Clarence Brown (Who’s Who at MGM, 1937) 🇺🇸
Two degrees in engineering and a successful automobile business lacked the power to keep Clarence Brown out of the theater as one of its major craftsmen.
He was born in Clinton, Mass., on May 10, and specialized in engineering at the University of Tennessee, where he won degrees in the electrical and mechanical divisions. He became affiliated with the engineering department of the Moline Automobile Company, at Moline, Ill., and later with the old Stevens-Duryea Company, at Chicopee Falls, Mass.
As owner of the Brown Motor Company, of Birmingham, Ala., Brown visited New York and was invited to watch a motion picture in the making at the old Fort Lee, N. J., studios. The automobile business and a career in automotive engineering drifted off on a haze over the Palisades right then and there.
Started on “Trilby’’
Brown became assistant director for Maurice Tourneur. His first job was with the filming of “Trilby,” which starred Clara Kimball Young. He remained with Tourneur six years and became a director.
Brown’s record for successes is an extraordinary one. It is said of him that he has never made a failure. Among his notable early productions are Rudolph Valentino’s “The Eagle,’’ Norma Talmadge’s “Kiki,” “The Goose Woman” and “Smouldering Fires.”
For Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer his earlier pictures include “Flesh and the Devil,” “Trail of ‘98,” “Wonder of Women,” and “A Woman of Affairs.” His box-office successes with Greta Garbo have included “Anna Christie,” “Romance” and “Inspiration.”
Directed “Free Soul”
- Norma Shearer in the Adela Rogers St. Johns play, “A Free Soul;”
- Joan Crawford in “Possessed;”
- Marie Dressler in Emma;
- Joan Crawford in Letty Lynton;
- Ramon Novarro and Helen Hayes in “The Son-Daughter;”
- an all-star cast in “Looking Forward;”
- Helen Hayes, Clark Gable, John Barrymore in “Night Flight;”
- Joan Crawford in “Sadie McKee;”
- Joan Crawford and Clark Gable in Chained;
- Greta Garbo and Fredric March in Anna Karenina;
- Wallace Beery and Lionel Barrymore in Ah, Wilderness;
- Clark Gable, Jean Harlow and Myrna Loy in Wife vs. Secretary;
- Joan Crawford, Robert Taylor, Lionel Barrymore, Franchot Tone, Melvyn Douglas, and James Stewart, in The Gorgeous Hussy, and
- Garbo and Charles Boyer in Conquest.
In this last picture Garbo plays Marie Walewska, historical love of Napoleon, who is portrayed by Boyer. Many authentic historical characters were reproduced for the story, in which hundreds of people appear. Brown’s next production was “Benefits Forgot,” starring Walter Huston.
Understands His People
Brown is credited with the singular faculty of directing pictures of remarkably artistic quality, but that never fail at the box office. He also has a warmth and an enthusiasm that win immediate response in kind from everyone on a set. He is diplomatic and convincing. Stars work for him through long, difficult scenes and accept his judgment without question if he asks for a repetition.
He seems to understand the human dynamo as well as he once knew the mechanism of high-powered motors.
That Brown, once the automobile engineer, became famous as director of highly-romantic love scenes seems a picture paradox. But this boyish-faced man possesses a knack for capturing a tender beauty that escapes many directors. His masterful handling of the love scenes of Garbo and John Gilbert in “The Flesh and the Devil” still is Hollywood legend.