MAE WEST fans became acquainted with a handsome six-foot-one actor when he played the role of Brooks Claybourne in "Belle of the Nineties" . Born in the month of September — — on 1 September 1904 — — in Dixie, Johnny Mack Brown launched his first career as a gridiron star.
• • An All-American halfback while attending the University of Alabama, well-built Johnny Mack Brown would choose the silver screen over the green grass of the football field when he graduated. Signed to a contract with MGM in 1926, Brown debuted in Slide, Kelly, Slide (1927) with William Haines in a film about the great sport of . . . baseball. This was followed by The Bugle Call (1927), which starred the fading star Jackie Coogan.
• • In 1928 he would appear in the last Norma Shearer silent film, A Lady of Chance (1928). After that, he would work with Mae West, Greta Garbo, Marion Davies, and Mary Pickford.
• • His muscular good looks would only carry Brown so far in films, however, and by 1930 he had yet to find his place. At MGM Clark Gable was taking the roles that Brown was up for, so he went into a western for director King Vidor, Billy the Kid (1930). While Vidor did not want him for the part to begin with, the picture was successful; however, Brown's career at MGM would soon end. By 1933 he would still be making westerns, but they would be for low-rung studios like Mascot.
• • More westerns at even lower-rung Supreme Pictures followed, as well as serials like Wild West Days (1937) at Universal.
• • Johnny Mack Brown died at age 70 [on 14 November 1974] of cardiac arrest in California.
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1934 • •
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