Clarence Leon Brown (May 10, 1890 – August 17, 1987) was an American film director.
Born in Clinton, Massachusetts, to a cotton manufacturer, Brown moved to the South when he was 11. 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.
Clarence Brown and Greta Garbo on the set of ANNA CHRISTIE (1930)
Clarence Brown directs THE GOOSE WOMAN (1925)
Clarence Brown directs THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1926)
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 not only made the difficult transition from silent cinema to sound cinema, but thrived there, proving himself to be an "actor's director": listening to his actors, respecting their instincts, and often incorporating their suggestions into scenes. In doing so, Brown created believable, under-played, naturalistic dialogue scenes stripped of melodrama, pulsing with the honest rhythms of real-life conversation. He was nominated five times (see below) for the Academy Award as a director, and once as a producer, but never received an Oscar. However, he did win 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 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. In the 1970s, Brown became a much-sought guest lecturer on the film-festival circuit, thanks in part to his connection with Garbo.
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.
Brown died from kidney failure on August 17, 1987, at the age of 97. His ashes are located in an unmarked statue niche at Forest Lawn Glendale Cemetery in the Columbarium of Honor.
The Law of the Land (1917)
The Blue Bird (1918)
The Great Redeemer (1920)
The Last of the Mohicans (1920)
The Foolish Matrons (1921)
The Light in the Dark (1922)
Don't Marry for Money (1923)
The Acquittal (1923)
The Signal Tower (1924)
The Eagle (1925)
The Goose Woman (1925)
Smouldering Fires (1925)
Flesh and the Devil (1926)
A Woman of Affairs (1928)
The Trail of '98 (1929)
Navy Blues (1929)
Wonder of Women (1929)
Anna Christie (1930) - Academy Award nomination for Best Director (see NOTE below)
Romance (1930) - Academy Award nomination for Best Director (see NOTE below)
A Free Soul (1931) - Academy Award nomination for Best Director
Letty Lynton (1932)
The Son-Daughter (1932)
Looking Forward (1933)
Night Flight (1933)
Sadie McKee (1934)
Ah, Wilderness! (1935)
Anna Karenina (1935)
Wife vs. Secretary (1935)
The Gorgeous Hussy (1936)
Of Human Hearts (1938)
Idiot's Delight (1939)
The Rains Came (1939)
Edison, the Man (1940)
Come Live with Me (1941)
They Met in Bombay (1941)
The Human Comedy (1943) - Academy Award nominations for Best Director and for Best Picture
The White Cliffs of Dover (1944)
National Velvet (1944) - Academy Award nomination for Best Director
The Yearling (1946) - Academy Award nomination for Best Director
Song of Love (1947)
Intruder in the Dust (1949)
To Please a Lady (1950)
Angels in the Outfield (1951)
When in Rome (1952)
Plymouth Adventure (1952)
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
Brownlow, Kevin. "Clarence Brown" in The Parade's Gone By New York: Knopf, 1968
"The Hollywood Professionals, Vol. 6: Frank Capra, George Cukor, Clarence Brown" by Allen Estrin, AS Barnes, 1980
An Extraordinary Town, How one of America's smallest towns shaped the world - A Historical Marketing Book by A. J. Bastarache. Featuring a comprehensive section on Clarence Brown.
Young, Gwenda. 'Clarence Brown: From Knoxville to Hollywood and Back'. Journal of East Tennessee History', 2002. 73 :53-73
Young, Gwenda. "Star Maker:The Career of Clarence Brown". Sight and Sound April, 2003. http://www.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound/feature/94
Neely, Jack. "Clarence Brown: The Forgotten Director". 'Metropulse March 2008. 'http://www.metropulse.com/news/2008/mar/06/clarence-brown-forgotten-director/
Clarence Brown at the Internet Movie Database
"An Extraordinary Town, How one of America's smallest towns shaped the world" A book on Clarence Brown's home town with an extensive section on the life and contributions of Clarence Brown.
Academy Awards Database Information available on the actual dates and nominations, plus commentary on the nominations for multiple roles/films in 1929/1930.
Clarence Brown at Virtual History