Born in Clinton, Massachusetts, to a cotton manufacturer, Clarence Brown moved to the South when he was eleven.
He attended the University of Tennessee, graduating 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 great French-
After serving in World War I, Brown was given his first co-
Brown moved to Universal in 1924, and then to MGM, where he stayed until the mid-
He worked across the introduction of sound and continued to use the silent film's visual techniques throughout his career; he did not work particularly well with dialogue. His works have been regarded as considerate and atmospheric, but often conventional, placid and slow. Nevertheless, he was nominated five times 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 at the 1935 Venice International Film Festival.
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-
The Clarence Brown Theater, on the campus of the University of Tennessee, is named in his honor.