Reynold Brown at work
What James Bama was to Monster Kits, Reynold Brown was to movie posters. Born in Los Angeles in October of 1917, Brown started his career in illustration in 1937 as assistant to Hal (Tailspin Tommy) Forrest. He continued to work with Hal on his comic strips until 1941. From there he went straight to 6 years of illustrating for North American Avaiation and the U S Air Force, doing "cutaways" (or phantom views) of airplanes that showed their entire structure and inner workings. After his military stint he kept busy painting covers for dozens and dozens of covers for Bantam and Penguin pocket edition books, as well as tons of magazine illustrations for Life, True, Argosy, Saturday Evening Post, Boy's Life, Mechanix Illustrated and Outdoor Life just to name a few. His influences included J. C. Leyendecker, Dean Cornwell, N. C. Wyeth, and especially Norman Rockwell. In 1950 Universal's art director Mischa Kallis saw some of his work at an exhibition and asked him to do the poster art for the Gregory Peck B-picture A World in His Arms. Universal-International Brass was so impressed by his work that not only was he given a lot more --consistantly beating out other "well known" illustrators-- but he quickly received industry-wide repute as one of exploitation's secret weapons. During his long and prolific career he created the art for literally hundreds of movie posters, never truly getting the respect he deserved from the Hollywood advertising machine. In 1958 Albert Kallis hired Reynold to work for the upstart American-International Productions and it was there that his imagination and skills met their greatest test. AIP lived or died based on the appeal of their advertising, and he did over forty posters for movies that were really more derserving of box-office oblivion...A good portion of them done with short notice and over a single weekend (The AIP special).
Reynold could conjure up an iconic powerhouse image of chaos and mayhem with a stunning level of detail like nobody's business. Even his charcoal sketches and comps were generally better than a lot of other top artists' best efforts.
Reynold, who had an incredible flair for portraiture, here works up a comp for the poster campaign for the 1959 Allied Artists' film Al Capone.
Not only did he do posters for films well remembered...
( AIP's The Pit and the Pendulum from 1961. The poster art for the one sheet and the insert.)
(What's he gonna throw next?)
...but he painted posters of plenty for lesser-remembered films ,too. (This poster from 1959's The Headless Ghost is a good example of an AIP weekend rush job special, where Reynold found it a necessity to use a looser style just to get the work turned in by monday.)
Here Brown exhibits his photographic style with the poster art yet another "classic", 1957's Love-Slaves of the Amazon. (Actually Curt "The Wolfman" Siodmak wrote, produced and directed this little testosterone-fueled fantasy.)
Reynold's drawing skills were every bit as as precise as his paintings were rife with detail.
Below is a pencil rough (42 1/2 " x 27 1/2") he did for Goliath and The Barbarians --AIP's first foray in the Barbarian movie genre in 1959. Very comic-booky in it's presentation, though more modern in it's execution than a lot of comics at that time. (In fact, some stylistic elements of this piece seem reminiscent --or vice-versa-- of work done in the 1970s by comic book greats like John Buscema, John Romita and Neal Adams .)
A Gallery of original Brown paintings.
The original 241/2" x 241/2" painting for Universals' 1957 offbeat oddity The Monolith Monsters. (Painted in the six-sheet format) For the medium on this piece Brown used goauche on illustration board.
The Original Billboard-format 24 sheet painting for Allied Artists' World Without End, also from 1957.
Here's the 8" x 211/2" original art that Brown prepared for This Island Earth in 1954. Again, here he used goauche on illustration board.
More great portraits, this time of the "Bat-pack" in their prime, in the original art for AIP's 1964 production of The Raven.
Much to the chagrin of the illustrator the type in those days was very often applied directly to the original art. The poster art Brown prepared for Universal's luckluster 1956 effort The Creature Walks Among Us was no exception. Note that half of the "G" has dropped off of the word "Among".
This painting Brown did for The Deadly Mantis was used for the film's 81" x 81" six sheet as well as the 22' x 28' lobby card. Noboby else caputured the exaggerated comic-book feel of 1950s science-fiction and paranoia like he did.
( Let's see...What happens in The Deadly Mantis again? He breaks out of the ice, kills a guy in a parka, crashes an arctic base and gets shot at by some soldiers in the snow, wrecks some planes, gets shot at by jets, and eventually has an encounter with some guys in radiation-type suits at a gas filled tunnel trashes a few cars. Hmm...Yep...It's all there.)
The art for the six sheet of Universal's 1957 Dinosaur-suit romp The Land Unknown.
Here's Brown's amazing original painting as it was prepared for AIP's Godzilla vs The Thing (1964), plus the one-sheet, so you can see how much art was lost when it was printed...And this alternative version that was used in some of the pressbook art (but in black & white). As much as I love these paintings I've always kinda wondered just what was going on with ol' G's legs.
Like James Bama, Reynold Brown was as proflic a painter as he was versatlie and talented draftsman. The whole time he was doing movie posters he continued to work on other projects including book covers, record jackets and teaching at Art Center College of Design. He managed to live comfortably but he never got rich (In fact, for a standard 350$ fee he would deliver up to as many as four different paintings and revisions--all in a weeks time).
Contemporary movie poster painter (Star Wars) Drew Struzan found out just how much industry notariety Brown had once he graduated school and started making the studio rounds:
"Everywhere I went his name came up --and still does-- because he was one of the standard-bearers of his time. He is probably the only illustrator who had a reputation as a Hollywood artist."
Reynold eventually dropped out of the Hollywood rat-race and retired in realitive seclusion.
He suffered a stroke in 1976 but was able to retrain himself enough to do some powerful drawings and beatiful landscape paintings of the Nebraska countryside where he settled in 1983 and remained until his death in 1991. He did live long enough to see just how much appreciation for his work had grown, and how collectable the posters he painted for such low wages had ultimately become.
My thanks to those who helped make this post possible, including Fredrick Clarke, Stephen Rebello and Drew Struzan, and especially Reynold Brown.