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Brown in 1951.
March 24, 1928
|Died||May 21, 1999
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Robert Alan Franklyn (1950–57; divorced)
Mark Sandrich Jr. (1959–89; divorced; 2 children)
Born Smylla Brynd in Vienna, Austria, to Jewish parents, Brown and her family fled to Paris, France in 1937 to escape persecution with the rise of the Nazi Party. Within a few years the family had settled in America and Brown auditioned for Lillian Hellman for a role in Watch on the Rhine. Fluent in several languages, the youngster impressed Hellman with her presence and authentic Teutonic accent, and she was signed as understudy to Ann Blyth, eventually doing the role of Babette on Broadway and in the touring production. In high school she wrote and directed school plays. She graduated from UCLA in 1949, having majored in English.
Radio and films
Her IQ of 165 led to two years of work as one of the young panelists on the radio series Quiz Kids, and she was also a junior member of the National Board of Review, the critical panel serving the motion picture industry. RKO Radio Pictures brought her family to Los Angeles, and Brown made her film debut (as Tessa Brind) in Youth Runs Wild (1944). RKO changed her screen name to Vanessa Brown and assigned her to a series of ingenue roles over the next few years. In the late 1940s she was featured in The Late George Apley (1947), Big Jack (1949; Wallace Beery's last movie), The Heiress (1949) and other films. She was the eighth actress to play the role of Jane, appearing in Tarzan and the Slave Girl (1950) opposite Lex Barker, followed by a role in Vincente Minnelli's acclaimed The Bad and the Beautiful (1952).
Brown acted in live television dramas of the early 1950s, including Robert Montgomery Presents and The Philco Television Playhouse, and appeared on Pantomime Quiz and Leave It to the Girls. Back on Broadway, she originated the role of "The Girl" in The Seven Year Itch, the character portrayed by Marilyn Monroe in the 1955 film version. She continued to do much television through the 1950s, and was one of the narrators of the United World Federalists documentary Eight Steps to Peace (1957), along with Vincent Price and Robert Ryan.
Brown was married to Dr. Robert Alan Franklyn, a prominent plastic surgeon, from 1950 to 1957. In 1959, she married television director Mark Sandrich, Jr. – son of director Mark Sandrich – and they had two children. She later appeared on such television series as The Wonder Years and Murder, She Wrote. She also had a guest appearance on Perry Mason as Donna Kress in the 1959 episode, "The Case of Paul Drake's Dilemma."
Her final years were beset with misfortune. Her marriage to Sandrich ended in divorce, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1988, and she lost her home during an earthquake in 1989. The surgery she received for her cancer appeared to have been successful, and she believed she had been cured, however the disease returned. The last few years of her life were spent in very poor health, before her death at age 71 in the Motion Picture Country Home, Woodland Hills, California.
Brown has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for her contribution to motion pictures (at 1625 Vine Street) and for television (at 6528 Hollywood Boulevard).
- The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
- The Secret of St. Ives (1949)
- Three Husbands (1951)
- The Basketball Fix (1951)
- Rosie! (1967)
- The Witch Who Came From the Sea (1976)