Discovering more about the film poster design for the movie ‘Swallows and Amazons'(1974)

Sophie Neville as Titty in 'Swallows and Amazons' (1974) by the film poster artist Arnaldo Putzu
Sophie Neville portrayed by Arnaldo Putzu

Who painted the film poster?

I have only just learned that it was the Italian artist Arnaldo Putzu.

Thomas Connery enlightened me, writing: ‘Whether it be Space 1999, The Railway Children, The Rollers or Jaimie Sommers, he always captured likeness’ of stars faithfully and remarkably accurately.’ 

I agree. He portrayed Virginia McKenna well. I wonder how large the original painting was and if any of the sketches have survived.

Virginia McKenna in 'Swallows and Amazons' (1974) by the film poster artist Arnaldo Putzu
Virginia McKenna in ‘Swallows and Amazons’ (1974)

I have been given brown eyes and look a bit worried but am hugely honoured to have been featured at all. Kit Seymour looked far more cheery.

Kit Seymour as Nancy in ‘Swallows and Amazons’1974

A version of the artwork was used on cinema tickets, establishing the green parrot as one of the stars. I do like the way that Roger’s head looks out from the oval. This one gives Amazon a dark sail and shows the Amazons adopting different poses from on the poster. Nancy has folded arms and Peggy has her hands on her knees. Her stance is comic but a bit improbable. They have the wind behind them. What if the boat had gybed?

Premier ticket for the Gala of ‘Swallows and Amazons’

The ticket matched the souvenir programme for the film premier held in Shaftesbury Avenue on 4th April 1974. You can see inside this in an earlier post here.

Swallows and Amazons premier programme
The programme from the 1974 premier of the movie ‘Swallows and Amazons’

I also have a large sepia poster given to my mother by a cinema. I can remember being too shy to ask for it, but she persevered. I haven’t seen another since.

As children, we all asked, ‘Who was sailing the boats?’ Magnus Smith, who now looks after Swallow, says that you can tie off the mainsheet and Susan could just about be controlling Swallow’s tiller, but Amazon looks a bit precarious. I don’t expect Arnaldo had any experience sailing dinghies. Ours were on a collision course, pitched at odd angles with rather high reefing points but he added a swashbuckling spirit, and a bit of white water spray, which is always exciting.

Swallows and Amazons (1974) sepia film poster (c) StudioCanal
Arnaldo Putzu’s poster for the EMI film Swallows & Amazons (1974)

Arnaldo Putzu (1927-2012) began working for Rank in the 1950s and moved to London in 1967. He worked on the advertising material for many iconic movies including That’ll Be The Day, featuring David Essex and Ringo Starr, which Claude Whatham directed in 1972 prior to working on Swallows and Amazons for EMI Films. Is that the cover of the LP in the right hand corner? Claude Whatham gave me a copy. It included the song ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’.

That'll be the Day -the film post by Arnaldo Putzu
Poster design by Arnaldo Putzu

This one is bordered by fairground lights, where as ours had been given the feel of a treasure map, with the credits on the reverse, which was clever. The original lettering, trendy in the mid-seventies, faded from fashion for a while but came back on-trend for the 40th Anniversary. The painting was somehow ageless, being used for the DVD cover up by StudioCanal until 2016. They still sell it as a jigsaw puzzle or on a mug.

According to The Guardian, ‘Putzu created some of the most famous Italian film posters of the 50s and early 60s, painting such stars as Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida.’ By 1973 ‘Putzu found himself the top-rated and most in-demand poster illustrator working in Britain. His output over the 1970s included oddball Hammer Horror fantasies such as Creatures the World Forgot and Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. For the Get Carter posters he put the ruthless gangster (played by) Michael Caine into an unlikely floral jacket, demonstrating the whimsical humour that makes his best posters unforgettable.’ An original of this poster signed by Michael Caine was once valued by Sotherby’s at between £4,000 to £6,000.

You can see more of of Putzu’s artwork here.

Lesley Bennett in 'Swallows and Amazons' (1974) by the film poster artist Arnaldo Putzu
Lesley Bennett in ‘Swallows and Amazons’ (1974)

Lesley Bennett, who played Peggy, still has her copy of the original film poster. She should probably get it signed by the actors. Others were pasted in London Underground stations, which I found alarming as a child.

Lesley Bennett who played Peggy in Swallows and Amazons 1974

I spied a framed poster on display at Windermere Jetty Steamboat museum, where it was featured on BBC Antiques Roadshow. There is more about the movie memorabilia, which was valued by the expert Marc Allum, here.

Swallows and Amazons film poster
Sophie Neville at Windermere Jetty museum in 2020

Some originals have been for sale on this site here. Studiocanal sell various prints here.

You can read about the adventures we had making the movie in ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons’ and the multi-media ebook entitled ‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows and Amazons’ which retails for £2.99. You can ‘Look inside’ and read the first section for free here:

Swallows and Amazons, 1974 is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video where you can watch the film trailer. has a review of Amazon’s streaming service, including a 30-day free trial offer.

Author: Sophie Neville

Writer and charity fundraiser

20 thoughts on “Discovering more about the film poster design for the movie ‘Swallows and Amazons'(1974)”

  1. Wonderful artwork from a completely ‘new’ artist to me, thank you for introducing him to me, Sophie. And I would say you look more ‘concerned’ than ‘punched in the face’!

          1. No, I see completely what you mean. At least, if she achieved the pose it probably wouldn’t have lasted for long before she was overboard! Mr Arnaldo Putzu taking artistic license to extremes!

  2. Good heavens about Claude Whatham and That’ll be the Day! My admiration for him grows.
    And you’re right about his talent for depicting people (sorry about yours not being you at your best – though it brings across Titty’s sensitivity nicely) – I assume he did them from photos and didn’t meet you?

    1. I imagine that the artist was shown the film and would have worked from film stills. It’s not obvious which ones these are but any ideas welcome. Screen-grabs were not so easy back then.

  3. It’s a good point about how it’s impossible anyone was actually sailing the boats (especially the Amazons on the ticket/program) but the thing that has always bugged me is Roger, what’s going on there?

    1. Roger doesn’t worry me so much. His place was in the bows where he was safer from the boom and could look out for rocks. The likeness is almost a prediction. He grew into those looks.

  4. Dear Ms Neville,

    I am also lucky enough to have one of these posters which I have as part of my poster collection. I am writing to ask whether you ever attend signing events as I would love to get your autograph on my poster. If you do not attend these events, is there any way I could pay you to sign it by sending the poster to you, with return postage paid?

    I would like to thank you for the years of enjoyment you and your fellow actors and actress’ have given me through the years when researching this wonderful film.

    Kind Regards

    Andrew Ridgway

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      1. Dear Ms Neville,

        Thank you for responding so quickly.

        I am based in a small market town called Macclesfield in Cheshire. However, myself and my wife often travel for book signings in Manchester and London, but depend on public transport as neither of us drive.

        Thank you again


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        1. Lakeland Arts and The Arthur Ransome Society are planning a 50th Anniversary celebration of filming Swallows and Amazons in the Lake District in the summer of 2023. I expect a few other members of the cast and crew might be there, which would be good. I’ve been asked to give a slide show and Q&A. There might be cinema screenings with Q&As at the Brewery Arts in Kendal. Why not sign up to this website so that you will automatically receive news?

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