Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)
A scene I’m 100% sure took place in Irving Thalberg’s office at MGM one day in 1935:
“So, last year Gable took his shirt off in It Happened One Night, and we made… how much money again?”
“All of it, sir. All the money.”
“Oh yeah. That was great. We also won enough Oscars that I had to have my mantelpiece reinforced. Anyway, having said that, what’ve we got this year?”
“We’ve got a picture where Clark Gable is shirtless for literally half the running time.”
“Good start. What’s he wearing the rest of the time?”
“An 18th-century British naval uniform, sir.”
“…I’m going to buy a swimming pool and fill it with money.”
Mutiny on the Bounty is one of the Big Expensive Period Pieces that wins Best Picture every few years. It’s got possibly the best performance of Charles Laughton’s career, and as mentioned above, all the Gable you can eat. The pacing feels slow by modern standards, but the emotional beats mostly land solidly, so you’re rooting for who you’re supposed to root for. Just don’t ruin it for yourself by looking up what Pitcairn Island’s been like in real life ever since the mutineers landed there.
What did this beat?
Another very long slate. Alice Adams, Broadway Melody of 1936, Captain Blood, David Copperfield, The Informer, Les Misérables, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Naughty Marietta, Ruggles of Red Gap, and Top Hat. Should any of these have won instead? Hard to say. Captain Blood was a terrific pirate movie that made Errol Flynn a star overnight, and Broadway Melody of 1936 was, unlike its 1929 counterpart, actually enjoyable. But it’s hard to overcome the Oscar momentum of a Big Expensive Period Piece that’s so popular it fills swimming pools with money. (Which I remain certain must have happened.)