Classic Movie Countdown: Best Picture #’s 22 and 21 — Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) and Hamlet (1948)

22. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

Other Nominated Films:
Alice Adams, Broadway Melody of 1936, Captain Blood, David Copperfield, The Informer, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Les Misérables, Naughty Marietta, Ruggles of Red Gap, Top Hat

It was a few years ago when I first watched Mutiny on the Bounty and I still remember the experience as if it was yesterday. In fact, it’s one of the films that got me interested in Classic films.  Mutiny on the Bounty is a magnificent and thrilling film that chronicles the real-life mutiny aboard the HMS Bounty and its aftermath. It features powerful performances by its three stars: Charles Laughton as the sadistic Captain Bligh, Clark Gable as the rebellious Fletcher Christian, and Franchot Tone as the humane Midshipman Byam. Interestingly, all three actors were nominated for the Best Actor Oscar, but lost to Victor McLaglen for his role in The Informer (the only nominee not from Mutiny on the Bounty). This helped spark the subsequent creation of the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. To date, Mutiny on the Bounty is the last film to win Best Picture without winning in any other category. It is also interesting to note that James Cagney, David Niven and Dick Haymes had uncredited roles as Extras in the film. Producer Irving Thalberg may have had an ulterior motive when casting both Gable and Laughton in the same film.  It’s been said that, Thalberg purposely cast Laughton, who was overtly gay, against Gable, a notorious homophobe, in the hopes that some ‘real life’ tension between the two actors would create an even more powerful and authentic on-screen intensity. Stacking the deck even further, it is also said that Thalberg thought Gable would be intimidated working with Laughton who was a classically trained British actor, and that Laughton believed that he, himself, should have been nominated in 1935 for his performance in The Barretts of Wimpole Street rather than Gable who won Best Actor for It Happened One Night.

Nominated for 8 Oscars, Winner of 1
Best Picture – M-G-M (WON)
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Clark Gable
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Charles Laughton
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Franchot Tone
Best Director – Frank Lloyd
Best Film Editing – Margaret Booth
Best Music, Score – Nat W. Finston (head of department)
Best Writing, Screenplay – Jules Furthman, Talbot Jennings, Carey Wilson

Lt. Fletcher Christian: When you’re back in England with the fleet again, you’ll hear the hue and cry against me. From now on they’ll spell mutiny with my name.

21. Hamlet (1948)

Other Nominated Films:
Johnny Belinda, The Red Shoes, The Snake Pit, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Hamlet is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, which means that it’s one of my favorite plays of all time. And, since Laurence Olivier is a fantastic Shakespearian actor, I knew that I would be in for a treat. But, while I enjoyed this version of Hamlet immensely, I can’t say that it was my favorite interpretation. Some critics have taken issue with the fact that Olivier condensed the four hour play into a two-and-a-half hour movie. For me, in particular, I was surprised by the exclusion of the characters Rosencrants and Guildenstern, which takes out some of the funnier and more memorable scenes — although Olivier stated that he wanted to focus on the psychological aspect of Hamlet rather than the physical components of the play. Putting Olivier’s judicious editing aside, it’s easy to say that Olivier is truly spectacular in his portrayal of this tragic character. Eileen Herlie as the Queen and Jean Simmons as the fair Ophelia are excellent as well. All in all, this production of Hamlet is one of the best of all time, and Olivier is, for the most part, perfect.  Olivier’s Hamlet was the only film to win Best Actor in which the leading actor directed himself — until 1998 when Roberto Benigni did the same for Life is Beautiful.  Hamlet was also the first foreign film to win Best Picture, the second being Slumdog Millionaire in 2009.

Nominated for 7 Oscars, Winner of 4
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Laurence Olivier (WON)
Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Black-and-White – Roger K. Furse, Carmen Dillon (WON)
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White – Roger K. Furse (WON)
Best Picture – J. Arthur Rank and Two Cities Films (WON)
Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Jean Simmons
Best Director – Laurence Olivier
Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture – William Walton

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: Do you see yonder cloud that looks like a camel?
Polonius, Lord Chamberlain: By the mass, ’tis like a camel indeed.
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: Methinks it looks like a weasel.

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