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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Wrong sailor in the boat

One of the anecdotes about the shooting of "Mutiny on the Bounty" (The 1936 version, of course!) is that the scenes about Lieutenant Bligh's epic travel in the Bounty's launch to Timor were shot twice, which made the shooting of those scenes a little odissey by itself.

The reason was that one of the actors that were supposed to be among the mutineers, was mistakenly in the launch among with those remaining loyal to Bligh. Charles Higham's book on Laughton put the blame on young actor Eddie Quillan, who was playing the young mutineer Thomas Ellison, and should be in the "Bounty", not the boat.

But then I got these two old stills:

In this one we have Laughton with Franchot Tone, playing Midshipman Roger Byam, who was the fictional equivalent of Peter Heywood, one of those who remained loyal to Bligh in the Mutiny but remained in the Bounty for lack of room in the launch, so well... he shouldn't be there.

In the second one, we see Donald Crisp (second sailor right of Laughton), who played one of the most conspicuous mutineers, Thomas Burkitt, and wasn't supposed to be in the launch, either.

So maybe the blame shouldn't go just to poor Eddie Quillan.

One thing I can say for certain is that both Tone and Crisp are made up as they looked as prisoners in HMS Pandora, the ship the Royal Navy sent to capture the mutineers. I wonder if the make up experts responsible for the scruffy looks of the members of both the Bounty launch and the prisoners at Pandora's box were around for a limited time, and this prompted a bit of confusion at both the filming and the shooting of stills.

Curiously, the actor I don't recall at all in the launch was Herbert Mundin. who played Bligh servant in the Bounty, he is neither seen among the mutineers nor among Bligh's loyals after the mutiny... Maybe because he was there for comic relief, and the launch trip was very dramatic stuff indeed. Still, what a goof.

Incidentally, being based in a novel, not the actual facts, there's always been criticisms about its historical accuracy. One of the greatest ones, in that sense, is the presence of Bligh aboard the Pandora, there to find Christian and his mutineers and make them pay for their rebellion. Actually, Bligh was on a new breadfruit expedition, and the Pandora was commanded by Captain Edwards, who was far nastier than Bligh. I haste to say that, although not accurate, Bligh in the Pandora made for one of the most dramatic moments of the film.

The Pandora also shipwrecked, and Captain Edwards had to bring to safety both his crew and his prisoners in boats, in a trip not unlike Bligh's journey to Timor. If it weren't because the actors in the still are mostly those whom se see in the film as Bligh's loyals, I'd drop the crazy theory that the trip of the Pandora's boats wers filmed, too, but cut in the final editing, ;D

Whatever, whoever was the actor responsible of being the sailor in the wrong boat, the rest of cast and crew were obviously oblivious of the fact, too. The making of "Mutiny on the Bounty" took about two years, but Charles' work in it was during a few weeks, due to other film commitments, so the scenes with Bligh were filmed all together over a short period of time: this might be one of the reasons for that continuity mistake, and also gives the impression that having to film those scenes again must be an extra source of stress for those involved, specially Laughton, who had to return to England to work for Alexander Korda.

The irony is, that when he came back, Korda kept him idle for months while throwing prijects and ideas to Laughton: one gets the impression that Korda's aim was to keep Laughton from working with other people, as this strange period of inactivity in Britain contrasts sharply with Charles' busy schedule when in Hollywood... But that's another story.