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    • Marlon Brando Fletcher Christian
    • Trevor Howard Captain William Bligh
    • Richard Harris John Mills
    • Hugh Griffith Alexander Smith
    • Richard Haydn William Brown
    • Tarita Maimiti
    • Tim Seely Edward Young
    • Percy Herbert Matthew Quintal
    • Gordon Jackson Edward Birkett
    • Noel Purcell William McCoy
    • Duncan Lamont John Williams
    • Chips Rafferty Michael Byrne
    • Ashley Cowan Samuel Mack
    • Eddie Byrne John Fryer
    • Keith McConnell James Morrison
    • Frank Silvera Minarii
    • Ben Wright (1) Graves
    • Henry Daniell Court martial judge
    • Torin Thatcher Staines
    • Matahiarii Tama Chief Hitihiti


  • Dir:
  • Prod:
      Aaron Rosenberg
  • Scr:
      Charles Lederer, Eric Ambler, William L Driscoll, John Gay, Ben Hecht, Borden Chase, from a novel by Charles Nordhoff, James Norman Hall
  • Ph:
      Robert L. Surtees
  • Ed:
      John McSweeney
  • Mus:
      Bronislau Kaper
  • Art Dir:
      George W. Davis, J. McMillan Johnson


         mutiny on the bounty

    [ m u t i n y  o n  t h e  b o u n t y : m o v i e  r e v i e w ]

    vhs mutiny on the bounty dvd

    Classification: 15

      M U T I N Y

      If Mr Brando would care to tell me beforehand what he's
      planning to say, then I might know when he's going to finish!

      - Trevor Howard on location during the filming of
      Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)

    BETWEEN The Men (1950) and The Godfather (1972) Marlon Brando was arguably the brightest and most original star in movies. He put method acting on the map and gave it respectability. Trevor Howard's involvement with Brando began one day when the director Carol Reed telephoned him to ask if playing Captain Bligh in a remake of Mutiny on the Bounty appealed to him and what changes he would make to Charles Laughton's 1935 portrayal.

    Howard, who knew Laughton well, thought that Hollywood had ruined the story of the mutiny by trying to depict the conflict between Bligh and Fletcher Christian, the mutineers' leader, as a simple black-and-white struggle between good and evil. Bligh had been less evil than portrayed by Laughton, and the real-life Christian, played by Clark Gable, had been no saint.

    Howard felt that there was sufficient meat in the true story to make fictionalization unnecessary. It could be dramatized for the screen without jettisoning the facts. Although he and Reed had no previous discussion of the subject, their views were similar. Howard thought nothing more about the conversation until Reed phoned him two months later with the news that the green light had been given, that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer would produce it and that the role of Captain Bligh was his. Howard was told that he was everyone's first choice for the role, including Brando's, who would play Christian. Howard accepted immediately, elated at the thought of working again with Reed and for the first time with Brando. What he did not know at the time was that, in order to attract the moody star, MGM had caved in to several of Brando's demands which would stretch relationships beyond breaking-point and send the production costs spiralling.

    Desperate to repeat the success of its remake of Ben Hur (1959), which scooped up eight Oscars, the studio decided to film the exteriors in Tahiti where the Bounty collected its cargo and where the sun and the sand and the tropical vegetation would provide an authentic backdrop. The cast and crew thus assembled on Tahiti in readiness for the arrival of a full-size replica of the Bounty, built in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, at a cost of $700,000. Work began on the three-masted ship in February 1960. It was as faithful a replica of the original as circumstances would allow, although additional space was needed for securing and moving the cameras during filming. The total height from the deck to the top of the mainmast was 103 feet. More than 10,000 square feet of canvas was used for the sails. Severe weather delayed the delivery of large quantities of oak from New Jersey which were needed for the planking.

    Careful planning failed to avert costly delays and disappointments. From the beginning, one disaster followed another. The design modifications and extra weight (of a diesel engine, camera mounts and so on) seriously affected the buoyancy and steerability of the ship, which meant that it not only took longer than planned to reach the South Seas from Nova Scotia via the Panama Canal but that it almost capsized several times and caught fire twice during the 7,327-mile voyage. It finally reached Tahiti on 4 December 1960, two months after the film's planned starting date.

    Tahiti is the largest of a group of islands known as the Society Island group, which include Moorea and Bora Bora. Scenes were filmed on all three islands. The total population of Tahiti is around fifty thousand, more than half of whom live in the only town of any size on the island, Papeete, which became headquarters for the unit. The interior of the island is rugged and beautiful, with lots of crags and peaks, palm trees and plunging waterfalls, but hardly any inhabitants. The bulk of the population hugs the coastline.

    The first scene that Reed filmed was the stone fishing sequence, in which hundreds of native women wade offshore and, beating the water with their hands, drive the fish towards their menfolk in canoes. Almost every inhabitant of the island appeared in the shot, each of whom was paid $10 a day. The eight hundred who used their canoes to catch the fish earned a further $ 10, and they were allowed to keep whatever they caught. The scene depicting the arrival of the Bounty at Matavaii Bay was filmed with more than six thousand Tahitians milling around on the sea and on the shoreline. These scenes were not only spectacular to watch; they recreated the original event with uncanny accuracy.

    The true story of the Bounty is well documented. It set sail from Spithead in England on 23 December 1787 under orders to proceed to Otaheite (later renamed Tahiti) to collect breadfruit for transport to the West Indies. Early explorers such as Captain Cook had reported that breadfruit, the staple diet of the South Seas, produced strong, healthy islanders. Colonists in the British West Indies wanted an inexpensive, nourishing food for their African slaves, and they petitioned the King, George III, to have it introduced to the colonies. The Bounty, under Captain Bligh, was commissioned to transport a cargo of young breadfruit samples to Jamaica, where they were to be replanted, grown to full size and harvested.

    While passing through Endeavour Strait, off the island of Torfua, en route for Jamaica, the mutiny erupted. Its leader was Fletcher Christian. The trigger was Bligh's curtailment of drinking water for his crew, because the plants needed more of it than he had allowed for. There was only so much to share around, and if the choice was between saving the men or the cargo Bligh was under orders to safeguard the breadfruit first and foremost. Every drop of water had to be rationed. Not surprisingly, the crew mutinied and seized control of the ship.

    Bligh and eighteen crew members who remained loyal to him were set adrift in an open boat no more than twenty-three feet long. They were expected not to survive. But forty-one days later, against overwhelming odds, they waded ashore at Timor in the Dutch East Indies, having rowed a distance of 3,618 miles with the loss of only one life. And that man had not been lost at sea. He had been killed by hostile natives on a small island after the boat had pulled up on the beach for an overnight rest.

    In an effort to keep their whereabouts secret from the Admiralty, Christian and his followers left Tahiti and sailed 1,300 miles southwards to the uninhabited island of Pitcairn, which is only two miles long and a mile wide. They burned the Bounty so that it could not be seen from a passing ship. The island became their home, and also their prison, since they had destroyed their only means of getting away from the island.

    It was a story that lent itself to numerous interpretations. Brando disagreed with the slant British screenwriter Eric Ambler had put on the story. He wanted something 'more meaningful'. Ambler endured the star's moody criticisms for several weeks and then quit. With replacement writers the same arguments persisted, and while this was going on filming ground to a halt. Papeete became a transit camp for the hundred-strong disgruntled unit, although it was generally felt that being paid regularly for taking life easy was nothing to grumble about.

    Reed was wary of upsetting Brando unnecessarily, but he wanted the story told truthfully, and what emerged from Brando's daily tinkering with the script was a storyline that departed from the truth at several critical points. Reed was also annoyed at the ease with which Brando subverted the procession of screenwriters who displaced each other with clockwork precision. Charles Lederer, for example, incorporated all Brando's impromptu mutterings into the script, whether or not they made narrative sense. Mostly they did not. Between them they turned Bligh into a one-dimensional bad guy, a scowling ogre better suited to a B-movie. The real-life Bligh was bull-headed and had a notorious bad temper, but he was not a sadistic megalomaniac, and the sailors under his command, while treated harshly, suffered no worse than others in naval service during the eighteenth century. When Reed pointed this out Brando went into one of his prolonged sulks, and the atmosphere between them which had begun so promisingly took an abrupt nose-dive.

    Howard and Richard Harris, who was playing a character called John Mills, promptly took Reed's side, and, gradually, a split emerged. It was not serious to begin with, but, as views became entrenched and professional pride entered the equation, the divisions widened. One faction comprised Brando, Lederer, the producer Aaron Rosenberg, a front office executive called J.J. Cohn and the cinematographer Bob Surtees. The rival group that formed behind Reed included most of the British and Irish actors on the film. Howard promptly emerged as their most articulate and respected spokesperson. He also had the most to lose among the British and Irish contingent if the film turned out to be a flop.

    While genuinely in awe of Brando's talent, this group were puzzled by his wilful conduct. He had hijacked the production and appeared accountable to nobody. With a growing sense of helplessness Reed's supporters retreated to their favourite bar in Papeete, Quinn's, and briefly contemplated a mutiny of their own.

    Then, suddenly, a new problem swept in from the sea: heavy rain. Solid, unrelenting rain. In MGM's eagerness to get started, nobody had considered how bad the weather can be in the South Seas at the end of the year. Cloudbursts forced everyone to dash for cover, strong winds put the small boats out of action and, at times, almost toppled the replica of the Bounty where it rested, top-heavy, in shallow water. Illness was another delaying factor. One by one key members of the unit collapsed with dysentery and other debilitating tropical conditions. Finally, demoralized after four months of relative inactivity, and with the bills mounting at the rate of $50,000 a day, the studio was forced to switch production to Hollywood where the sound stages were equipped and waiting.

    Back in Hollywood Brando and Reed continued their disagreements. Rumours that a vast amount of money had been squandered with barely anything to show for it caused shares in MGM to plunge several points. Panic and gloom engulfed Culver City. The press stopped believing it would be 'Ben Hur Part Two' and began calling it 'Cleopatra on Water'. Brando, of course, could not be sacked, but Reed had no safety-net. Before the director had unpacked his suitcase the knives were out for him.

    The head of production, Sol Siegel, accused Reed of mishandling the Tahitian shoot and insisted that every effort be made to catch up with the original schedule. The director agreed but could not give Siegel a completion date. Siegel lost his temper at Reed's refusal to provide the answers he wanted to hear.

      'You have a hundred days to finish the job,' said Siegel flatly.

      Reed shook his head. 'I won't say "yes" because I know I can't do it in that time,' he said. 'One hundred and fifty days, maybe.'

    This statement fell on deafer ears than Reed's earlier plea to keep the story factual - a request that had Siegel on his feet shouting, 'Nobody goes to the movies to watch history! We have museums for that!' Siegel and MGM's vice-president Ray Klune decided that the only solution was to cut their losses, and, reluctantly, they told Reed that his services were no longer required. Honesty, bad weather and a star actor who would not behave had cost Reed his job.

    Howard and Richard Harris were angry when they heard the news. Harris groaned, 'We're in the hands of bloody philistines.' They wanted Siegel to reconsider.

    By then Siegel was sick of all of them. He told them:

      'Gentlemen, before you say anything, I want you to understand one thing. A star is a star. Everyone else is expendable. Reed doesn't want the job, and I don't want him doing the job. Now what was it you wanted?'

    Howard later recalled, 'Carol's departure, for reasons that I quite understand, was a terrible shock. Without him, they made a different film.' Earlier he had told Cecil Wilson of the Daily Mail:

      'When Carol offered me the part, the idea was that we should bring out the good side of Bligh as well as the bad. We had talked this over. But the Americans thought that the public wouldn't be interested. They wanted as big a villain as Charles Laughton had been in the old picture. It's wrong to show a real person like Bligh in a false light.'

    But the studio was not interested in historical accuracy. It was desperate for a box-office smash hit. It really did seem to think it was making 'Ben Hur Part Two'. It was the same basic formula. Swap the chariots for a galleon and roll the cameras.

    Reed's replacement was Lewis Milestone, a veteran director who had made the granddaddy of all anti-war movies, All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). Brando nodded through his appointment, because by then it scarcely mattered to him who picked up the reins after Reed. He would film it the way that he wanted, and a director nearing seventy with the same recent track record as Greta Garbo - in that he hadn't made a film for thirty years - suited his plan perfectly.

    After several weeks in Hollywood, filming the departure of the Bounty from Spithead at the start of the voyage, Bligh recounting his misfortunes to the Admiralty and the subsequent court martial of the captured mutineers (which was cut in the final edit because Brando wanted the film to end with Christian's death), the unit returned to Tahiti on 22 April 1961 to restart location work in improved, although less than ideal weather conditions. Filming the mutiny on board the Bounty, when Christian and Bligh have their violent confrontation, took most of the month of June. Half of the cast and crew became seasick as the ship was battered by strong offshore winds. Howard later said that every evening, after he had returned to dry land, he continued to feel the ground heaving beneath his feet. 'And that was before I'd had a fucking drink!' he joked.

    Lewis Milestone was on a completely different wavelength to Brando. While Carol Reed had been receptive to the star's constant revisions to the script, Milestone wanted none of it. He had no patience with method actors. He distrusted their preoccupation with meaning and motivation. The only meaning that an actor needed was in the script. Milestone expected them to learn it, perform it and not ask questions about it. But Brando was too sharp for him. Within days he had circumvented the veteran director and was giving the orders. Milestone battled on for a while, growing more and more exasperated, but the writing was on the wall or, in this case, on a fresh batch of script pages which Brando distributed each morning. Before long Milestone was pointedly omitted from the circulation list. Nobody was sure why Brando decided to play Christian as a laughable fop; but nobody had the authority to stop him.

    Brando's bizarre performance did not go down well with Harris. In the scene in which Christian slaps Mills, the sailor played by Harris, to show his opposition to the idea of a mutiny, Brando merely brushed Harris's face with the back of his hand. It was an effete, almost girlish slap. Harris responded with a mock curtsy and waggled a limp wrist in the air. Everybody saw the joke except Brando. They tried the scene once more, and again Brando's blow was almost non-existent. Everybody waited to see how Harris would react. He did not fail them. He thrust his chin forward and said, 'Come on, big boy. Why don't you fucking kiss me and be done with it!' Brando stared at him, white with rage. The Irishman decided that he had had enough. He turned his back on Brando and marched off the set.

    The next day they returned to the scene, but despite further barracking from Harris Brando would not change the way that he landed the blow. When the shot was completed to his satisfaction he calmly walked off the set. Harris had to be restrained from going after him. According to Peter Manso, Harris told an American reporter that when he returned, three days later, Brando approached him and said:

      'Dick, you shouldn't have done that. I'd like you to know this. I'm the star of this picture and you're opposing me. Remember that, please.'

    Brando's insistence on multiple takes was a further irritation for the British actors, who were used to working much faster. In another scene with Harris, after a dozen or more takes Brando appeared suddenly to lose interest and walked away muttering, 'I don't know if it's going to work or not.' Harris was left standing with his mouth open, without any hint of an acknowledgement from Brando. The anger boiled up inside him again. 'Damn you! Look at me! Act! Who the hell do you think you are?' he shouted at the retreating star.

    Howard, less truculent than Harris but equally disenchanted, griped about his co-star's demands to rewrite everything just before a take. The rewriting, of course, was intended for everyone except Brando, who never took the trouble to learn lines because it drained energies which he preferred to disperse off the set. He had words chalked on large boards from which he read whenever he felt like it and ignored at other times. A dispassionate observer would deduce that Brando saw other actors' lines as merely convenient spaces for him to think up what he would say or do next. Howard complained, 'You never know where the hell you are. You don't know for ten minutes what you're playing because the next scene contradicts it.'

    After one disagreement with him, Howard began to call him 'Mr Brando', partly to mock the fact that Brando had taken charge but also because of the continuous references made throughout the script to 'Mr Christian'. When Milestone tackled Howard for being slow to respond to Brando's lines, Howard's impatient roar echoed around the set. Milestone said:

      'Trevor, I'm just trying to get to the root of the problem.'

      Howard pointed a baleful finger at Brando. 'There's your fucking problem,' he roared. 'If Mr Brando would care to tell me beforehand what he's planning to say, then I might know when he's going to finish!'

    Most of the time, though, he managed to keep a lid on his frustration. Sometimes he paid Brando back in his own currency. One stiflingly hot day a scene had been set up on the shoreline at Bora Bora showing the natives' welcome for the sailors off the Bounty. It was a massive scene, with thousands of extras spread around the beach and waiting in the shallow water. Howard took his place in the baking sunshine, clad in a heavy ceremonial uniform and hat. Brando could be seen twenty or so yards along the beach, shaded by a palm tree, chatting with three Polynesian girls.

    Ridgeway ('Reggie') Callow, the assistant director, called everyone to order through a loud-hailer. Brando made no movement. He continued to talk to his lady friends. Once more Callow called out, 'Mr Brando, we're ready for you.' The amplified voice carried easily to where Brando stood, but again he pretended not to hear. Howard, meanwhile, continued to sweat under a hat which grew hotter by the minute. A further call to Brando got no response. Had there been water in Howard's headgear by this time he could have brewed himself a coffee. At the fourth invitation Brando broke off his conversation and strolled towards Howard as if he had all the time in the world. When he arrived at his marks, there was no sign of Howard. The British actor had disappeared and was cooling off, in more ways than one. Callow put the loud-hailer to his lips again and announced, wearily, 'Mr Howard, if you wouldn't mind, we're ready for you . . .'

    As filming progressed, Harris learned that the most effective way to deal with Brando was not to be drawn into a confrontation with him. The star seemed to relish confrontation, which from his position of absolute authority was a form of bullying. The simplest way to turn the tables on him was to ignore him. If you didn't react, there was little he could do. On one occasion Brando moved the marks where Harris, an onlooker during a tense scene on deck, was supposed to be standing. Three times the cameras began turning, and three times Brando halted them to move the Irishman to a fresh spot. But Harris had learned his lesson well. He refused to be provoked into the angry response Brando expected. Taking his latest position, Harris turned to the other actors and said with a tolerant smile,

      'Forget your grand ideas, lads. We're just cabbages in this man's cabbage patch.'

    But the star ultimately got his revenge. In a scene before the mutiny Mills accompanies another crew member to the Captain's cabin to spell out their grievances. In his cabin Christian overhears their conversation. As written, the scene belonged to Howard and Harris. Brando had no lines. He had nothing to do except lie back and look thoughtful.

    But expecting Brando not to steal a scene is like expecting the Pope to change the Vatican into a five-star hotel. When the camera picks him up he is dressed in a silk night-gown and matching night-cap, with a huge clay pipe clenched between his teeth. While the audience wonders why suddenly he looks like a cross between Sherlock Holmes and something out of a mail order catalogue, they miss the explanation as to why the mutiny is about to erupt. Whether Brando was playing power politics, relieving boredom or just being plain cussed is anybody's guess. But it demonstrated again what a power he was in the industry. Few other actors could hijack a key scene, cynically drain its dramatic potential and knock a hole in its narrative structure by just lying back and looking silly.

    The film was completed during October 1961. Clifton College had taught Howard that grievances should be left behind on the playing field, but the goings-on in Tahiti had affected him so profoundly that for once he lowered his guard while talking to American journalist Bill Davidson. He called Brando 'unprofessional and absolutely ridiculous'. But his criticisms were mild compared with those of Lewis Milestone, who accused Brando of costing the production at least $6 million and months of extra work. He is quoted as having said:

      'The movie industry has come to a sorry state when a thing like this can happen, but maybe the experience will bring the executives back to their senses. They deserve what they get when they give a ham actor, a petulant child, complete control over an expensive picture.'

    The article appeared in New York's Saturday Evening Post under the headline 'Six Million Dollars Down the Drain: The Mutiny of Marlon Brando'. The subhead read,

      'A petulant superstar turns paradise into a movie maker's nightmare. How Brando broke the budget in a marathon remake of Mutiny on the Bounty.'

    It accused him of making outrageous demands, of colossal self-indulgence, of squandering vast sums of MGM revenue, of lacking professional judgement and of putting on forty pounds in weight between the start and completion of the film. Brando and Elizabeth Taylor, following the disastrously overpriced and delayed Cleopatra (1962), were accused of jeopardizing the future of the entire industry. The article suggested that a suitable penalty might be to send them both to Tahiti to make 'epic pictures of each other'. If Tahiti would not tolerate them they should try 'nearby Bora Bora, an island whose very name onomatopoeically suggests our reaction to both stars'.

    Brando was outraged. He flew to New York to confront Joseph Vogel, head of MGM, who backed down and issued a statement on 25 June to the Screen Actors' Guild as well as to the press that Brando had cost the studio no extra money and that the production problems were not of his making. Instead, Vogel blamed the delay in receiving the Bounty replica, the weather, the script, the clashes between directors and cast, the abrupt departure of Carol Reed - everyone and everything, it seemed, had conspired to create the mess except Brando, whom he said had:

      'performed throughout the entire production in a professional manner and to the fullest limit of his capabilities, resulting... in the finest portrayal of his brilliant career'.

    Handed this giant tub of whitewash, Brando promptly filed a libel suit against the Saturday Evening Post, demanding $4 million in general and special damages and $1 million in exemplary and punitive damages. Howard did not escape his wrath either. Brando wrote him a personal letter describing his anger and sorrow at being labelled 'unprofessional' by someone whom he had trusted, a 'fellow-professional, of all people'. He also claimed that for him, too, making the Bounty film had been an exhausting and frustrating experience, although he did not expect anyone to believe him. Howard certainly did not. 'Damn fool,' he growled, two decades later. 'Kicks up an almighty bloody stink and then he's the first to complain about the smell!'

    Helen (Howard's wife) flew to Papeete for short holiday with Howard at the start of the production before the tempers became frayed. She told me, 'Driving from the airport I saw Hugh Griffith in a lurid-coloured shirt. He had gone native.' She recalled the Bounty moored in a picturesque bay and her meeting with Brando.

      'Trevor introduced us,' she said. 'They were both in costume. I didn't recognize Brando at first. He was a lot shorter than I'd imagined.'

    Brando switched on the charm for her, and it worked. 'He was very nice to me,' she said. 'He wanted to learn about our aristocracy. He wanted to know how the peerage in Britain was created and who were allowed to wear coronets. He seemed fascinated by English protocol.'

    Helen was aware that there was a less charming side to Brando, too. She said:

      'Trevor was sure that he got Carol [Reed] sacked. He always denied it, but Trevor wasn't convinced. Brando had the power to get rid of anybody. Even Trevor would have been sacked if Brando decided that he didn't want him, although as time went on it would have been more difficult to explain, after they had done a lot of scenes together.'

    When filming was completed, the replica ship was promptly dispatched on a world trip to publicize the forthcoming epic and also to allow audiences to see for themselves the craftsmanship that had gone into its construction. It sailed from Tahiti to California, to the port of San Pedro near Los Angeles, where thousands of spectators lined the wharves to greet it. Then it went northwards to Vancouver and Victoria in British Columbia where, once again, the well-wishers turned out in their thousands. At Seattle it became the centre of attention at the 1962 World Fair, and from there the route taking it to Britain and Europe was via San Francisco, the Panama Canal, New Orleans, Miami, then northwards up the Atlantic Seaboard and finally across the Atlantic itself.

    When the Bounty reached London Howard was the guest of honour at a reception hosted by MGM officials. The sight of the ship arriving between the elevated bascules of Tower Bridge dragged him back, momentarily, to the broken promises, personal slights and tetchy arguments of the previous year, but these were easy to set aside, because Howard had a fondness for the ship that dwarfed the bad memories. As it sailed past their vantage point, an MGM publicity officer noticed Howard looking a bit misty-eyed, savouring the moment. He approached the actor and said to him:

      'Beautiful, isn't it?'

      Howard nodded. 'Yes, it is,' he said. 'And it was once mine!'

    After brief stop-overs in Europe the Bounty sailed back across the Atlantic, and its arrival in New York was scheduled to coincide with the joint premiere of the film in New York and California. In Hollywood the opening at the Egyptian Theater was a star-studded occasion, with tickets nominally priced at $100, and many of the cast and their guests and other celebrities attended, including Brando and Howard. The New York showing, at Loew's State Theater, was comparatively low-key. Brando also put an appearance in at Loew's and probably wished that he hadn't. The audience did not know what to make of his performance and booed the film.

    The reviews displayed puzzlement and disappointment in almost equal measures. Critic after critic wondered what Brando was playing at. Bosely Crowther, the New York Timers respected critic, wrote:

      'There is so much in this picture that is stirring and beautiful that it is painful to note and call attention to the fact that it also has faults. The most obvious of them is the way that Marlon Brando makes Fletcher Christian an eccentric . . . Brando puts tinsel and cold cream into Christian's oddly foppish frame.'

    Crowther added that Howard's Bligh was 'really quite a fearful and unassailable martinet'. The New Republic's Stanley Kauffmann asked:

      'Is it all a talented actor's revenge on a big studio for snaring him inside an empty, spectacular film? Only in a few moments of fury does life touch the part and Brando burn through. The rest is like an all-American half-back imitating Leslie Howard as the Scarlet Pimpernel.'

    In the year following its release Mutiny on the Bounty earned only about $10 million in the United States and the same amount abroad - a disastrous take given the fact that iit needed to make $60 million to recoup the $30 million it cost. As a result, in April 1963 MGM reported a drop of $3.39 per share on the stock market. A clean sweep of the executive offices followed. Studio head Sol Siegel, who had fired Carol Reed, lost his job along with Joseph Vogel, the chairman who had been browbeaten into praising Brando's part in the fiasco. Furious stockholders cited the letter of exoneration as sufficient reason for getting rid of him.

    Richard Harris's fears proved well founded - the film did nothing at all for his international career. But at least he had the satisfaction of knowing that although Brando made money out of it, following closely on the heels of two other flops - The Fugitive Kind (1959) and One-Eyed Jacks his damaged reputation would ensure that never again would he have the authority, or the freedom to misuse it, that he had enjoyed on Mutiny on the Bounty.


  • Extract from the book:
    Trevor Howard: A Personal Biography

  • available: amazon.co.uk


    • 1962: Nominations: Best Picture, Color Cinematography, Color Art Direction, Editing, Original Music Score, Song (Follow Me), Special Effects

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