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Clarence Brown Papers

Identifier: MS-2010

  • Staff Only

Series I: Clarence Brown, circa 1893-August 29, 1987 – Series I is comprised of Clarence Brown’s personal papers and photographs.

Subseries A: Personal Papers, circa 1905-August 29, 1987 - The majority of the material pertains to Brown’s personal life and includes his University of Tennessee thesis (1910), service discharge papers (1918), pilot log books (1918-1945), and membership cards (1918-1971). This section also contains Brown’s personal correspondence (1930-1980) and includes letters to his mother at the end of his military tour. Also included are materials related to Clarence Brown’s other interests, particularly rare gems. Reference materials include press clippings as well as appraisal and reference materials about the Nassak Diamond (1948-1966).

Subseries B: Photographs, circa 1893-1986 March - This subseries consists of personal photographs of Clarence Brown from early childhood until a few years before his death in the late 1980s. Early photographs include a christening portrait and a photograph with his father, Larkin Brown. In addition to childhood photographs, there are military service photographs of Brown. Also available are several early pictures of Brown’s parents as well as photographs of other relatives. Brown was an avid flyer and there are a number of pictures 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). In addition, there are photographs of the Brown's ranch in California.

Series II: Film, 1927 February 5-1988 October 12 – This series focuses on Clarence Brown’s film career. While there are a few on-set, production, and publicity photographs (1926-1985), the majority of the photographs focus on film tributes including the College of the Desert’s Clarence Brown Film Festival (1972), the University of Tennessee’s Clarence Brown Film Festival (1973), and the Director’s Guild of America Film Tribute (1977). These materials include event programs, press releases, and photographs.

Series III: University of Tennessee, 1947-1991 January 7 – Series III documents Clarence Brown’s alumni and philanthropic relationship with the University of Tennessee, 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 University of Tennessee administrators and former colleagues of Clarence 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 University of Tennessee commemorative events including Clarence Brown’s portrait unveiling (1980) and Marian Brown’s portrait unveiling (1990).

Series IV: Marian Spies Brown, circa 1908-1993 May 10 – Series IV consists of Marian Brown’s personal papers and photographs. Materials relate to Marian’s life both before and after she married Clarence Brown in 1946.

Subseries A: Personal Papers, 1919-1993 May 10 - The majority of Marian Brown’s personal papers pertains to her earlier life and includes high school and college memorabilia including yearbooks and dance cards. Also available are a few early 1930s professional letters between Clarence and Marian Brown. These records also contain Marian’s M.G.M. identification card.

Subseries B: Photographs, circa 1908-circa 1991 July 24 - The photographs in Subseries B document Marian’s life before and after her marriage to Clarence Brown in 1946. While there are only a few childhood photos, there are a number of photos 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 Brown or with family and friends. This subseries also contains a number of personal scrapbooks including several for her 50th birthday party in 1955. There are also a number of photographs of Marian’s mother, grandmother, and other family and friends.

Series V: Travel, Art, Theatre, and Film, 1923 January-1984 May 6 – This series primarily relates to Clarence Brown and documents recreational activities including travel and art. The travel materials are mostly comprised of photographs circa the 1930s and many prints depict Clarence Brown’s third wife, Alice Joyce Brown. A number of the pictures show European historic buildings and architecture, portraits of the local population, and pictures of family and friends – both posed and candid. Also included are photographs of the Middle East and Hawaii as well as scenic views from passenger liners. The travel brochures (1930s-1960s) advertise Western and Eastern 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 the series has brochures and press clippings of artist exhibits, primarily from the 1960s, and dealer letters and correspondence. Several of the brochures are autographed by the artist. Also included are original artwork and reproduction prints.

Series V also has a number of theatre programs and playbills collected from both American and European theatres. The European playbills are primarily from the United Kingdom and Germany.

The largest part of Series V is made up of theatre magazines (1933-1954) and film magazines (1924-1940). The film magazines are from the years when Clarence Brown was active as a 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, 1898 May 12-1991 February 5 – Series VI 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. Peggy was the daughter of Alice Regan by another marriage. The majority of this series, however, is secondary material and includes press clippings, film tributes, and memorials. There is also a folder of University of Tennessee correspondence about Clarence and Marian Brown (1936-1991).

Series VII: Audiovisual Materials, 1908 October 3-1993 – This series 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 several 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. Nan BlaKstone was a New York nightclub singer noted for her double-entendre songs.

Series VII includes two University of Tennessee 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, circa 1906-1993 February 21 – The majority of the memorabilia and realia in this section are awards and commemorative gifts such as a film award from Redbook Magazine (1946), a plaque honoring the Browns’ contribution to the Motion Picture and Television Hospital (1993), and Clarence Browns 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). Series VIII also contains oversized prints and photographs including professional portraits of Clarence Brown during his filmmaking years, young adult pictures of Marian Spies Brown, and scrapbooks showing their California home.

Series IX: Oversize, circa 1892-1980 – This series contains oversized materials comprised of photographs and prints of Clarence Brown, both as a child and adult, a young adult photo of Marian Spies Brown (c. 1920s), and vintage movie posters including Of Human Hearts (c. 1938) and Edison, the Man (c. 1940).


  • circa 1892-1993 May 10

General Physical Description

(38 Boxes)

Conditions Governing Access

Manuscript collections are stored offsite, and a minimum of 24 hours is needed to retrieve these items for research use. Readers interested in consulting any of the collections are advised to contact Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in this collection remain with the creator. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library.


20 Linear Feet


MS.2010 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 Browns’ 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 a $12 million endowment to the University of Tennessee in 1993. The majority of the material in this collection is from Clarence Brown’s California home. Other materials have been contributed by personal friends.

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:

Missing Title

  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 pervious 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.

Seperated Materials

A framed pencil drawing of Clarence Brown has been removed from the collection and is hanging in the Special Collections reading room. The drawing depicts Clarence Brown behind a movie cameria 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.

General Physical Description

(38 Boxes)

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