is now gone?

 

It takes guts to turn one of the most beloved books of this past century into a film…yet To Kill a Mockingbird does it flawlessly. It’s a faithful, well-done adaptation of one of our most important works of American literature – but it’s also wonderful in its own right. It’s one of those rare productions where everything works – from the script to the director, the cinematography to the casting. There’s no doubt the book is a classic – it seems the film can share that same honor.

 

The Music Man

Director: Morton DaCosta

Starring: Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Hermione Gingold, Paul Ford, Pert Kelton, Bill Spangenberg, Wayne "Scotty" Ward, Al Shea, Vern Reed, Timmy Everett, Susan Luckey, Ron Howard, Harry Hickox, Charles Lane, Mary Wickes, Peggy Mondo, Sara Seegar, Adnia Rice, Jesslyn Fax, Monique Vermont

Oscar Wins: Best Music (Scoring of Music - Adaptation or Treatment)

Other Nominations: Best Art Direction (Color), Best Costume Design (Color), Best Film Editing, Best Sound, Best Picture

 

In the history of musical theater, there are a handful of roles that have become so closely identified with the actors who originated them that it’s almost impossible to imagine any other performer in the part. Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady; Yul Brynner as the Siamese ruler in The King and I; Julie Andrews as the flibbertyjibit nun in The Sound of Music. But few are as connected to their role as Robert Preston is to Harold Hill, the unflappable con artist who marches into River City, Iowa – complete with his 76 trombones at his heels – in Meredith Willson’s The Music Man.

 

Though he won a Tony Award for his role as Harold Hill on Broadway, Robert Preston was far from the first choice for the movie adaptation. Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Cary Grant were all offered the part first and refused. In fact, Cary Grant was so (playfully) offended that he responded, “Not only will I not star in it, if Robert Preston doesn’t do it, I won’t even see the picture.”



Thankfully, the film producers took Grant’s advice. Not only was The Music Man one of the highest grossing films of 1962, it became Robert Preston’s career-defining cinematic performance. Nothing he ever did before or after would come close to it. Just mention Robert Preston to anyone and chances are they will instantly picture him as Harold Hill, dressed in his red band uniform, leading a band of thousands down the main street of River City.



After a very cool opening sequence involving a stop-motion marching band, The Music Man hits the ground (or the tracks) running with what’s widely considered to be the first ‘rap’ song in musical theater: “Rock Island”. Set to the chug-a-chug beat of a moving passenger train, “Rock Island” serves two purposes – first, it speaks to the difficulties traveling salesmen have at the turn of the century, since the Model T Ford is allowing people to “get up and go” to buy their wares elsewhere. Secondly, it introduces us to the lore of Harold Hill, a man whose reputation precedes him in nearly every county he visits (“he’s a fake and he doesn’t know the territory!”). As the salesmen complain about his game of promising to start a band, then skipping town before the first baton wave, the train slows as it pulls into River City, Iowa. A well-dressed man gets up to disembark, dramatically revealing “Prof. Harold Hill” on his suitcase. Best. Introduction. Ever.

 

At first, River City looks like the very epitome of Americana. White picket fences adorn every house. Red, white, and blue banners reveal the start of the town’s 4th of July celebration. But the citizens are standoffish, stubborn and suspicious of outsiders. In their welcome song, “Iowa Stubborn”, the locals explain to Hill that he’s welcome, so long as he minds his business. This song also contains one of my favorite lines, “You can eat your fill of all the food you bring yourself.” Makes me chuckle every time!



It seems Hill has his work cut out for him. In order for his scheme to work, he has to create trouble with a capital T to help justify the need for a boy’s band. The wheels start turning when he spots a new pool table arriving at the local billiards hall. Game. Set. Match. Suddenly pool becomes the gateway drug for smoking, swearing, and the most shameless music of all: ragtime. What are these poor Iowa parents to do? Well, throw their kids in marching band, of course!

 

With the seeds of mob mentality planted, Hill pursues his next obstacle: the librarian Marian Paroo (Shirley Jones). She gives piano lessons on the side and is musically intuitive to suss him out – but she’s not the first girl to come across this traveling swindler…



As one of the only well-read citizens of River City, Marian is trapped in the life she created for herself. Unwed and unattached, Marian lives at home with her mother (Pat Kelton) and brother (Ron Howard) and is looked down upon by other River City citizens because she recommends “dirty books” to young readers. She longs to find someone to take her out of small-town America, someone who wonders what makes Shakespeare and Beethoven great. Good luck, girly-girl.

 

The main chunk of the film takes place at the 4th of July festivities, when we’re introduced to Mayor Shinn and his wife (the wonderful Paul Ford and Hermione Gingold, respectively). It’s here where Hill forms the need for his band with the infamous “Seventy-Six Trombones” song.

 


Little by little, Hill wraps each one of these River City-izans around his finger, turning the crabby school board into a barbershop quartet and encouraging the mayor’s wife to lead the dance committee. He convinces moms to buy their children instruments and uniforms by playing to their emotions. And when the instruments finally arrive, the clock begins ticking for Hill. Collect the money get GET. OUT.

 

But Harold Hill is still a man…and it seems his heart has been stolen by one Marian Paroo. Though she’s learned a little bit more about Harold Hill in her pre-Google research of him, she has no problem forgetting it after he woos her at the footbridge. It would appear she has finally found her musical man who can tout what makes Beethoven great…

 

But Hill isn’t as safe in Iowa as he thinks. Other salesmen start talking about Harold Hill’s con game…and before you can say “Kill the Beast!”, a town mob forms, trying to track him down.



With Mayor Shinn serving as judge, jury, and executioner, he’s fully ready to give Harold Hill the tarring and feathering of a lifetime. But Marian makes a heartfelt appeal. She reminds the town of how miserable life was before Harold Hill arrived and, even though he lied to them, he taught them how to appreciate music and dancing.

 

Yet Mayor Shinn doesn’t buy it. He calls Hill’s bluff, demanding to see this boy’s band that doesn’t exist. Suddenly an army of boys barge into the courtroom, dressed in their uniforms and holding the instruments they were never taught to play. After a silent prayer to whatever God he prays to, Harold Hill raises the baton and the band starts playing. It’s terrible, obviously, but all the parents simply swell with pride. Eventually they concede that while Hill is indeed a con artist, he did bring joy to the town. And, through the power of musical movie magic, all is forgiven and ends happily ever after.

 

The Music Man is one of the films I remember watching over and over again as a kid (I’m a band nerd, what can I say). I know all these stupid songs by heart and still find little jokes I missed in previous viewings. In fact, the first time I saw the man who would become my husband was in a high school production of The Music Man. Dressed in a top hat and suit, his performance as Mayor Shinn had me cackling. I was instantly smitten. While this musical about a small Iowa town is certainly overflowing with corn-y phraseology, I still can’t help but love it. It seems Harold Hill has conned again.

 

Mutiny on the Bounty

Director: Lewis Milestone

Starring: Marlon Brando, Trevor Howard, Richard Harris, Hugh Griffith, Richard Haydn, Tarita Teriipaia, Matahiarii Tama, Percy Herbert, Duncan Lamont, Gordon Jackson, Chips Rafferty, Noel Purcell, Ashley Cowan, Eddie Byrne, Tim Seely, Frank Silvera

Oscar Wins: No wins.

Other Nominations: Best Art Direction (Color), Best Music (Music Score - Substantially Original), Best Film Editing, Best Music (Song) ("Love Song"), Best Cinematography (Color), Best Special Effects, Best Picture

 

There’s a moment in Mutiny on the Bounty that defines Captain Bligh as a ruthless leader. When speaking of his desire to physically abuse his crew, he says, “Cruelty with a purpose is not cruelty, it is efficiency.” I shall take his advice here.

 

This movie sucked.

 

For some reason, Charles Nordhoff’s novel Mutiny on the Bounty has inspired moviemakers not once, not twice, but three times throughout the years. This version starring Trevor Howard and Marlon Brando sits between the original 1935 adaptation starring Charles Laughton and Clark Gable and the more recent 1984 version with Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson. Though this version is widely considered to be more historically accurate, it’s also twice the length of the original film and more boring than watching Brando try to peel a banana. OK, let’s get into it.

 


The story is a familiar one. Captain Bligh (Trevor Howard) agrees to take a crew of sailors on a two-year mission to Tahiti in order to obtain thousands of fruit trees, then carry those trees to the West Indies to provide food for slaves on sugar plantations.

 

Bligh relies heavily on his first mate, Christian Fletcher (Marlon Brando) to run a tight ship, encouraging acts of violence to help keep the ship in order. This includes starving and flogging any crew member who so much as bumps into him on the ship. While Fletcher doesn’t agree with Bligh’s corporal punishment ideologies, he has no choice but to obey his captain.



The ship eventually docks in Tahiti, where the crew enjoy eating, drinking, and bedding women. But the pleasure is short-lived. Conditions become unbearable once the crew leaves Tahiti and Fletcher, along with a few other seamen, lead a covert mutiny against Bligh. Yet even with the ship overrun and Bligh cast out with his band of loyalists, a harsh fate may still await the rebels of the Bounty when it returns to England.

 

Besides its length (3 hours) and the fact that this movie made absolutely no improvements on the original, the worst thing about Mutiny on the Bounty was that it made some very weird choices when it came to character and story development. As Bligh, Howard is surprisingly aroused by violence. He seems to delight not only in the hedonism of Tahiti, but almost writhes in sadomasochistic pleasure when whipping and abusing his crew. Brando’s Fletcher is like a cross between Hamlet and Jack Sparrow, offering a rather effeminate performance, complete with bizarre costumes (and a horrible accent) that just keep getting weirder. His performance is so overplayed that the idea of this man even serving as a Naval Officer in the first place seems impossible.



Furthermore, the film is narrated by a botanist named William Brown (Richard Haydn) who is only along for the ride to make sure the trees remain alive. He narrates moments he never even saw because he spent the entire trip IN THE BOTTOM OF THE SHIP WATERING THE PLANTS. Ugh.



But Mutiny on the Bounty isn’t all bad. Though the whole Tahiti segment drags on FAR too long, there are some gorgeous shots in there. The fiery finale was also quite spectacular. The “Bounty” ship, which was constructed out of 400,000 feet of lumber, was honestly a work of art…and it actually floated. The ship was first built in Nova Scotia, then sailed 7,000 miles to Tahiti for filming. After Mutiny on the Bounty finished filming, the boat enjoyed a lustrous career, appearing in Treasure Island (1990) and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (it appears as the “Edinburgh Trader”, a ship that’s eventually destroyed by the Kraken). 



Though Marlon Brando’s performance was widely scrutinized by critics, he earned enough money from his work on Mutiny on the Bounty to buy his own freaking Tahitian island. He also got a wife out of the deal, marrying his co-star, Tarita Teri’ipaia during filming. Their marriage lasted 10 years before ending in divorce in 1972.



While the true story of the mutiny that happened on board “The Bounty” is far from any of the dramatic retellings that have come out of Hollywood, you’re still better off watching the original. Worst case, you’re done in half the time and don’t have bear witness to Brando’s Coachella-esque fashion choices.

 

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