Clarence Brown


Director
Clarence Brown

About

Also Known As
Clarence L. Brown
Birth Place
Clinton, Massachusetts, USA
Born
May 10, 1890
Died
August 17, 1987
Cause of Death
Kidney Failure

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 inst...

Photos & Videos

Flesh and the Devil - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Wife Vs. Secretary - Behind-the-Scenes Photos

Notes

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."

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.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

It's a Big Country: An American Anthology (1952)
Seq [six] Director
Plymouth Adventure (1952)
Director
When in Rome (1952)
Director
Angels in the Outfield (1951)
Director
Intruder in the Dust (1950)
Director
To Please a Lady (1950)
Director
Song of Love (1947)
Director
The Yearling (1947)
Director
National Velvet (1945)
Director
The White Cliffs of Dover (1944)
Director
The Human Comedy (1943)
Director
They Met in Bombay (1941)
Director
Come Live with Me (1941)
Director
Edison, the Man (1940)
Director
The Rains Came (1939)
Director
Idiot's Delight (1939)
Director
Of Human Hearts (1938)
Director
Conquest (1937)
Director
Love on the Run (1936)
Fill-In Director
Wife Vs. Secretary (1936)
Director
The Gorgeous Hussy (1936)
Director
Ah, Wilderness (1935)
Director
Anna Karénina (1935)
Director
Sadie McKee (1934)
Director
Chained (1934)
Director
Night Flight (1933)
Director
Looking Forward (1933)
Director
The Son-Daughter (1932)
Director
Letty Lynton (1932)
Director
Emma (1932)
Director
A Free Soul (1931)
Director
Inspiration (1931)
Director
Possessed (1931)
Director
Anna Christie (1930)
Director
Romance (1930)
Director
Wonder of Women (1929)
Director
Navy Blues (1929)
Director
The Trail of '98 (1929)
Director
A Woman of Affairs (1928)
Director
Flesh and the Devil (1926)
Director
Kiki (1926)
Director
The Goose Woman (1925)
Director
The Eagle (1925)
Director
Smouldering Fires (1925)
Director
Butterfly (1924)
Director
The Signal Tower (1924)
Director
The Acquittal (1923)
Director
Don't Marry for Money (1923)
Director
The Light in the Dark (1922)
Director
The Foolish Matrons (1921)
Director
The Great Redeemer (1920)
Director
The Last of the Mohicans (1920)
Director
A Girl's Folly (1917)
Assistant Director
The Closed Road (1916)
Assistant Director
The Rail Rider (1916)
Assistant Director
The Hand of Peril (1916)
Assistant Director
The Velvet Paw (1916)
Assistant Director
The Pawn of Fate (1916)
Assistant Director
A Butterfly on the Wheel (1915)
Assistant Director
The Cub (1915)
Assistant Director
The Ivory Snuff Box (1915)
Assistant Director
Trilby (1915)
Assistant Director

Cast (Feature Film)

MGM: When the Lion Roars (1992)
Fifteen Wives (1934)
The Signal Tower (1924)
Switch man

Writer (Feature Film)

The Light in the Dark (1922)
Scen

Producer (Feature Film)

Never Let Me Go (1953)
Producer
When in Rome (1952)
Producer
Angels in the Outfield (1951)
Producer
To Please a Lady (1950)
Producer
Intruder in the Dust (1950)
Producer
The Secret Garden (1949)
Producer
Song of Love (1947)
Producer
The Human Comedy (1943)
Producer
Come Live with Me (1941)
Producer
Inspiration (1931)
Producer

Editing (Feature Film)

A Girl's Folly (1917)
Editing
The Pawn of Fate (1916)
Editing
The Rail Rider (1916)
Editing
The Closed Road (1916)
Editing
The Velvet Paw (1916)
Editing
The Hand of Peril (1916)
Editing
The Ivory Snuff Box (1915)
Editing
The Cub (1915)
Editing
A Butterfly on the Wheel (1915)
Editing
Trilby (1915)
Editing

Film Production - Main (Feature Film)

The Lusting Hours (1967)
Interviews by

Production Companies (Feature Film)

To Please a Lady (1950)
Company
Intruder in the Dust (1950)
Company
The Yearling (1947)
Company
National Velvet (1945)
Company
The White Cliffs of Dover (1944)
Company
Edison, the Man (1940)
Company
Idiot's Delight (1939)
Company
Of Human Hearts (1938)
Company
The Gorgeous Hussy (1936)
Company
Wife Vs. Secretary (1936)
Company
Anna Karénina (1935)
Company
Sadie McKee (1934)
Company
Chained (1934)
Company
Looking Forward (1933)
Company
The Son-Daughter (1932)
Company
Letty Lynton (1932)
Company
Emma (1932)
Company
Possessed (1931)
Company
Inspiration (1931)
Company
A Free Soul (1931)
Company

Life Events

1909

Worked in engineering department at Moline Company, an automobile manufacturer

1914

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

1917

Served as a flying instructor during WWI

1920

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

1920

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

1922

Scripted and directed "The Light in the Dark"

1925

Helmed "The Eagle", starring Rudolph Valentino

1926

Signed to a contract by MGM

1927

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

1928

Received producing credit on "The Trail of '98"

1929

First sound film, "Navy Blues"

1930

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

1931

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

1935

Reunited with Garbo on "Anna Karenina"

1937

Last film with Garbo, "Conquest"

1939

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

1939

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

1943

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

1945

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

1946

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

1950

Tackled racial tolerance in "Intruder in the Dust"

1951

Produced and directed "Angels in the Outfield"

1952

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

1953

Final film as producer, "Never Let Me Go"

Photo Collections

Flesh and the Devil - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's Flesh and the Devil (1926), starring Greta Garbo and John Gilbert and directed by Clarence Brown.
Wife Vs. Secretary - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's Wife Vs. Secretary (1936), starring Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, and Myrna Loy.

Videos

Movie Clip

Intruder In The Dust (1950) - Ain't Seen One Darkie Joining producer/director Clarence Brown's opening after the credits, shooting in Oxford, Mississippi, the hometown of the original author William Faulkner, introducing Claude Jarman Jr. as "Chick" and Juano Hernandez as "Lucas," in Intruder In The Dust, 1950.
Plymouth Adventure (1952) - 132 Rutting Beasts Busted by first mate Coppin (Lloyd Bridges) for wasting water, youthful Pilgrim wife Dorothy Bradford (Gene Tierney), who’s already been nearly assaulted by captain Jones (Spencer Tracy), earns a real rude talking-to, in MGM’s Plymouth Adventure, 1952.
Plymouth Adventure (1952) - We Be Loaded Deep Exhaustive exposition from producer Dore Schary, focused on introducing Leo Genn and Gene Tierney as the Bradfords, Kathleen Lockhart as Mrs. Brewster, John Dehner as Winslow, Van Johnson as Alden, finally Spencer Tracy as Jones, Lloyd Bridges as Coppin, in MGM's Plymouth Adventure, 1952.
Plymouth Adventure (1952) - Or Die In Our Souls... The second ship now out of the picture, Captain Jones (Spencer Tracy) receives the determined Pilgrim spokesman (Leo Genn as Bradford, with Lowell Gilmore and Paul Cavanaugh) and offers new rules, especially regarding their previously incognito fugitive leader Brewster (Barry Jones), in MGM’s Plymouth Adventure, 1952.
Plymouth Adventure (1952) - Hymns And Prayers Should have seen this coming, Captain Jones (Spencer Tracy) has been warning of the ways of sailors, comes home to the Mayflower drunk one evening, finding Dorothy Bradford (Gene Tierney), rescued by her husband (Leo Genn), still in port in England, in Plymouth Adventure, 1952.
Rains Came, The (1939) - Cast Iron Petticoat From the opening scene, Brit artist Ransome (George Brent) and local doctor Major Safti (Tyrone Power) discuss the former's inertia and the state of contemporary India, a missionary mother and daughter (Marjorie Rambeau, Brenda Joyce) visiting, in The Rains Came, 1939, co-starring Myrna Loy.
Rains Came, The (1939) - Have You Become Fond Of Money? Ransome (George Brent), an idle British painter long resident in a fictional Indian state, chats with Lady Edwina (Myrna Loy), after having discovered to their mutual surprise that she, the wife of a visiting lord, is also his old flame, in The Rains Came, 1939, also starring Tyrone Power.
Rains Came, The (1939) - Sentimental Nonsense Idealistic Indian military doctor Major Safti (Tyrone Power) is giving Lady Edwina (Myrna Loy), the bored wife of a visiting British nobleman, a tour of local attractions, in The Rains Came, 1939, from the novel by the acclaimed American author Louis Bromfield.
Of Human Hearts (1938) - My Idea Of Courtesy Jason (James Stewart), dragged along on a rural pastoral visit, is lectured by his preacher father Ethan (Walter Huston), who's just eaten a frog in his soup to avoid embarrassing Sister Clark (Leona Roberts), in Of Human Hearts, 1938.
Of Human Hearts (1938) - I'm Going To Bleed You Ames (Guy Kibbee) is persuaded by Dr. Shingle (Charles Coburn) and congregation to give a raise to Rev. Wilkins (Walter Huston), whose son Jason (James Stewart) pursues sweetheart Annie (Ann Rutherford) afterward, in Of Human Hearts, 1938.
Romance (1930) - Harder To Be Good Young Manhattan pastor Tom (Gavin Gordon) deals first with a gossipy guest (William Stack), then with his parishoner and host Van Tuyl (Lewis Stone), before briefly meeting the star Greta Garbo, early in her second talkie, Romance, 1930.
Romance (1930) - Perhaps The Boat Will Sink New Yorker Miss Armstrong (Clara Blandick) with Van Tuyl (Lewis Stone), prepared to be offended by opera singer Rita Cavallini (Greta Garbo), and both aiming to discourage her friendship with her pastor brother Tom (Gavin Gordon), in MGM's Romance, 1930.

Trailer

Yearling, The - (Re-issue Trailer) A Florida boy's pet deer threatens the family farm in The Yearling (1948), starring Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman.
Come Live With Me -- (Original Trailer) A Viennese refugee (Hedy Lamarr) weds a struggling author (James Stewart) platonically so she can stay in the U.S. Directed by Clarence Brown
Anna Karenina (1935) - (Original Trailer) Greta Garbo stars in Anna Karenina (1935), a film adaptation of Tolstoy's classic tale of a woman who deserts her family for an illicit love.
Looking Forward - (Original Trailer) MGM faces the Great Depression in Looking Forward (1933) with Lionel Barrymore as a 40-year employee laid off from his job.
Song of Love - (Original Trailer) Katharine Hepburn, Paul Henreid and Robert Walker star in Song of Love (1947), the true story of Clara Schumann's battle to restore her husband's health and resist the romantic overtures of Johannes Brahms.
Idiot's Delight - (Original Trailer) Clark Gable and Norma Shearer star in Robert E. Sherwood's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Idiot's Delight (1939).
Ah, Wilderness! - (Original Trailer) A small-town boy (Eric Linden) at the turn of the century, longs for a taste of the wild life in Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness! (1935).
Conquest - (Original Trailer) Charles Boyer is Napoleon, Greta Garbo the Polish countess sent to seduce him to gain her country's independence.
Human Comedy, The - (Original Trailer) A smalltown telegraph boy deals with the strains of growing up during World War II in The Human Comedy (1943), directed by Clarence Brown and starring Mickey Rooney and Frank Morgan.
Plymouth Adventure - (Original Trailer) Spencer Tracy and Gene Tierney star in Plymouth Adventure (1952), an epic dramatization of the Pilgrams' journey to the new world on the Mayflower.
National Velvet - (Original Trailer) A British farm girl fights to train a difficult horse for the Grand National Steeplechase in National Velvet (1944), starring Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney.
Angels in the Outfield (1951) - (Original Trailer) The short-tempered manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates mends his ways in return for a little divine assistance in Angels in the Outfield (1951).

Family

Larkin H Brown
Father
Loom repairer.

Bibliography

Notes

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."