Brown in 1921
Clarence Leon Brown
May 10, 1890
Clinton, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Died||August 17, 1987 (aged 97)|
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Paul Herndon Pratt
(m. 1913; div. 1920)
(m. 1922; div. 1927)
(m. 1929; div. 1931)
(m. 1933; div. 1945)
Marian Spies (m. 1946)
Clarence Leon Brown (May 10, 1890 – August 17, 1987) was an American film director.
Born in Clinton, Massachusetts, the son of Larkin Harry Brown (1866-1942) a cotton manufacturer and Katherine Ann Brown (née Gaw) (1865-1954), Brown moved to Tennessee when he was 11 years old. He attended Knoxville High School and the University of Tennessee, both in Knoxville, Tennessee, graduating from the university at the age of 19 with two degrees in engineering. 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. 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.
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.
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. 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. He is tied with Robert Altman and Alfred Hitchcock for the most Academy Award nominations for best director without a single win.
Clarence Brown was married four times. Firstly in 1913 to Paul Herndon Pratt (1894-1966) which lasted from 1913 until their divorce in 1920. The couple produced a daughter Adrienne Brown (1917-2013). Secondly, Brown married Ona Wilson (1884-1960) which lasted from 1922 until their divorce in 1927. He was engaged several times: most notably to Dorothy Sebastian and Mona Maris (although he did not marry either). In an interview with Alfonso Pinto, published in 1980, Maris admitted that she had broken off her engagement to Brown. Brown married his third wife, Alice Joyce (1890-1955), in 1933 and they divorced in 1945. Lastly, Clarence Brown married Marian Spies (1910-2004) from 1946 which lasted until his death in 1987.
Brown died at the Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California from kidney failure on August 17, 1987, at the age of 97. He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.