Poster Production
 The Mutiny on the Bounty (The Movie, 1962)

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The Story

The HMS Bounty set sail for Tahiti in 1788, its mission was to gather breadfruit trees that were to be transported to the Caribbean to feed the slaves. Captain William Bligh was in command and Fletcher Christian was second in command.

Treatment of the crew by the officers was harsh, based on the idea that the discipline of the crew needed to ensured by fear. Among the punishments for infractions of ship's rules were flogging (being whipped with a cat-o-nine) and keel hauling in which a man was tied with ropes and thrown over the bow of the ship and then dragged below the keel to the stern. Either of these punishments could result in death.

After spending a few months collecting Breadfruit in Tahiti the bounty set sail. Eventually, driven by the harsh treatment and their desire to return to Tahiti where many of the men had married, the crew mutinied under the leadership of Christian.

Bligh and a small number of loyal crew members were set adrift in the ship's small launch. Bligh eventually sailed to Timor in the Dutch East Indies. A famously epic sailing accomplishment of 3600 miles. Reynold Brown was inspired to do this oil painting for himself.  The launch was not large enough to take all the loyal crew members so some were kept on board and later dropped off in Tahiti. The mutineers gathered up their families and set sail for some place unlikely to be visited by British ships; they eventually settled on Pitcairn island. The men fought amongst themselves and killed each other. Eventually a ship found the island, but there was only one man left and about a dozen women and many children.

Captain Bligh eventually captained another ship which successfully sailed to Tahiti, gathered more breadfruit trees and transported them to the Caribbean. Ironically, breadfruit (also called ulu)

Telling the Story

The story of the Bounty was told in three books by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. These were "The Bounty Trilogy" (Mutiny on the Bounty, 1932; Men Against the Sea, 1934; and Pitcairn's Island 1934). "Mutiny on the Bounty" told the story of the Mutiny; "Men Against the Sea" followed the journey of the loyal crew members on the launch; "Pitcairn's Island" told the fate of the men who made it to Pitcairn.

A number of movies were made based on the Nordhoff books. There was a 1916 version made in Australia. This was followed by the well received "Mutiny on the Bounty"  released in 1935 that starred Charles Laughton and Clark Gable. (See posters below).

In 1962 came the release of "Mutiny on the Bounty" starring Marlon Brando (left) and Trevor Howard (right).

Still another version was made for television, "The Bounty." It was released in 1984 starring Mel Gibson, Roger Donaldson and Edward Fox.

Reynold Brown: Poster Work for 1962 Mutiny

Reynold Brown was commissioned to do the poster artwork for the 1962 version of the movie, one of the posters is shown to the right. This one shows the basic elements required in most movie posters (theme, stars and romance).

Through various elements the theme is developed to show that this movie is about a ship, is historic in nature, is an adventure and is set (at least in part) on an island. Brown was highly regarded for his star portraits and here depicted the two main stars (Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard).  A romantic or sexual element is implied in the Tahitian women and the men's attitudes towards them.

The title is placed below the stars, the lettering size and star order places the stars on an equal footing with the movie subject. Brown often incorporated a number of "scenes" from the movie. The design also had to consider placement of title, names and other printed materials. Often a number of paintings were executed, and then elements of these were taken and re-assembled to make various designs. Sometimes the original artwork was actually cut into pieces, sometimes the art was photographed and the photos cut up and re-assembled.

Brown also portrayed Brando in "The Ugly American," (1963) and in "Appaloosa" (1966).

The main poster with the two portraits was published widely. Here is a Yugoslav version.

This set of posters used a solarized quality to the imagery and varied the colors.

See larger version of this poster

Developmental drawings for this poster.

Posters were generally preceded by a number of drawings. These were done on a very thin tracing paper. Although most drawings were destroyed a few were found by Brown to be of sufficient merit to save. Elements of the drawings may be seen in the posters above.

This layout will be used on the poster below.

The old world navys used corporal punishment as the means of promoting discipline. Small infractions could result in "flogging," being whipped with a "cat-o-nine." This punishment along with a number of others would result in the mutiny.

 The man being flogged will be incorporated on the right side of the poster. Thus by association it is tied to Captain Bligh.

Tahiti, Preliminary Drawings

The development of the Tahitian scene was done in a series of pencil drawings on tracing paper. Of the two shown below the upper drawing was probably done first. It establishes the layout and emphasizes the women making them dominate as larger figures on the left and in prominent positions both left and right. The men of the Bounty are smaller and on the right build a pyramid on which a woman stands. The top drawing is done with a high degree of vigor and established figure placement and location by putting the ship in the harbor in the background. The lower drawing becomes more refined and although closer to what will ultimately be painted loses the vitality of the upper image where the freedom of design development dominates the image.

The final painting based on these drawings is used in the poster below.


These drawings develop the relationship of the Bounty crew to the Tahitian women. The final poster changes the positions of some of the women but keeps this basic composition here and in the portrait area in the main poster.


Another drawing emphasizes the relationship of Christiansen with a Tahitian woman.

It becomes part of a different set of posters.

Reproductions of paintings often lost a lot of their character and beauty.


The physical punishments and separation from the women angered the crew. On the second portion of the voyage which was to take the Bounty and its breadfruit to the Caribbean (1789) led by Fletcher Christiansen, the crew mutinied.

Note the rescue scene occurring on the sail. You might recall a similar scene using a sail. In "Against All Flags" Errol Flynn uses his knife to stab the sail and make a dramatic descent. That scene is used in Brown's poster for Against All Flags."


In a small number of cases Brown was inspired by the material to do a painting for himself. Here is a small oil painting that he did for himself that shows the launch with Captain Bligh and his loyal crew members, the Bounty sailing off in the distance and breadfruit trees thrown overboard.

To see more detailed pictures of the above painting click here.

Brown did a number of sailing vessels for the movies including his first poster, "The World in His Arms" with Gregory Peck and Anne Blyth. He also did "Against All Flags" with Maureen O'Hara and Errol Flynn. The composition to the left is similar to the layout for the Against All Flags poster.


Mutiny on the Bounty 1935


   Here are a pair of posters from 1935 starring Charles Laughton and Clark Gable.

As you may see, there are similar key elements including theme development in the form of the sailing ship on the right and the mutineers on the left. There's the required star portraits and romantic interest (meant to draw in the female audience).

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