Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Born Today May 10: Clarence Brown


American film director Clarence Leon Brown was born on this date in Clinton, Mass.  His father Latkin was a cotton manufacturing.  The family moved to Tennessee when he was 11, and would go on to attend the University of Tennessee after gradturating high school in Knoxville.  He impressively graduated with not one, but two degrees in engineering at the very young age of 19.  Automobiles had always been a passion for him, so he went to work for a car company, working his way to independence and founding his own company, Brown Motor Car Co., in Alabama.  In 1913 he developed a keen fascination with the motion picture business--then centrally located in Fort Lee, New Jersey.  He sold out of the car business and headed north.  He was hired by Peerless and became an assistant to Maurice Tourneur there.  The first film that he worked on was Tourneur's The Cub, on which he served as both assistant director and editor in 1915.  In the late 1910's he served in World War I, temporarily halting his film career.  His first director credit comes in 1920 in The Great Redeemer, a film he co-directed with Tourneur, who by this time had founded his own production company.  During the early 1920's he racked credits in several other categories; for example, he has a writing credit from 1922 for A Light In The Dark, a short crime drama that he also directed and starred Lon Chaney.  Alfred Hitchcock was famous for finding niches in his own movies to make a cameo appearance in...but, Brown did it before his did.  He first "camoed" himself in 1924 in The Signal Tower starring Wallace Berry as the villain.  Having made no films in 1927, he came back in 1928 to help produce The Trail Of '98, a film that he also directed; it also happens to be the first film that he worked on that contained sound (partial silent, with sound elements in the soundtrack and sound effects).  The first full sound film that he directed also came in 1928; starring Greta GarboA Woman Of Affairs was also nominated for an Oscar for best writing.  In all, Brown himself was nominated for a total of 6 Oscars; his films would gain a total of 38 such nominations, with 9 of them resulting in wins.  During his career, Brown had been a very successful real estate investor, so in the early 1950's he decided to retire.  The last film that he directed was  Plymouth Adventure in 1952, featuring a truly all star cast!  A quirk of Brown's personality had him refusing to watch any new pictures that came out for fear that he would get the urge to re-start his career.  Brown died in Santa Monica from kidney failure on the 17th of August 1987, he was 97!  He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Columbarium of Honor.

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