Johnny Mack Brown

Johnny "Mack" Brown (September 1, 1904 – November 14, 1974) was an American college football player and film actor originally billed as John Mack Brown at the height of his screen career.[1] He was mostly in Western films.

Johnny Mack Brown
Brown in 1935
Born(1904-09-01)September 1, 1904
DiedNovember 14, 1974(1974-11-14) (aged 70)
Years active1927–1966
Spouse(s)Cornelia "Connie" Foster (m.1926)
College football career
Alabama Crimson Tide No. 17
Career history
CollegeAlabama (19241925)
Bowl games
High schoolDothan
Personal information
Height5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight160 lb (73 kg)
Career highlights and awards
College Football Hall of Fame (1957)

Early life

Born and raised in Dothan, Alabama, Brown was the son of Ed and Mattie Brown, one of eight siblings. His parents were shopkeepers.[3] He was a star of the high school football team, earning a football scholarship to the University of Alabama. His little brother Tolbert "Red" Brown played with "Mack" in 1925.[4]

After he finished college, he sold insurance and later coached the backs on Alabama's freshman football team.[5]

University of Alabama

While at the University of Alabama, Brown became an initiated member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity.


Brown was a prominent halfback on his university's Crimson Tide football team, coached by Wallace Wade. He earned the nickname "The Dothan Antelope"[6] and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Pop Warner called him "one of the fastest football players I've ever seen."[7]


The 1924 team lost only to Centre. Brown starred in the defeat of Georgia Tech.


Brown helped the 1925 Alabama Crimson Tide football team to a national championship. In that year's Rose Bowl, he earned Most Valuable Player honors after scoring two of his team's three touchdowns in an upset win over the heavily favored Washington Huskies. The 1925 Crimson Tide was the first southern team to ever win a Rose Bowl. The game is commonly referred to as "the game that changed the south."[8] Brown was selected All-Southern.[9]

Film career

Brown's good looks and powerful physique saw him portrayed on Wheaties cereal boxes and in 1927, brought an offer for motion picture screen tests[6] that resulted in a long and successful career in Hollywood. That same year, he signed a five-year contract with Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer.[10] He played silent film star Mary Pickford's love interest in her first talkie, Coquette (1929), for which Pickford won an Oscar.

He appeared in minor roles until 1930 when he was cast as the star in a Western entitled Billy the Kid and directed by King Vidor. An early widescreen film (along with Raoul Walsh's The Big Trail with John Wayne, produced the same year), the movie also features Wallace Beery as Pat Garrett. Brown was billed over Beery, who would become MGM's highest-paid actor within the next three years. Also in 1930, Brown played Joan Crawford's love interest in Montana Moon. Brown went on to make several more top-flight movies under the name John Mack Brown, including The Secret Six (1931) with Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, and Clark Gable, as well as the legendary Lost Generation celebration of alcohol, The Last Flight (1931), and was being groomed by MGM as a leading man until being abruptly replaced on Laughing Sinners in 1931, with all his scenes reshot, substituting rising star Clark Gable in his place. MGM and director Woody Van Dyke screen tested him for the lead role of Tarzan the Ape Man but Van Dyke didn't feel he was tall enough.[11]

Rechristened "Johnny Mack Brown" in the wake of this extremely serious career downturn, he made low-budget westerns for independent producers and he never regained his former status. Eventually he became one of the screen's top B-movie cowboys, and became a popular star at Universal Pictures in 1937. A fan of Mexican music, he showcased the talents of guitarist Francisco Mayorga and The Guadalajara Trio in films like Boss of Bullion City and The Masked Rider. Brown also starred in four serials for Universal (Rustlers of Red Dog, Wild West Days, Flaming Frontiers and The Oregon Trail) and was a hero to millions of young children at movie theaters and on their television screens.

Brown moved to Monogram Pictures in 1943 to replace that studio's cowboy star Buck Jones, who had died months before. Brown's Monogram series was immediately successful and he starred in more than 60 westerns over the next 10 years, often playing "Nevada Jack McKenzie" opposite Buck Jones's old sidekick Raymond Hatton. Brown was also featured in two higher-budgeted dramas, Forever Yours and Flame of the West, both released by Monogram in 1945 and both billing the actor under his former "A-picture" name, John Mack Brown.

When Monogram abandoned its brand name in 1952 (in favor of its deluxe division, Allied Artists), Johnny Mack Brown retired from the screen. He returned more than 10 years later to appear in secondary roles in a few Western films. Altogether, Brown appeared in more than 160 movies between 1927 and 1966, as well as a smattering of television shows, in a career spanning almost 40 years.

Personal life

Brown was married to Cornelia "Connie" Foster from 1926[12] to his death in 1974, and they had four children.


For his contributions to the film industry, Brown was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 with a motion pictures star at 6101 Hollywood Boulevard.[13] He received a posthumous Golden Boot Award in 2004 for his contributions to the Western entertainment genre.[14] In 1969, Brown was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.[15]

Brown's hometown holds an annual Johnny Mack Brown Western Festival because “If anyone ever brought attention to Dothan, it was Johnny Mack Brown,” a city official said.[16]

Brown is mentioned in the novel From Here to Eternity. In a barracks scene, soldiers discuss Western films, and one asks, "Remember Johnny Mack Brown?", resulting in a discussion.[17] Also, in the short story The Day the Cisco Kid Shot John Wayne, Brown and three other Western movie stars are disparaged as boys of Mexican descent discuss their preference for Mexicans or Indians over white stars in films.[17]

From March 1950 to February 1959, Dell Comics published a Johnny Mack Brown series of comic books. He also was included in 21 issues of Dell's Giant Series Western Roundup comics that began in June 1952.[6]


Brown died in Woodland Hills, California,[18] of heart failure at the age of 70. His cremated remains are interred in an outdoor Columbarium, in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.

Selected filmography


  1. Obituary Variety, November 20, 1974.
  2. Sol Metzger (November 16, 1926). "Mack Brown Was Expert Dodger". The Pantagraph. Retrieved March 5, 2015 via
  3. Beidler, Philip. "Johnny Mack Brown". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved June 8, 2017.
  4. "Fiery-Topped Trio Plays Big Role At Alabama U." The Post-Crescent. Wisconsin, Appleton. September 28, 1926. p. 13. Retrieved June 8, 2017 via
  5. Matherne, Bob (January 7, 1929). "Johnny Mack Brown, Dixie Grid Hero, Landed Film Job through Loyalty to College". Santa Ana Register. California, Santa Ana. Newspaper Enterprise Association. p. 6. Retrieved June 8, 2017 via
  6. Rielly, Edward J. (2009). Football: An Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. U of Nebraska Press. pp. 45–46. ISBN 0803226306. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  7. Anderson, Dave (December 24, 1962). "A Bunch of Farmers Upset Football Tradition". Sports Illiustrated Vault. Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on June 9, 2017. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  8. "The Football Game That Changed the South". The University of Alabama. Archived from the original on April 21, 2017. Retrieved October 6, 2008.
  9. "All Southern Grid Team Compiled By The Associated Press". Kingsport Times. November 30, 1925.
  10. "Motion Picture Idol". Shamokin News-Dispatch. Pennsylvania, Shamokin. March 9, 1927. p. 6. Retrieved June 8, 2017 via
  11. Weissmuller Jr., Johnny Tarzan, My Father ECW Press, February 1, 2008
  12. "Alabama Grid Star Downed By Cupid". Altoona Tribune. Pennsylvania, Altoona. Central Press. June 16, 1926. p. 12. Retrieved June 8, 2017 via
  13. "Johnny Mack Brown". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Archived from the original on July 9, 2013. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  14. "The Golden Boot Awards". Archived from the original on February 28, 2017. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  15. "Johnny Mack Brown". Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on June 7, 2017. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  16. Brackin, Elaine (April 20, 2009). "Johnny Mack Brown Western Festival brings Old West to Landmark Park". Dothan Eagle. Archived from the original on June 8, 2017. Retrieved June 8, 2017.
  17. Hoffmann, Henryk (2012). Western Movie References in American Literature. McFarland. p. 23. ISBN 9780786493241. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  18. "Johnny Mack Brown". The Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune. Missouri, Chillicothe. Associated Press. November 19, 1974. p. 16. Retrieved June 8, 2017 via
  19. Lambert, Hillyer (Director) (1945). Flame of the West.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.