Movie is untrue

The movie's showing of Bligh as a tyrant is actually untrue. Sitting on the floor right next to me is a book on this incident. It is actually an adapted version of Bligh's journal. The journal actually shows that Christian was greedy for power. Some examples of this attitude are when Bligh is questioning the officers when some of his coconuts are stolen. Christian, rather than giving an answer, asks if Bligh thinks he stole them. When BLigh accuses him, Chrstian leaves.

Another time is when Bligh says in his journal that Christian is "proud and moody". He obviously has quite an ego, and, as shown in the coconut theft, takes offense to accusations. One can imagine how he acted during his trial!

So which is to be believed? A movie? Or the journal of the man who is portrayed in such a manner?


It's quite widedly acknowledged the Bligh has been mis-represented as a crual tyrant when in fact he was probably less forceful with the last than most of the officers of his generation. Bligh had every right to expect that his demands would be met, in accordance with Navy discipline, they were not especially harsh or unusual by any means.

The reason for the mutiny was that, with Bligh not defended by marines or fellow officers, the prospect of a small group of organised mutineers grabbing the weapons, capturing him, and then returning to their iddylic lives on Tahiti, rather than sail to the West Indies round the horn under Bligh, was too tempting for Christian.

"He's a bit of a rough diamond but his heart's in the right place."



What you're saying is correct. Christine Alexander (author of The Endurance, a telling of the Shackleton adventure) makes a great case in her book The Bounty to resurrect the reputation of Bligh, who, by any fair reading, could be more easily faulted for having been too lenient rather than too harsh with his crew.

Furthermore, Bligh's 48 day open boat voyage over 3,618 miles without a proper supply of food and water, without charts or even a properly working sextant, ranks as the greatest feat of navigation in all of maritime history.

Bligh was a hero more than a villian.

Having said all that, however, this film told the story as it was known at the time the film was made. If you can get past the fact that they got the history wrong, you can enjoy oustanding performances by Laughton, Gable, and the rest of the cast. Think of Mutiny on the Bounty as fiction instead of history, and you can still enjoy this Hollywood classic.



"Outstanding performances?" Perhaps for the era. I'm sorry, but I spend a good deal of my time watching old "classics" laughing out loud at their stiff, emotive (and, in this film, grandiose would apply to Clark Gable) portrayals. Why on earth did actors of that era not ever stop to think "How would this person actually feel/think/act?" and then try to portray it? Surely it occurred to someone before Lee Strasberg? I'm just nonplussed at how long it took to protray people realisticaly, frankly.

I watched this movie for the first time tonight. I enjoyed it, but always with the proviso in the back of my mind "It's from 1935, don't expect much realism." When the film ended, I bounced around on cable and caught the last 10 min or so of "Fargo." Now, THAT's acting! (Francis McDormand)


You say that FARGO is real acting!!?? Get a life and get your head on straight!! Movie classics like "Mutiny on the Bounty, Grand Hotel, Captains's Courageous are straight from the heart of "true" acting. What's wrong with those great actors Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, John Barrymore...and many more true thespians of an era of lifelike kings and queens!! The great Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis are really fun and enjoyable to watch and are very talented and many people loved those old movie stars...I mean LOVE them like myself....Francis McDormand...acting! LAUGH, LAUGH. Today's actors don't act, THEY HAVE NO CLASS. What is real acting starts in the theatre then goes to the motion picture. Almost all of the classic movie actors started in theatre first..then went to movies...why does acting have to be how a person feels/thinks/acts thanks to Lee Stasberg...didn't the real movies came out in the Great Depression to "Entertain' not feel and act. Please don't criticize the classic actors Cary Grant, Barbara Stanwick, and all...They really tried their very best and we all remember them with their true magnetism, personality, and faithfulness to their craft. Please don't run down those acting greats from the past...the present ones have a long way to go.


"They really tried their very best and we all remember them with their true magnetism, personality, and faithfulness to their craft."

And the exact same thing can be said about some of todays actors, just because a couple dozen or so "legends" are very well known, if only by name, doesn't mean they were superior to todays actors, there was just as many sh!tty actors back then as there are now going by ratio... a lot of actors now, will be remembered in 40 or 50 years too... there will be the "Silent Legends", the "Silver Screen Legends" and the "Digital Age Legends" or whatever our little half-century will be called...

"Please don't run down those acting greats from the past...the present ones have a long way to go."

If by "a long way to go" you mean "dead for a couple decades", then I agree... I bet you are the sort of person that tends to argue against pretty much anything new, "all new cars suck, cause, they aren't the same as when I was a teen"... "the Presidents are more corrupt now than when I was a kid"... etc, etc.


< watched this movie for the first time tonight. I enjoyed it, but always with the proviso in the back of my mind "It's from 1935, don't expect much realism."

Movies from Hollywood's Golden Age were meant for escapist entertainment. With the Depression in the 30's & WWII in the 40's, people had enough "realism" already.

< When the film ended, I bounced around on cable and caught the last 10 min or so of "Fargo." Now, THAT's acting! (Francis McDormand)>.

I never understood the appeal of Fargo. And Frances McDormand could've used a few lessons on how to look for the Academy Award ceremony a year or two ago, where she showed up looking plain & frumpy, like she didn't care how she looked to the world. Stars used to care how they presented themselves.


I watched this movie for the first time tonight. I enjoyed it, but always with the proviso in the back of my mind "It's from 1935, don't expect much realism." When the film ended, I bounced around on cable and caught the last 10 min or so of "Fargo." Now, THAT's acting! (Francis McDormand)

Oh yah? And 60 years from now, another person as idiotic as you will point out how stiff and emotive and grandiose Fargo was.


I find this funny, since I have here a quote from Charles Laughton who said that "Method actors (i.e. modern actors) give you a photograph. Real actors give you an oil painting."

Realism is not the be-all-end-all in acting, sir.




Ptmagi--your remarks are amazing. Gable is natural and econmically real in his acting here. He absolutely thinks and reacts realistically.

The Strasburg stuff has not held up as well as this. The over-emoting and overdone hamminess in many films since The Method came in, is embarassing. I would never slam James Dean--but the money scene in Eden is too much.

Take a look at an episode of "Cops" or even the news and then tell me how people should be "realistically" portrayed.


I am certainly not an expert on any of this, but I have trying to get up to speed on the original sources, and

"Christine Alexander"

One critic of her book made a point which actually occured to me. Her argument is beside the point. Bligh was just an ordinary caption of the era, so the sailors should have been contented under his discipline.

That is somewhat like arguing that because this or that slaveholder was less cruel than the norm, his slaves should have been content. But were his sailors whipped? Were their rations cut? Did Bligh cut the rations of his men while not cutting his own? Was he arbitary and abusive to his subordinates? Off what I have read, these things seem to be true.

This was not the only mutiny in the British Navy of that era, so comparing him to other cruel captains seems beside the point to me.

**I don't expect "factual" history from dramas. Not from Richard III or Julius Caesar. Nor from historical films such as Spartacus. I think interesting the viewer in the drama of history is enough for a work of fiction. If the viewer is interested in a history lesson, he should seek out history books.

***As for the 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty, there are factual errors, such as Bligh coming back to Tahiti to chase Christian, being present at the court-martials, etc, off what I've read. But Bligh being a nice guy and good captain is certainly in dispute. It all depends on which sources you go to. Bligh and the records of the British Navy support Bligh. These are not disinterested parties. Edward Christian presents evidence drawn from interviews with surviving sailors that support the view that Bligh was an erratic and arbitrary captain who seemed to have a personal vendetta against Christian. Edward Christian was not a disinterested party either. It is interesting that the sailors who did not mutiny speak highly of Christian as a gentleman and shipmate and blame Bligh for the mutiny. I think this is evidence which should not be ignored.

****As for Bligh being a good sailor--of course, although he seems to have been better dealing with the sea than with men. But the 1935 movie explicitly credits his achievement in this regard.

Bottom line-I think the "historical" criticism of this movie is way overdone. With the entire weight of the traditions of the British Navy on his side, Bligh did not carry the day with his contemparies, and so the "legend" of the cruel Bligh has come down to us. I think there is enough Bligh was a bad captain smoke to conclude there might indeed have been a fire underneath it all.



If Bligh was not so bad and karma is a bitch, then the fate of the mutineers (not the Tahitians) after they landed at Pitcairn may have been divine justice.


King of Fuh

"divine justice"

Sir John Barrow actually made this point. Even though he sees Bligh as a monster, Christian and the mutineers deserved their awful fates as they had dared to raise a hand against lawful authority.

One issue raised is with the British Navy and Establishment even going so far as to say "divine justice" got Christian and the mutineers, can we really trust what they put forward as history?

What the British actually found on Pitcairn in 1814 was a thriving and peaceful colony in which folks read and spoke excellent English, although supposedly only a seaman (normally illiterate in those days) could have taught them.

But we are to believe all the men were slaughtered years earlier.

I think it raises questions.

*The story is more interesting if Christian and the mutineers were justified as they were made total outcasts, while Bligh went on to become an admiral. This might not be divine justice, but it does seem like human justice as we generally know it.


One thing is certain. You can't trust a newspaper reporter of that day, but this was supposedly from the captain's log, I believe, as told to him by a jr officer.

"The story is more interesting if Christian and the mutineers were justified as they were made total outcasts, while Bligh went on to become an admiral. This might not be divine justice, but it does seem like human justice as we generally know it."

This does seem like the way of the world. I have not seen the Mel/Anthony version, but I don't believe the 1962 version has the guts to tell of Bligh's future. Too bad, but it was 1962, when good guys were good and vice versa.


Yes- only a hero could have made that voyage. Bligh should have been knighted for it.


Read this site for what seems to be a pretty unbiased account:


The site rather badly mischaracterizes the Rum Rebellion in New South Wales. Bligh was overthrown in a failed attempt to rein in corrupt rum traders. The ringleader of the rebellion was eventually court-martialled. It had little to do with Bligh's abusiveness or lack of it, and everything to do with rum trade profits.


So far, the most accurate film portrayal of Bligh was by Anthony Hopkins in The Bounty. In that film, Bligh and Christian were each shown as essentially well-meaning, but flawed individuals.

For the time, Bligh was a very humane commander. It has to be remembered that all ships of the Royal Navy, at the time, had very strict discipline and the captains could go to extreme lengths to enforce it. However, Bligh actually was less severe than other captains in many ways. (An example is how he handled the three men who tried to desert in Tahiti. He did have them flogged. But, he COULD have had them put in irons and had them court-martialled on return to England, whereupon they would surely have been foudn guilty and then hanged. Bligh was satisfied with having them flogged and then declaring the matter finished.

Bligh's main mistake was allowing discipline to go lax during the time the ship was in Tahiti. Then, when they re-embarked for the West Indies, the crew's performance of duties was VERY slack. He tried to crack down to improve performance, but that only made matters worse. It resulted in the chain of events that led to the mutiny.

Christian, meanwhile, was not a man who was tempermentally suited to long voyages on such a small ship. He was described as being someone prone to severe mood swings. He could go from bleak depression to extreme elation (and vice versa) in a rather short period of time. After leaving Tahiti, the onus was on him to improve the crew's performance and he was on the receiving end of Bligh's verbal lashings. (Bligh had a tendency to yell and scream at someone, but didn't really carry a grudge). This aggravated his already troubled moods -caused by leaving Tahiti.


I agree about "The Bounty" being a better, more accurate depiction of Bligh.

However, it this 1935 version of the novelisation of Captain Bligh's Diary, well, they had to make Bligh out to be a real bastard. Even today, when we react to someone who is bossy, we tend to refer to them as a Captain Bligh. Probably this is due to 2 Hollywood moovies and 1 Hopkins/Gibson portrayal.

This film is more accurate the the later "The Bounty" because of the depictions of the regular, able seamen and the conditions they had to work under. It brings in mind "Master and Commander" which really showed how hard it was to be pressed into service on a ship in the 1800's

Remember, these men were not draughted, they were collected, "shang-hai'd" so to speak.

"As I was a walking down Radcliffe highway, a recruiting parting came a-beating my way"

That's the way it was back then, the royal navy collected men at will from anywhere. There is even a scene where Gable as Christian collects some men, one of them tries to say, "I am not cut out for ship duty sir, I am but a Tailor" - And Gable pulls open the man's shirt, revealing his Tattoo.

So, Apart from great performances by Franchot Tone, Clark Gable and Charles Laughton (A really good performance from Laughton) this moovie is GREATLY acted, wonderfully directed, and compleatly entertaining. Someone wise once said: "Adventure is someone else having a helluva time 1,000 miles away" well, this moovie certainly has a lot of Adventure.

Now, I wish to immediately find my copy of Master and Commander and watch it! I love moovies about the sea, and pirates, and cannons and swabbing decks and really bad eggs!


The novel on which the film was based was not a "novelization of Bligh's diary." Rather, it was a novelization of the incident, based on many sources, and portrayed Bligh as a much more complex character than the film version did.



There are two sides to this story, and I am sure Christian had a good reason, other than "He lusted after Tahiti" to perform a mutiny.

Bligh's 3500 mile voyage was of course a fantastic example of good seamanship... An effort rarely paralleled today even with modern navigational aids. Bligh did it with the stars and a compass.


In a book on the Royal Navy in the it briefly describes the Bounty incident. It sums up Bligh as a brilliant seaman who lacked people skills. He simply didn't know how to get the best out of his subordinates. Contrasting that was Christian who was a moody person unable to tolerate the slightest criticism. Putting them together on a small vessel for a long voyage was a bad recipe.

Christian really didn't have a reason good enough to justify committing mutiny -which was a hanging offense. All he wanted was to get away from Royal Navy discipline and the freedom of Tahiti.

An interesting comparison is how Bligh and Christian each handled things immediately after the mutiny. Bligh was able to navigate the launch with 18 men all the way to Timor. He was able to keep his men focused and healthy -the only exception being one man who was killed by natives when they went ashore to replenish their water casks. Christian, meanwhile, had discipline problems from the start. When looking for a permanent settlement (after leaving Tahiti) he almost had another mutiny on his hands until they found Pitcairn Island. And even then, the settlement fell apart soon after. The men wound up killing each other. Christian himself was murdered there. In fact, when the location of the mutineers was finally discovered in 1808, only one man was still alive from the Bounty crew.

Bligh, I think, was best suited to commanding a vessel in combat or some other type of emergency. It was clearly where his skills would be put to good use and the crew would be focused.



Most historical research agrees that Captain Bligh was much less tyrannical than he's portrayed in the film and Christian much more mentally unstable. By any standards Bligh was a courageous and brilliant navigator. In fact, he was part of the "scientific school" of navigators, including Captain Cook, who believed in using proper diet and exercise to keep men physically fit and free of scurvy. Comparisons of the punishments he meted out with those inflicted by other captains show he was actually less harsh than average. Those who have studied letters written by members of the Bounty's crew and sent from various ports of call on the outward voyage to Tahiti have reported an absence of criticisms of Captain Bligh. He was, in short, a much better man than Christian, and the historical record offers no justification for the mutiny.




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This is truly one of the finest movies ever made and I am still moved by the honest portrayals as well as the lovely Tahiti location shots filmed on the actual locations, and done with an exact replica, (still in existance in St. Petersburg Florida) of the HMS Bounty, constructed specifically for this moving film!

Laughton, Gable and Tone and the supporting players were all excellent.and believable, AND Bligh was the Tyrannt as faithfully shown by historical books and navy records of the witnesses in the courts of the innocent men hanged due to his barbarism!

Christian had no choice but to mutiny!, and today is rightfully seen as a true hero because of his brave deeds, a man who sacrificed all...for his men!

I felt like I really was aboard the Bounty in this film, and felt the anguish of the ships company under the tyrant Bleigh, unlike the like the two later and inferior remakes that were okay, but ho-hum at best.

The 1935 version is truly a soul stirring masterpiece!, not to be missed by any true movie fan, and on a greatly restored DVD presentation over the last tape version availble and now with wonderful extra's!

A solid rating of 10/10!

"Do good now & you are good, however if people dont like what you say then it is their loss!"


I agree with you that the 1935 version of Mutiny on the Bounty is superb. But it is fiction, not fact. Bligh never put anyone to death. Christian was emotionally unstable; he led his men to doom and destruction. Although the film is based losely (VERY losely) on an actual event, it is clearly fiction, as was the novel on which it was based.


Christian may not have been a better man or captain than Bligh, but if Bligh's self-description is true, and he was a "fair" man, don't you all find it strange that all the men backed up Christian? So what if discipline was lax in Tahiti? Discipline was lax in every port. Sailors were used to bucking up and getting back to work once the ship sailed. Also, I'm sure that they were an experienced crew and most if not all had worked for other captains. So why mutiny against this one?
Having known a few "well meaning" individuals with ugly tempers, I can well understand wanting to knock out a few of his teeth. I suspect Bligh was unbearable once his fur was up. It may have had nothing to do with the floggings, and everything to do with character assassination.
Just my thoughts.


"This is truly one of the finest movies ever made a...done with an exact replica, (still in existance in St. Petersburg Florida) of the HMS Bounty, constructed specifically for this moving film!"

The St. Petersburg 'Bounty' was built for the 1962 version, not this 1935 version. The 1984 'Bounty' is now in Sydney.

The 1935 film did not use a specially built replica (see


Yes, there are historical flaws in all three versions of the film. It was my perception that the '35 version was based mostly on the novel since it had just come out around that time. Ok, now if you were Bligh and you were being questioned about why your ship was lost to a bunch of rabble, wouldn't you exagerate the actions of the mutineers before the mutiny? The same goes for the mutineers' journals, why not make Bligh look cruel. The sources that exist have clear bias and for good reason, these guys A) didn't want to get thrown out of the navy for their actions or B) didn't want to hang. I'd falsify evidence too if I were them.

I don't think that either is to be believed as canon. There are NO movies that are 100% true, yet how many journals or autobiographies do you read where the author talks about their bad qualities and things they did wrong. History is the examination of facts through sources and there are undoubtedly several sources you need to consider about the mutiny, none more important than the other.



I agree with you.

I always take films based in true events with a pinch of salt, as I'm aware that the average Hollywood writer will add something extra just to make sure the audience stays watching the screen... hey, even documentary films have some degree of artistic licence!

I posted, not too long ago, and answer in the "Captain Bligh" thread of this Message Board, since the point of the differences between the fictional and historical Blighs were being debated there, I'll re-quote myself as my message there may have some points of interest in this thread:

I entirely agree with Devreser and, without being deconsiderate to the other film Blighs, I definitely root for Laughton's. He is gripping and hypnotic in the role.

for those who criticize the film's historical accuracy: yes, yes, I know that Bligh wasn't in the "Pandora" (It was Captain Edwards, Bligh was then sailing in the "Providence" in a second breadfruit voyage), Bligh wasn't the tyrant he is in the 1935 film, in fact, he was less harsh than many of his contemporaries... and the mutineers who rebelled against his tiranny enslaved , some of them tortured, and eventually slained their Tahitian friends who came with them to Pitcairn: from them the mutineers had received generous friendship in Tahiti, and they paid them back with bondage and killing.

Bligh was certainly a better person than the average Bounty mutineer.

But then...
a) the film was based in a trilogy novel about the Mutiny and not in the actual facts
...and b) I've never heard complaints about the historical innacuracies of "The Adventures of Robin Hood","Ivanhoe" or "Knights of the Round Table"... do they accurately portray Plantagenet, Norman and pre-Saxon England?

And though I think that Hopkins may be closer to the historical Bligh, bear this in mind:
1) Laughton was, among the actors who played Bligh, the one to play the role when he had an age closer to Bligh's... The rest of actors look like the historical Bligh's papas or grandpapas.

2) The historical Bligh felt alienated from his crew and officers, and ranted at what he felt as their incompetence. So does Laughton's Bligh.

3) The historical Bligh was a self-made man, in contrast to those born as gentlemen like Christian or Peter Heywood (disguised as "Roger Byam" in the film). Because of this, his promotion upwards, due to his certain merits as a seaman, was slower than if he had been born a gentleman. The untimely death of his mentor, Cook, kept him in a lower echelon of authority than he would have deserved, and had to sail in merchant -not Navy- ships for a while to earn his keep. When he sailed with the Bounty he was a Navy Lieutenant, not a captain. This class underdog aspect of Bligh is well represented in Laughton's performance, too.

3) Laughton's Bligh is presented as a villain, but also as an outstanding seaman. He shows courage, leadership and determination when he leads the launch to Timor. In the 60s version this episode is unexistant, and in the 80's version Hopkins looks a somewhat doubtful and insecure fellow throughout the film, and even more in the launch... What I can say is: If I was to be cast adrift thirty five hundred miles from a port of call, and I had to choose a film Bligh to carry me in safety to Timor, I'd jump into Laughton's Bligh's launch.

... and 4) the historical Bligh certainly had bushy eyebrows :p

And, lastly, it was watching, enjoying and loving the 1935 -enduring, abiding- film version which prompted me to do further reading of the actual historical facts... and probably many a professional historian, or indeed, the armchair historians who now are so angry at the historical innacuracies of the film, became interested in the story after having seen the film.

Just my two cents.



Indeed Gloria. Novels are fiction, and correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't it meantion at the begining that it's based on a novel? So why would we expect it to be 100% right (besides that NO one knows what the circumstances actually were no matter how much reseach they do). I enjoy "the Bounty" as well and, like you, the movies made me read into the subject as well as other aspects of British Naval history. And I mean 50 years later they're bound to make a more accurate movie because there was much more research done. Actually, I did a research project on it in college a few years ago and most of the secondary sources that I found were from 1935 and the mid sixties. No suprise, right after the movies came out. So like you said, not only did the movies inspire laymen historians like us, but real ones as well and increased scholarship on the subject.
That's funny about the eyebrows >:)



Re the eyebrows: it has been stated in some sources that Laughton bore the eyebrows as a sly pun on the director, Frank Lloyd, who certainly had bushy ones (Laughton had played such naughty jokes from his early stage roles. Plus: if he didn't like someone, he usually picked that person's mannerisms and used them to play villains or fools).

But then I saw some portraits of Bligh, from young to middle age, and he had very broad, furry eyebrows indeed, so this can be considered indeed as an accurate historical detail ;)

BTW, the portraits of Bligh I saw in an interesting essay about the Mutiny, and how history comes to be portrayed, titled "Mr. Bligh's bad language"... the author, tho', seemed to be very angry about the film versions, and THAT after having written a chapter about how the Mutiny and the South sea adventures of the British Navy of the period: he's not so harsh about contemporary pantomimes and plays which were even more untruthful to events (I intend to write a review of that book sometime in the future in

But, you're right, inaccurate as the 1935 film might be in relation with the actual events, in enticed people to be curious about the story and go beyond.

And it is a truly magnificent film, IMHO.



Although this movie is one of my favorities, it portrays Captain Bligh as far more cruel than he really was. For example, in one scene he orders a crewman to be keel hauled. The historical Captain Bligh never gave such an order, which would have been illegal in the 1780s anyway.
Actually, the movie's Captain Bligh is a composite of three different captains who appear as characters in the novel on which the movie is based. In addition to the novel's Captain Bligh, the movie's Captain Bligh is also based on Captain Edward Edwards, the historical Captain of the Pandora, and also on an aristocratic captain with whom Bligh dines in the novel, and who orders the flogging of the corpse. Neither in the novel nor in history did Captain Bligh order a corpse flogged.