Johnny Mack Brown

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For other people named Mack Brown such as the head coach, see Mack Brown.
Johnny Mack Brown
John Mack Brown 1935.jpg
Brown in 1935.
Born (1904-09-01)September 1, 1904
Dothan, Alabama, U.S.
Died November 14, 1974(1974-11-14) (aged 70)
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1927–1966
Spouse(s) Cornelia "Connie" Foster (1926–November 14, 1974)
College football career
Alabama Crimson Tide
Position Halfback
Career history
College Alabama (1924–1925)
Personal information
Height 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight 160 lb (73 kg)
Career highlights and awards
  • All-Southern (1925)
  • SoCon championship (1924, 1925)
  • National championship (1925)
  • College Football Hall of Fame

Johnny "Mack" Brown (September 1, 1904 – November 14, 1974) was an American college football player and film actor[1] originally billed as John Mack Brown at the height of his screen career.

Early life[edit]

A depiction of a play made by Brown, dodging a tackler in the open field without even using a stiff arm.[2]

Born and raised in Dothan, Alabama, Brown was a star of the high school football team, earning a football scholarship to the University of Alabama. His little brother Tolbert "Red" Brown played with Mack in 1925.

University of Alabama[edit]

While at the University of Alabama, Brown became an initiated member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity.


Brown was a prominent halfback on his university's Crimson Tide football team, coached by Wallace Wade. He earned the nickname "The Dothan Antelope."


Brown helped his team to become the 1925 NCAA Division I-A national football champions. In that year's Rose Bowl Game, he earned Most Valuable Player honors after scoring two of his team's three touchdowns in an upset win over the heavily favored Washington Huskies. The 1926 Crimson Tide was thus the first southern team to ever win a Rose Bowl. The game is commonly referred to as "the game that changed the south."[3] Brown was selected All-Southern.[4]

Film career[edit]

With Lois January in 1936

His good looks and powerful physique saw him portrayed on Wheaties cereal boxes and in 1927, brought an offer for motion picture screen tests that resulted in a long and successful career in Hollywood. He played silent film star Mary Pickford's love interest in her first talkie, Coquette (1929), for which Pickford won an Oscar.

He appeared in minor roles until 1930 when he was cast as the star in a Western entitled Billy the Kid and directed by King Vidor. An early widescreen film (along with Raoul Walsh's The Big Trail with John Wayne, produced the same year), the movie also features Wallace Beery as Pat Garrett. Brown was billed over Beery, who would become MGM's highest paid actor within the next three years. Also in 1930, Brown played Joan Crawford's love interest in Montana Moon. Brown went on to make several more top-flight movies under the name John Mack Brown, including The Secret Six (1931) with Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, and Clark Gable, as well as the legendary Lost Generation celebration of alcohol, The Last Flight (1931), and was being groomed by MGM as a leading man until being abruptly replaced on Laughing Sinners in 1931, with all his scenes reshot, substituting rising star Clark Gable in his place.

Rechristened "Johnny Mack Brown" in the wake of this extremely serious career downturn, he made exclusively low budget westerns and eventually became one of the screen's top B-movie cowboy stars, making 127 western films during his career, including Ride 'Em Cowboy with Abbott and Costello. A fan of Mexican music, he showcased the talents of guitarist Francisco Mayorga and The Guadalajara Trio in films like Boss of Bullion City and The Masked Rider. Brown also starred in four serials for Universal Studios (Rustlers of Red Dog, Wild West Days, Flaming Frontiers and The Oregon Trail) and was a hero to millions of young children at movie theaters and on their television screens.

When the B-Western genre dropped sharply in box office popularity, Johnny Mack Brown went into retirement in 1953. He returned more than ten years later to appear in secondary roles in a few Western films. Altogether, Brown appeared in over 160 movies between 1927 and 1966, as well as a smattering of television shows, in a career spanning almost forty years.

Personal life[edit]

Brown was married to Cornelia "Connie" Foster from 1926 to his death in 1974, and they had four children.


In recognition of his contribution to the motion picture industry, Brown was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6101 Hollywood Blvd. In 1969, Brown was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.


Brown died in Woodland Hills, California of heart failure at the age of 70. His cremated remains are interred in an outdoor Columbarium, in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ Obituary Variety, November 20, 1974.
  2. ^ Sol Metzger (November 16, 1926). "Mack Brown Was Expert Dodger". The Pantagraph. Retrieved March 5, 2015 – via  open access publication - free to read
  3. ^ "The Football Game That Changed the South". The University of Alabama. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  4. ^ "All Southern Grid Team Compiled By The Associated Press". Kingsport Times. November 30, 1925. 

External links[edit]