Tag Archives: Frank Lloyd

8. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

Director:  Frank Lloyd

 Alex – 7.5   Elliot – 6.8  IMDB 7.9      Rotten Tomatoes 8.2

Alex’s Commentary:

Mutiny on the Bounty is a historical tale of one of the most infamous mutinies in naval history. It portrays life in the British navy at a time when men could be conscripted into service against their wishes. Had first officer Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable) been in charge, the voyage to Tahiti to obtain a cargo of breadfruit plants may have been uneventful; however, under the command of the tyrannical Captain William Bligh (Charles Laughton), morale quickly erodes. 142678885915Idealistic midshipman Roger Byam (Franchot Tone) is on his maiden voyage and is torn between his friendship with Mr. Christian and his duty to follow his Captain’s orders even though he often finds them cruel and despicable.

An interesting side note to this film is the fact that all three actors were nominated for Best Actor (though none won). The Academy introduced the Best Supporting Actor and Actress categories the next year to prevent such a reoccurrence. I thought the acting was good but not superb. Having just seen Clark Gable in It Happened One Night, it was a little difficult envisioning him as an 18th century naval officer after his excellent portrayal of the 20th century newspaper reporter. Charles Laughton’s Captain Bligh seemed a bit over exaggerated but one clearly despises the character as the film progresses.

Technically, we continue to see improvement film production. The scenes of the HMS Bounty sailing through stormy seas are impressive and felt very realistic. The location scenes on Tahiti inFrench Polynesiapresent our first venture to a far off land for filming and provide a wonderful picture of the island and its people (even if some of the actors are clearly not natives). In fact, at a cost of almost $2 million, the film was MGM’s most expensive production at the time.

Although I had seen this film previously, I still enjoyed revisiting the seafaring adventure.

Elliot’s Commentary:

Mutiny on the Bounty showed a completely different side of filmmaking compared to the previous year’s It Happened One Night.  As a viewer, it is hard not to acknowledge that I felt like Hollywood back-pedaled between these two films. I understand that this film was made in 1935 and Hollywood provided escapism for an America still reeling from the effects of the Great Depression.  However, I notice that a production is dated significantly more when the scale of the film is larger.  The film was also our second film to be directed by Frank Lloyd, the first of which being the equally large scale production of Cavalcade.  Lloyd often prefers shots from long distances that illustrate the scope of a scene,  which while impressive and necessary for his subject matter,  do not present the same polished nature of the closer shots exhibited by films like It Happened One Night.  Clark Gable’s performance in this film did earn him a second Oscar nomination for best actor, but unlike It Happened One Night, he was not honored for his performance.

Based on the novel by the same name, Mutiny on the Bounty depicts the breaking point of Fletcher Christian (Gable) and the rest of the HMS Bounty sailors who are overly disciplined by the heartless Captain William Bligh (Charles Laughton).   cd294f4dabd61d7b73bc5cd859b0092b--mutiny-on-the-bounty-oscar-winnersCaptain Bligh is presented as a man who derives sadistic pleasure from watching his crew be disciplined, and views any objection to his cruel means of punishment as insubordination.  The film introduces Captain Bligh in a scene where an offender, guilty of striking an officer, is set to be punished in front of the crew.   Already having received a lashing, as indicated by his shredded back, the offender is pronounced dead before the punishment has even begun.   Rather than accept that the deceased has received enough punishment, Captain Bligh insists that the additional two dozen lashes required by naval law be administered to the dead body.   This extreme example of corporal punishment sets the precedent for the impending two year long journey that the crew is about to embark on.

The first half of the trip is comprised of the rising tensions between Captain and Crew that were only temporarily alleviated by shore leave in Tahiti. By this point, the Captain’s strict and excessive punishments had claimed the lives of a couple of crew members; he also starved the ship while maintaining his own particularly gluttonous diet.  The series of increasingly brutal regiments of discipline, which included depriving some members of the crew of shore leave, caused an incensed Fletcher Christian to rally the lay people on the ship to mutiny against the Captain in order to survive the his heartless disciplining.  After the mutiny, Fletcher Christian sets adrift the Captain and his supporters with limited rations and a compass to fend for themselves in the mighty ocean.  The rest of the film can be summed up in three movements: 1). Fletcher Christian and the crew aboard the Bounty live in Tahiti for a year and then leave to start a settlement on an uncharted Island. 2). Captain Bligh and his supporters are in a tiny boat in the ocean for over 40 days and then board another boat to search for Fletcher.  3) A courtroom scene occurs where Bligh supporters, who were prisoners aboard the Bounty, are tried for mutiny after Bligh accuses them of collusion when they remain in Tahiti in hopes of returning to England.

The Best scenes in this film were those set inTahiti, and perhaps I would have preferred a movie with Clark Gable womanizing with the natives.   MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1935)I understand that this film is supposed to be painful to fit the sadism of Captain Bligh, but it also is not very compelling.  In the massive scope of the film, characterization is lost and the outcome of the crewmates and the captain is not an overarching concern for film viewers.  It’s hard not to like Gable’s character because of his presence on film alone, but Gable didn’t save this movie for me.  The overacted and severely dated period film may have won a second Oscar for Frank Lloyd, but it didn’t convince me that this film deserved the accolades awarded to it in 1935.

 

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6. Cavalcade (1933)

Director:  Frank Lloyd

Alex – 7.0   Elliot – 7.0   IMDB 6.3   Rotten Tomatoes 6.7

Alex’s Commentary:

Although I have not seen every best picture Oscar winner, I must honestly say that Cavalcade is the only winner whose title was unfamiliar to me. Interestingly, it is also the only film not available through the Carnegie Library system in DVD format; fortunately my VHS player is still viable. Unlike Grand Hotel with its “cavalcade” of Hollywood stars, Cavalcade does not have a single actor that I would consider famous. I do not want to imply that the quality of the acting is lacking because I did enjoy most of the performances. Based on a play written by Noel Coward, the dialogue clearly borders on the melodramatic.

This is our third film out of six where war plays a prominent role. Given that the film was produced in 1933 and that a vast majority of filmgoers would have experienced war’s trials and tribulations, I’m sure the subject matter had broad appeal. This film begins with the Boer War in 1899, progresses though World War I, and offers hope that another war may be averted (which we now know wasn’t to be).1933-Cavalcade-05 Along this journey tracing the lives of two British families of differing financial means, we experience the death of Queen Victoria, the sinking of the Titanic, the extravagance of roaring 20’s, and the rise of philosophies encompassing socialism, communism, Sigmund Freud, and religious and anti-religious thought. A particularly well done scene in the film shows a couple on their honeymoon cruise discussing life, their future and musing what if tonight would be their last.  As they retire to their quarters, the shocking image of a lifesaver with the inscription Titanic is visible in the frame.

Similar in feel to All Quiet on the Western Front, the film does not glorify war. The film however does evoke emotions in its contemplation of the meaning of life, the importance of living for the “now”, and the unpredictable nature of life’s journey. This film could not be considered a feel good movie as the brightness of the future is definitely in question. In fact, the beginning of the twentieth century seems to be a tumultuous time compared to the perception of the tranquility of the 1800’s.  A comparison similar to today’s reminiscing of the quieter, gentler time of the 1950’s (at least as portrayed in television sitcoms).

Technically, I thought the sound was among the best we’ve heard thus far, particularly the emphasis on quality sound effects from artillery explosion to train station whistles.  Not to mention the clarity of the sound of horse hoofs on cobblestone in a funeral procession. The aging of the characters was better than we saw in Cimarron and very believable. Musical numbers effectively change in style as we progress through different eras. Cavalcade will not be one of my favorite Oscar winners but was unexpectedly interesting and enjoyable (even in VHS).

Elliot’s Commentary:

The film, Cavalcade, shows a longitudinal history of two families in late 19th century to early 20th century England.   In the course of this study, it is hard not to make comparison to the predecessors of this film that have also won the award for best picture.  Cavalcade has unmistakable similarities to Cimarron in its method of depicting a family’s evolution through significant historical events.  The tagline of the film, “Cavalcade – Picture of the Generation” creates an accurate portrayal of the events that had significantly influenced the lives of the upper-class London residents Jane (Diana Wynyard) and Robert Marryot (Clive Brook).  Interestingly enough, Cavalcade was the first award to be won by an English production in comparison its American peer productions.  The first event mentioned in the film, The Second Boer War, was a part of English history that I was not too familiar with.   It was particularly interesting to see the juxtaposition of the Marryot children playing soldiers, as well as the ennui of the women on the home front, instead of portraying the violence of the war.  Also, the scene transition from the cheerful men singing with interlocked arms as their families bid them farewell, to the main heroine checking the casualty list was particularly jarring.

Throughout the film they continue to utilize the motif of a cavalcade, defined as a procession or parade on horseback that often depicts historical events and follows a long trail.   The film’s title fits that description perfectly, as 30 years of British history is depicted through the lens of the family.  The film also superimposes the imagery of a processional of horses over scenes of action to symbolize the fact that time is progressing.   While this film does occur during two wars, both The Second Boer War as well as WWI, it shows a side of war that previous films have not depicted as much, the home front.  The hardship of the Marryot family is also portrayed through pivotal moments of the 1910’s including a certain family member’s trip on an ill-fated cruise in 1912 aboard the “unsinkable” Titanic.  1933-Cavalcade-07-1Through the eyes of the family, we are able to gather an accurate portrayal of the hardships and pains of the English public during this era.   While looking at this posterity it is also hard to forget the fact that at the time when this film was created,Englandhad yet to experience its most trying test in the form of WWII which occurred just 6 years after the film was made.

One of the most interesting parts of the film was the montage sequence that portrayed the vice and the hedonism of the 1920’s.  The sequence depicted Jazz-era flappers, a homosexual couple, the rise in atheism, and a complete reversal from the Victorian society portrayed in the first portion of the movie.  These choices were particularly daring, and many of the depictions would not have been possible in Production Code eraHollywood, which would begin to censor films in 1934.  The portrayal of homosexuality  would never have passed censorship restrictions that would limit content for the next 25 or so years.

Overall, I found the film emotionally moving and a better representation of a longitudinal character study than the more fragmented Cimarron.  It’s more innovative technological advances on such a large scale also showed the biggest improvement in film production since All Quiet on the Western Front.  The lesson in English history also familiarized me with a segment of world history that I was not well acquainted with, and I was glad I had the chance to learn about it through an insider’s perspective provided by an English film production.

 

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