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Clarence Brown Papers

Identifier: MS-2010

  • Staff Only

This collection is comprised of Clarence Brown’s personal papers (1893-1987), Marian Brown’s personal papers (1908-1993), materials about Clarence Brown’s film career (1927-1988), the couples' affiliation with the University of Tennessee (1947-1991), as well as materials from their personal life including travel (1923-1984) and relationships with family and friends (1898-1991). The collection is arranged into nine series based on topic and format:

Series I: Clarence Brown is comprised of Clarence Brown’s personal papers and photographs and is further broken down into two sub-series based on this.

Subseries A: Personal Papers largely pertains to Brown’s personal life and includes his University of Tennessee thesis (1910), service discharge papers (1918), pilot logbooks (1918-1945), and membership cards (1918-1971). This section also contains Brown’s personal correspondence (1930-1980), including letters to his mother at the end of his military tour. Also included are materials related to Brown’s other interests, particularly rare gems.

Subseries B: Photographs consists of Brown’s personal photographs from early childhood until a few years before he died in the late 1980s. Early photographs include a christening portrait, a photograph with his father, Larkin Brown, and military service photographs of Brown. Also available are several early pictures of Brown’s parents and other relatives. Brown was an avid flyer and there are several images of him in-flight and posing with his airplane. He was also a car enthusiast as evidenced by prints of Brown with his Ferrari at a car show in France (1953-1954). Lastly, there are photographs of the Browns’ ranch in California.

Series II: Film focuses on Brown’s film career. While there are a few on-set, production, and publicity photographs (1926-1985), the majority of the photographs in this series focus on film tributes including the College of the Desert’s Clarence Brown Film Festival (1972), UT’s Clarence Brown Film Festival (1973), and the Director’s Guild of America Film Tribute (1977). These materials also include event programs, press releases, and articles.

Series III: University of Tennessee documents Brown’s alumni and philanthropic relationship with the university, starting with the groundbreaking ceremony of the Clarence Brown Theatre in 1968. Also available are records and photographs about Brown’s participation in the Homecoming ’68 events, and the development and early years of the Clarence Brown Theatre Company (1973-1977). Photographs of the theatre dedication comprise a large part of this series and include images of UT administrators and former colleagues of Brown including Jane Wyman. Many of the Clarence Brown Theatre press clippings focus on Anthony Quayle’s performances and administrative involvement with the troupe. This series also includes materials related to UT commemorative events including Brown’s portrait unveiling (1980) and Marian Brown’s portrait unveiling (1990).

Series IV: Marian Spies Brown consists of Marian’s personal papers and photographs. Materials relate to Marian’s life both before and after she married Clarence Brown in 1946. This series is further divided into two sub-series.

Subseries A: Personal Papers contains material about Marian’s early life, including high school and college memorabilia such as yearbooks and dance cards. Also available are a few early 1930s professional letters between Clarence and Marian. These records also contain Marian’s M.G.M. identification card.

Subseries B: Photographs document Marian’s life before and after her marriage to Clarence Brown in 1946. While there are only a few childhood photos, there are several images from Marian’s early adulthood, many showing her out on the town or at the beach. Photographs from her middle and later years often depict her with Clarence or family and friends. This subseries also contains some personal scrapbooks including ones for her 50th birthday party in 1955.

Series V: Travel, Art, Theatre, and Film documents Brown’s recreational activities including travel and art. The travel materials are mostly comprised of photographs from around the 1930s and many prints depict Brown’s third wife, Alice Joyce Brown. A number of the images show European historic buildings and architecture, portraits of the local population, and pictures of family and friends, posed and candid. Also included are photographs of the Middle East and Hawaii as well as scenic views from passenger liners. Travel brochures (1930s-1960s) advertise European spas, resorts, recreational activities, and tourist sites. There are also several cruise ship passenger lists which include notable travelers and maps of the luxury accommodations.

The artwork section of this series has brochures and press clippings of artist exhibits, primarily from the 1960s, and dealer correspondence. Several of the brochures are autographed by the artist. This series also contains theatre programs and playbills collected from American and European theatres.

The largest part of Series V is made up of theatre magazines (1933-1954) and film magazines (1924-1940). The film magazines date from Brown’s time as an active film director and several articles have been earmarked, some of which profile stars from his films including Clark Gable and Greta Garbo.

Series VI: Friends, Relatives, and Colleagues contains material about the Browns’ friends, relatives, and colleagues. Available are such materials as Andrew Spies’ Ohio National Guard discharge papers (1898), Alice Regan’s passport (1933), and a sheet of Peggy Regan’s homework (daughter to Alice). The majority of this series, however, is secondary material and includes press clippings, film tributes, and memorials. There is also a folder of UT correspondence about Clarence and Marian (1936-1991).

Series VII: Audiovisual Materials includes both original format and digitized audiovisual materials. All audio materials are non-commercial LP pressings made from different materials, including acetate. There are several radio recordings of Alice Joyce Brown including a 1945 narration of The Christmas Story. There are also orchestral and soundtrack recordings such as the overture for The Human Comedy recorded in 1943. This series also contains two Thomas Edison recordings and three Nan BlaKstone (1905-1951) recordings personally autographed to Clarence Brown. Lastly, this series includes two UT tribute films on videocassette: His Proudest Moment: A Tribute to Clarence Brown (1987) and The Director’s Chair (1993). All other audiovisual materials are on reel-to-reel film. The audio materials and reel-to-reel films have been digitized and these versions are available on CDs in the collection.

Series VIII: Memorabilia, Realia, and Large Photographs and Prints contains items such as awards, commemorative gifts, and ephemera. It includes a film award from Redbook Magazine (1946), a plaque honoring the Browns’ contribution to the Motion Picture and Television Hospital (1993), and Clarence Brown's oratorical medals (c. 1906). There are also more personal items such as a Swiss alpine hat decorated with pins and two ceramic ashtrays, a gift from Mrs. L. B. Mayer (1955). This series also contains large format prints and photographs including professional portraits of Brown during his filmmaking years, young adult pictures of Marian, and scrapbooks showing the Browns’ California home.

Series IX: Oversize contains oversized materials including photographs and prints of Brown, both as a child and adult, a young adult photo of Marian (c. 1920s), and movie posters including Of Human Hearts (c. 1938) and Edison, the Man (c. 1940).


  • circa 1892-1993 May 10

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Collections are stored offsite and must be requested in advance. See for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.

Conditions Governing Use

The UT Libraries claims only physical ownership of most material in the collections. Persons wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants on for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.


20 Linear Feet


This collection is comprised of Clarence Brown’s personal papers (1893-1987), Marian Brown’s personal papers (1908-1993), materials about Clarence Brown’s film career (1927-1988), the couples' affiliation with the University of Tennessee (1947-1991), as well as materials from their personal life including travel (1923-1984) and relationships with family and friends (1898-1991). Also available are a small section of AV materials (1908-1993) and information about the Browns’ philanthropic donations including their endowment to UT in 1993.

Biographical/Historical Note

Clarence Leon Brown was born to Larkin Harry and Katherine Ann (Gaw) Brown in Clinton, Massachusetts on May 10, 1890. The family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee in 1902, where Larkin Brown worked as a superintendent at Brookside Mills, a textile manufacturing company. Clarence Brown graduated from Knoxville High School in 1905 and went on to earn his B.A. in mechanical and electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1910. For the next five years, he worked for automobile manufacturer Stevens-Duryea and later established his own dealership, the Brown Motor Car Company, in Alabama. He soon grew restless and, fascinated with movies, moved to New Jersey to study under French director Maurice Tourneur at Peerless Studios. Here, the pair directed such films as Deep Waters (1919) and The Last of the Mohicans (1920).

Though Brown directed several pictures for Universal Studios, his longest association was with MGM beginning with Flesh and the Devil, a 1926 collaboration with Greta Garbo. Garbo later named Clarence Brown as one of her favorite directors.

During the course of his career, Brown directed or produced more than fifty full-length motion pictures and worked with many of the film industry's most illustrious stars including Joan Crawford and Clark Gable in Chained (1934), Spencer Tracy in Edison the Man (1940), Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet, Gregory Peck in The Yearling (1947). Brown received a total of six Academy Award nominations for Best Director and eight of his films won Oscars in various categories. Brown retired from film in 1952.

Clarence Brown had many outside interests including cars, airplanes, travel, and theatre. He also remained involved with the University of Tennessee, contributing development funds towards the construction of the Clarence Brown Theater and leaving the University an additional $12 million after his death on August 17, 1987. When combined, these sums made him the largest donor in the University's history.

Clarence Brown was married four times: first to Paul Herndon Pratt (sometimes given as Pauline or Paula; 1894-) on May 14, 1913, second to Ona Wilson (1884-1960), third to Alice Joyce (1890-1955) on March 31, 1933, and finally to Marian Ruth Spies (1905-1993) in 1946. He had one child, Adrienne (Brown) Adams Carillo, with his first wife.

Marian Spies Brown, Clarence Brown’s fourth and final wife, was born on January 22, 1905, in Norwalk, Ohio. Marian was in the 1922 class at Norwalk High School and later attended Intermont College in Bristol, Virginia. She went on to work at MGM studios, first as a freelance journalist for Ed Sullivan and later as secretary for Clarence Brown. Marian and Clarence were married in 1946. She shared many interests with her husband including travel and outdoor sports. Marian also participated in a number of philanthropic and alumni activities at the University of Tennessee.


This collection is comprised of 33 boxes and is broken up into the following nine series:

  1. Series I: Clarence Brown, circa 1893-August 29, 1987
    • Personal Papers, circa 1905-August 29, 1987
    • Photographs, circa 1893-1986 March
  2. Series II: Film, 1927 February 5-1988 October 12
  3. Series III: University of Tennessee, 1947-1991 January 7
  4. Series IV: Marian Spies Brown, circa 1908-1993 May 10
    • Personal Papers, 1919-1993 May 10
    • Photographs, circa 1908-circa 1991 July 24
  5. Series V: Travel, Art, Theatre, and Film, 1923 January-1984 May 6
  6. Series VI: Friends, Relatives, and Colleagues, 1898 May 12-1991 February 5
  7. Series VII: Audiovisual Materials, 1908 October 3-1993
  8. Series VIII: Memorabilia, Realia, and Large Photographs and Prints, circa 1906-1993 February 21
  9. Series IX: Oversize, circa 1892-1980

Previous Citation

Materials in this collection were previously cited as MS.1625, MS.1905, MS.2118, MS.2121, MS.2375, MS.2476, and MS.3131. All material from previous collections are contained within this collection.

Acquisition Note

The majority of the material in this collection is from Clarence Brown’s California home, donated by Clarence and Marian Brown. Other materials have been contributed by personal friends.

Separated Materials

A framed pencil drawing of Clarence Brown has been removed from the collection. The drawing depicts Clarence Brown behind a movie camera and is signed by the artist whose personalized signature reads: "BerHLevy" with the "H" and the "L" sharing lines.

The Clarence Brown Theatre has several of the original movie posters.

Processing Information

This collection is a combination of the following manuscript collections: MS.1625 (Brown, Clarence L. Condolences, 1987); MS.1905 (LeGallienne, Eva. Letter to Mrs. Clarence Brown, 1974); MS.3331 (Clarence Brown Photographs, undated); MS.2375 (Clarence Brown Collection, 1927-1988); MS.2476 (Clarence Brown Collection, 1907-1993); MS.2118 (Clarence and Marian Spies Brown Collection, 1923-1980); MS.2010 (Clarence Brown Papers, 1890-1987); MS.2121 (Hollywood Magazines Collection, 1923-1940). Please make note for any previous citations.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA