Clarence Brown

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Clarence Brown
Clarence Brown 1921.jpg
Brown in 1921
Born Clarence Leon Brown
(1890-05-10)May 10, 1890
Clinton, Massachusetts
Died August 17, 1987(1987-08-17) (aged 97)
Santa Monica, California
Cause of death Kidney failure
Years active 1915–1953
Spouse(s) Paul Herndon Pratt (1913-1920; divorce) (1 daughter)
Ona Wilson (1922–1927; divorce)
Mona Maris (1929-1931; divorce)
Alice Joyce (1933–1945; divorce)
Marian Spies (1946–1987; his death)

Clarence Leon Brown (May 10, 1890 – August 17, 1987) was an American film director.

Early life[edit]

Born in Clinton, Massachusetts, the son of Larkin Harry Brown (1866-1942) a cotton manufacturer and Katherine Ann Brown (nee Gaw) (1865-1954), Brown moved to Tennessee when he was 11 years old. He attended Knoxville High School[1] and the University of Tennessee, both in Knoxville, Tennessee, graduating from the university at the age of 19 with two degrees in engineering.[2] An early fascination in automobiles led Brown to a job with the Stevens-Duryea Company, then to his own Brown Motor Car Company in Alabama.[3] He later abandoned the car dealership after developing an interest in motion pictures around 1913. He was hired by the Peerless Studio at Fort Lee, New Jersey, and became an assistant to the French-born director Maurice Tourneur.[4]


After serving in World War I, Brown was given his first co-directing credit (with Tourneur) for The Great Redeemer (1920). Later that year, he directed a major portion of The Last of the Mohicans after Tourneur was injured in a fall.

Brown moved to Universal in 1924, and then to MGM, where he stayed until the mid-1950s. At MGM he was one of the main directors of their female stars; he directed Joan Crawford six times and Greta Garbo seven.

He was nominated five times (see below) for the Academy Award as a director and once as a producer, but he never received an Oscar. However, he won Best Foreign Film for Anna Karenina, starring Garbo at the 1935 Venice International Film Festival.[5]

Brown's films gained a total of 38 Academy Award nominations and earned nine Oscars. Brown himself received six Academy Award nominations and in 1949, he won the British Academy Award for the film version of William Faulkner's Intruder in the Dust.

In 1957, Brown was awarded The George Eastman Award, given by George Eastman House for distinguished contribution to the art of film.[6] Brown retired a wealthy man due to his real estate investments, but refused to watch new movies, as he feared they might cause him to restart his career.

The Clarence Brown Theater, on the campus of the University of Tennessee, is named in his honor.[7] He is tied with Robert Altman and Alfred Hitchcock for the most Academy Award nominations for best director without a single win.[8]


Brown died from kidney failure on August 17, 1987, at the age of 97.[9] He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.[10]

On February 8, 1960, Brown received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1752 Vine Street, for his contributions to the motion pictures industry[11][12]

Selected filmography[edit]

NOTE: In 1929/1930, Brown received one Academy Award nomination for two films. According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, "As allowed by the award rules for this year, a single nomination could honor work in one or more films."


  1. ^ John Shearer, Famous alumni from Knoxville High School, Knoxville News Sentinel, May 28, 2010
  2. ^ "Clarence Brown Collection - Special Collections - Libraries - The University of Tennessee, Knoxville". Retrieved 2016-02-15. 
  3. ^ "Clarence Brown Collection - Special Collections - Libraries - The University of Tennessee, Knoxville". Retrieved 2016-02-16. 
  4. ^ "Clarence Brown - About This Person - Movies & TV -". Retrieved 2016-02-15. 
  5. ^ "Clarence Brown". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-02-16. 
  6. ^ Tarbell, Molly. "George Eastman Award". George Eastman Museum. Retrieved 2016-02-16. 
  7. ^ "History | Clarence Brown Theatre". Retrieved 2016-02-16. 
  8. ^ "Clarence Brown". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-02-16. 
  9. ^ JR, TED THACKREY (1987-08-19). "Clarence Brown, Director of Garbo, Gable, Dies at 97". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2016-02-15. 
  10. ^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2. McFarland & Company (2016) ISBN 0786479922
  11. ^ "Clarence Brown | Hollywood Walk of Fame". Retrieved 2016-06-21. 
  12. ^ "Clarence Brown". Retrieved 2016-02-16. 


  • Brownlow, Kevin. "Clarence Brown" in The Parade's Gone By New York: Knopf (1968)
  • Estrin, Allen. "The Hollywood Professionals, Vol. 6: Frank Capra, George Cukor, Clarence Brown" , AS Barnes (1980)
  • Bastarache, A.J. An Extraordinary Town, How one of America's smallest towns shaped the world - A Historical Marketing Book by A. J. Bastarache.
  • Young, Gwenda. 'Clarence Brown: From Knoxville to Hollywood and Back'. Journal of East Tennessee History', pp. 53-73 (2002)
  • Young, Gwenda (April 2003). "Star Maker: The Career of Clarence Brown". Sight and Sound. British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 2007-05-14. 
  • Neely, Jack. "Clarence Brown: The Forgotten Director", Metro Pulse (March 2008)

External links[edit]