Clarence Brown

Director, Producer, Editor
Although he trained as an engineer and expected to pursue a career in the automotive industry, Clarence Brown became enamoured of the burgeoning new industry of filmmaking around 1914 and switched careers. The ... Read more »
Born: 05/09/1890 in Clinton, Massachusetts, USA

Filmography

Director (34)

It's a Big Country 1952 (Movie)

(Director)

Angels in the Outfield 1950 (Movie)

(Director)

Intruder in the Dust 1950 (Movie)

(Director)

Song of Love 1947 (Movie)

(Director)

National Velvet 1944 (Movie)

(Director)

The Rains Came 1938 (Movie)

(Director)

Of Human Hearts 1937 (Movie)

(Director)

Conquest 1936 (Movie)

(Director)

The Gorgeous Hussy 1935 (Movie)

(Director)

Anna Karenina 1934 (Movie)

(Director)

Chained 1933 (Movie)

(Director)

Letty Lynton 1932 (Movie)

(Director)

Inspiration 1930 (Movie)

(Director)

Anna Christie 1929 (Movie)

(Director)

Romance 1929 (Movie)

(Director)

Wonder of Women 1928 (Movie)

(Director)

A Woman of Affairs 1927 (Movie)

(Director)

Flesh and the Devil 1926 (Movie)

(Director)

A Free Soul (Movie)

(Director)

Ah, Wilderness! (Movie)

(Director)

Come Live with Me (Movie)

(Director)

Edison, the Man (Movie)

(Director)

Idiot's Delight (Movie)

(Director)

Kiki (Movie)

(Director)

Navy Blues (Movie)

(Director)

Sadie McKee (Movie)

(Director)

Smouldering Fires (Movie)

(Director)

The Human Comedy (Movie)

(Director)

The Plymouth Adventure (Movie)

(Director)

The Trail of '98 (Movie)

(Director)

The White Cliffs of Dover (Movie)

(Director)

They Met in Bombay (Movie)

(Director)

To Please a Lady (Movie)

(Director)

Wife vs. Secretary (Movie)

(Director)
Producer (10)

Angels in the Outfield 1950 (Movie)

(Producer)

Intruder in the Dust 1950 (Movie)

(Producer)

Song of Love 1947 (Movie)

(Producer)

Anna Karenina 1934 (Movie)

(Producer)

Letty Lynton 1932 (Movie)

(Producer)

Inspiration 1930 (Movie)

(Producer)

Wonder of Women 1928 (Movie)

(Producer)

Come Live with Me (Movie)

(Producer)

The Human Comedy (Movie)

(Producer)

To Please a Lady (Movie)

(Producer)
Actor (1)

MGM: When the Lion Roars 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)

Actor

Biography

Although he trained as an engineer and expected to pursue a career in the automotive industry, Clarence Brown became enamoured of the burgeoning new industry of filmmaking around 1914 and switched careers. The Massachusetts-born, Tennessee-raised Brown became an assistant to director Maurice Tourneur at Peerless Studio in New Jersey. Following WWI (during which he served as a flying instructor), he rejoined Tourneur and got his first chance to direct a film when his mentor fell ill during the shooting of "The Last of the Mohicans" (1920). Later that year, Brown made his solo directing debut with "The Great Redeemer", co-written by actor John Gilbert.

Influenced by Tourneur's use of romantic imagery, Brown was soon put under contract by Universal, where he honed his craft with efforts like "Smouldering Fires" and "The Goose Woman" (both 1925). both of which featured a romantic triangle, a theme that would recur in the director's oeuvre. Leaving Universal, he joined United Artists where he directed Rudolph Valentino in the charming romantic comedy "The Eagle" (1925) and the Norma Talmadge vehicle "Kiki" (1926). Executives at MGM were impressed enough to offer a contract and in 1926 Brown joined the studio where he would flourish.

MGM had carved its niche with a series of opulent, star-studded productions and Brown managed to retain his own unique vision while working within the studio's "house style". As a director, he tended to get out of the performer's way, preferring to offer suggestions that helped elicit the actor's best. His first assignment at MGM proved fortuitous: he was selected to direct Greta Garbo and John Gilbert in the romantic melodrama "Flesh and the Devil" (1926). Brown soon became the actress' preferred director, guiding her through a half-dozen more films including the silent "Romance" (1930) and Garbo's first talking picture "Anna Christie" (also 1930), based on the Eugene O'Neill play. Brown ended up competing against himself for the Best Director Academy Award for both efforts, but lost. (Indeed, he would be nominated four more times but would never take home a statue.)

Having proven his abilities with the difficult Garbo, Brown soon specialized in guiding many of MGM's strong-willed divas. Norma Shearer did some of her best work under his direction ("A Free Soul" 1931; "The Idiot's Delight" 1939) and Joan Crawford clamored to collaborate with him on such projects as "Possessed" (1931) and "The Gorgeous Hussy" (1936). He also continued his association with Garbo, steering her through "Anna Karenina" (1935) and "Conquest" (1937).

Following the untimely death of Irving Thalberg, MGM head Louis B. Mayer selected Brown to produce and direct a number of films that specifically appealed to the mogul, films that emphasized traditional values. Rising to the challenge, the director helmed such efforts as "Of Human Hearts" (1938), the biopic "Edison the Man" (1940), Mayer's personal favorite, "The Human Comedy" (1943), adapted from William Saroyan's novel, the overlong war drama "The White Cliffs of Dover" (1944), and "National Velvet" (1945). (Ironically, though, on loan to 20th Century Fox in 1939, Brown made what is arguably his best film, "The Rains Came", a drama about self-centered Brits in India who redeem themselves after a natural disaster strikes.)

Following WWII, Brown's output slowed. He earned his sixth career Oscar nomination for Best Director for "The Yearling" (1946), a well-acted adaptation of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' novel about a young boy who adopts a fawn as a pet. In 1950, he produced and directed the superb "Intruder in the Dust", an adaptation of a William Faulkner novel about racial tolerance that was clearly out of sync with MGM's "house style". Harsh but sensitive, "Intruder in the Dust" tackled a controversial subject and perfectly captured the nuances of small-town bigotry. (As a young man, Brown had been living in Atlanta during that city's 1906 race riots and the memory of what he observed influenced his direction.) As a follow-up, the director turned to fancy with "Angels in the Outfield", a charming fantasy about a baseball team that may have benefited from divine intervention. The following year, Brown directed his last film, "Plymouth Adventure", a drama about the arrival of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts. He retired and lived off his real estate investments until his death in 1987 at age 97.

Relationships

Larkin Brown

Father

Alice Joyce Actor

Wife
Married 1933 Divorced 1945

EDUCATION

University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Knoxville , Tennessee

Knoxville High School

Knoxville , Tennessee

Milestones

1953

Final film as producer, "Never Let Me Go"

1952

Second collaboration with screenwriter Helen Deutsch, "Plymouth Adventure"; last film as director

1951

Produced and directed "Angels in the Outfield"

1950

Tackled racial tolerance in "Intruder in the Dust"

1946

Picked up sixth Oscar nod as Best Director for "The Yearling"

1944

Was director of "National Velvet", co-written by Helen Deutsch; earned fifth Academy Award nomination

1942

Helmed "The Human Comedy", featuring Mickey Rooney; received fourth Oscar nomination as Best Director

1939

Made what is arguably one of his best movies, "The Rains Came"; was on loan to 20th Century Fox

1939

Directed "The Idiot's Delight", starring Clark Gable and Norma Shearer

1937

Last film with Garbo, "Conquest"

1935

Reunited with Garbo on "Anna Karenina"

1931

Guided Lionel Barrymore to an Oscar in "A Free Soul"; earned third Best Director Academy Award nomination

1930

Helmed Garbo's first talking picture, "Anna Christie"; earned Oscar nomination as Best Director; was also nominated for the silent "Romance", starring Garbo

1929

First sound film, "Navy Blues"

1928

Received producing credit on "The Trail of '98"

1927

Directed Greta Garbo in "Flesh & the Devil", co-starring John Gilbert

1926

Signed to a contract by MGM

1925

Helmed "The Eagle", starring Rudolph Valentino

1922

Scripted and directed "The Light in the Dark"

1920

Solo directing debut, "The Great Redeemer", co-written by John Gilbert

1920

Directorial debut, co-helming (with Tourneur), "The Last of the Mohicans"

1917

Served as a flying instructor during WWI

1914

Became an assistant director to Maurice Tourneur at Peerless Studio in New Jersey

1909

Worked in engineering department at Moline Company, an automobile manufacturer

Was under contract with Universal

Opened a car dealership in Birmingham, Alabama

Moved to Massachusetts and worked for Stevens Duryea Company

At age 11, moved to Knoxville, Tennessee

Bonus Trivia

.

On his career, Clarence Brown was quoted as saying, "I only knew what was human and what I saw in real life. I can't make anything unless it's the best I can do."

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