Mutiny on the Bounty

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Polynesian hut built at Two Harbors for the filming of
Mutiny on the Bounty, Santa Catalina Island 1935

Mutiny on the Bounty, was filmed, in part, on both San Miguel Island and Santa Cruz Island in 1935. San Miguel Island was used to portray certain remote areas of Pitcairn Island. The film won Best Picture of the Year in 1935. With permission from Herbert Lester, island employee of island lessee Robert L. Brooks, the island was used to portray certain remote areas of Pitcairn Island. Pre-planted palms were set about within camera range, and according to Elizabeth Lester:

“Tahitian ladies were encamped in one area, while mutineers were camped in another, while the business end of the filming remained mostly at sea trying to keep from capsizing and losing precious time and equipment.”

Heavy weather and the drowning death of cameraman Glen Strong forced abandonment of the project, which moved to Santa Catalina Island. Stars Clark Gable, Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone didn’t visit San Miguel Island. [Lester 1974: 62]. When MGM left San Miguel Island, they allegedly also left behind a mess, which resulted in Robert L. Brooks filing a claim for damages against MGM. Brooks received $750 in consideration of his claim, and the U.S. Navy did not file trespass charges against MGM, “as the trespass was apparently without his [Brooks] consent.”

The over-budget (about $2 million) MGM film was the studio's most expensive production since Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925), but it was also the highest-grossing film of 1935 (at $4.5 million).

In the News~

July 26, 1935 [SHNY]: “Movie barge sinks at sea; one missing. MGM cameraman lost when ‘set’ of Clark Gable film goes down. Loss set at $50,000. Accident occurs 50 miles off Santa Barbara at San Miguel Island. Divers and salvage men were rushed today to San Miguel Island…to search for the body of Glenn Strong, assistant cameraman, who was lost when heavy seas late yesterday foundered an 80-foot barge fitted up to represent the British warship, Pandora. Strong was one of a movie company of about 75, including cameramen, technical experts, ship’s crew and studio attaches at work in the picture, Mutiny on the Bounty, in which the warship Pandora figures.

September 17, 1935 [HTI]: “With the shadow of a jinx which has already cost one life sailing with them, a camera crew was on its way to San Miguel Island yesterday to complete background shots for the hoodoo picture, Mutiny on the Bounty. Work was suspended more than six weeks ago when a squall overwhelmed a camera barge and carried Glenn Strong, cameraman, to his death. The accident culminated a series of misfortunes in production of the picture. Except for background material the picture is complete.”