Mutiny On The Bounty (1935 Film) - Historical Inaccuracies

Historical Inaccuracies

The movie contains several historical inaccuracies. Captain Bligh was never on board HMS Pandora, nor was he present at the trial of the mutineers who stayed on Tahiti. At the time he was halfway around the world on a second voyage for breadfruit plants. Fletcher Christian's father had died many years before Christian's travels on board the Bounty - the film shows the elder Christian at the trial. It should be noted though, that the movie was always presented as an adaptation of the Nordhoff and Hall trilogy, which already differed from the actual story of the mutiny.

Bligh is depicted as a brutal, sadistic disciplinarian. Particular episodes include a keelhauling and flogging a dead man. Neither of these happened. Keelhauling was used rarely, if at all, and had been abandoned long before Bligh's time. Indeed the meticulous record of the Bounty's log reveals that the flogging rate was lower than the average for that time. Prior to the mutiny the Bounty had only two deaths—one seaman died of scurvy (not keelhauling) and the ship's surgeon died apparently of drink and indolence and not as a result of abuse by Bligh. Likewise the film shows the mutineers taking over the ship only after killing several loyal crewmen when in fact none died although one crewman came very close to shooting Bligh until stopped by Christian. Lastly Christian is shown being inspired to take over the ship after several crewmen have unjustly been put into irons by Bligh; this is fictional license.

For historical accuracy, Clark Gable reluctantly had to shave off his famous moustache because the sailors in the Royal Navy in the 18th century had to be clean-shaven.

In the final scene of the film Gable gives a rousing speech to his fellow mutineers speaking of creating a perfect society of free men on Pitcairn away from Bligh and the Navy. The reality was very different. Free from the restraints of Naval discipline the mutineers proved incapable of self-government. Pitcairn degenerated into a place of drunkenness, rape and murder. Apart from John Adams and Ned Young all the mutineers (including Christian) perished, most of them by violence.

Midshipman Roger Byam was based on a real person, Midshipman Peter Heywood, who is not listed in the novel or motion picture. Just as the fictional Byam is pardoned at the end of the film, the real life Peter Heywood was also pardoned for his part in the mutiny. 1935 MGM Trailers made an error calling Midshipman Byam an Ensign.

Mutineer Thomas Ellison is depicted as being allowed to see his wife before his execution. There is no record to indicate that the real Ellison was married, and in any case a consolation visit of this type never would have been permitted in real life.

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