Monday, 10 January 2011

Best Actor 1935: Clark Gable, Franchot Tone, and Charles Laughton in Mutiny on the Bounty

Mutiny on the Bounty is an aged film certainly but it still is enjoyable in its own old fashioned way. The story is not really accurate apparently Captain Bligh was really just a man trying to do his job, and the mutineers all ended up basically killing each other when they got to their paradise of an island, instead the it position the film as a struggle between good and cruelty. The three nominees represent different parts of this conflict on the ship.

First there is Clark Gable who received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Fletcher Christian. Fletcher Christian as portrayed here is the good man aboard the ship who tries his best to help his fellow sailors, and eventually takes the ship due to the cruelty of Captain Bligh. Christian is not all too complicated none of the characters are, nor do they exactly need to be.

Clark Gable sans his usual mustache portrays Fletcher Christian effectively. Christian as I said is not a complicated character but just an honest man doing his best to make conditions on the Bounty better. He portrays Christian with the right amount of passion, and power in the performance. He is instantly believable as the the commander of the men, and there is absoultely no doubt that people would look up to Christian in this film.

Clark Gable gives a very good performance and does have his usual charm which is an always welcome factor in his film. I would say that his charm is not quite as great as in his other two Oscar nominated performances but it still is always apparent in this performance. I would say the most important part of his performance is just the fact that it is so easy to follow through the film with Gable in the lead. He was a true movie star and he proves that once again with his undeniable charm and screen presence. It is not his best performance but it is again a good one, which completely works well for the dashing daring Fletcher Christian.
In the middle the semi-neutral party is Ensign Byan in portrayed by Franchot Tone with his only Oscar nomination. Byan is a simple idealistic midshipman, who like Christian wants to be treated with respect, and also dislikes the cruelty of Captain Bligh. Byan though does not really act out, he says Bligh has done wrong, but does not end up participating in the Mutiny himself.

Tone actually is just fine in his role as Byan, who really is more of a supporting role, but since there was only one actor category there is no surprise he was nominated here. Byan is not complicated but Tone portrays him as just the good guy he is. He handles Byan's reactions realistically and effectively enough. He and Gable get along well in the film as well, and their scenes together work fairly well.

My reservation is Byan does not do all that much, but stand in the middle between the forces for most of the film, but he does not standout like Bligh's nastiness does, and Christian's charm, but than again nor should he since he is the man in the middle really. Byan though eventually does have to stand up for himself, when he is put on trial as a mutineer. Tone handles his one big scene at the end fairly well, even if not amazingly. Overall Tone is never all that special in his role, but he is just fine.
Finally the last part of the struggle is the evil Captain Bligh portrayed by Charles Laughton in his second Oscar nomination. Charles Laughton portrays Bligh as an evil slimy Captain. Bligh I would not say is really portrayed as a whole human being but perhaps is more representation of a type of systematic cruelty.

Laughton portrays Bligh fairly well even if the character is rather simple. Bligh as written mostly does just two things. One of them is smugly look at the proceedings as he orders other people about, whether that is their task, or if he orders a cold punishment for a mind infraction. Laughton is properly cold and calculated in his cruelty. He shows his characters power madness in such a strict structural ways that works well once again with the film.

Bligh really is never not being evil even if at times he is doing the ship work in a normal captain like way. He never really acts as a normal human being, but nor is he suppose to be. This is a film about very thematic characters and no character is more like this than Laughton. Laughton never really acting like a normal descent person is appropriate with Bligh's power hungry attitudes, and the fact that he is suppose to be really just an evil villain not a normal person.

He really is suppose to be the representation of cruelty which Laughton does quite well. He does this both when he acts rather quietly evil with just the orders when he is control, or when he roars and yells back at Christian in the pivotal mutiny scene. Laughton performance is not an amazing one, or even a subtle one but like the others it is an effective performance that work well for the film.


Anonymous said...

Interesting you did them all together, but I agree basically. Never understood why Tone was recognized.

Fritz said...

I really enjoyed all of these performance (and I don't understand how the myth started that Tone was supporting)

Louis Morgan said...

I do not think he was at all lead with Gable, or as domineering as Laughton. Most of the time I did find him supporting Gable except at the end.

dinasztie said...

I haven't seen this movie, though I probably should. I really like Laughton.