Karl Brown (cinematographer)

Karl Brown (December 26, 1896 March 25, 1990) was a pioneer American cinematographer who had a close association with director D. W. Griffith during the early part of his career. Brown also became a noteworthy director and screenwriter.

Karl Brown
Teenage Karl Brown, playing the fiddle in a scene from Home, Sweet Home.
Born(1896-12-26)December 26, 1896
DiedMarch 25, 1990(1990-03-25) (aged 93)
Years active1914-1960
Parent(s)William H. Brown (father)


Brown's first entertainment-related job, while still in his teens, was working at a development lab for the U.S. branch of the Kinemacolor Film Company in Los Angeles. Brown was 17 when renowned film director D.W. Griffith and his crew came to take over the Kinemacolor Film Company in 1913. Brown got in touch with camera man G.W. Bitzer and soon after became his assistant. Brown assisted Bitzer during the filming of The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916). His duties consisted of loading the camera with film, carrying the camera, and operating a second camera during the Ride of the Clan and the Fall of Babylon scenes.[1] After the collapse of Kinemacolor, he worked as a still photographer on The Spoilers (1914), having become enamored with Griffith's work, especially The Battle at Elderbush Gulch (1913),

The most successful film Brown worked on as cinematographer was the James Cruze film The Covered Wagon (1923). Brown's first directorial effort, Stark Love (1927), is today considered a rural cinematic masterpiece.

Brown was cinematographer on Wallace Reid's last film, Thirty Days (1922). In the 1970s, Brown was one of the Hollywood pioneers interviewed by Kevin Brownlow for Brownlow's television series Hollywood (1980). In the series, Brown talked at length about Reid's addiction and death.

Personal life

Brown was the son of comedian and character actor William H. Brown. His mother, who styled herself Lucille Browne professionally, served as a chaperone and guardian to actresses at the Fine Arts Studio and made some film appearances.

He was married to Edna Mae Cooper from 1922 until her death in 1986.

Partial filmography


  1. Kevin Brownlow and Karl Brown (1991). "Hollywood in the Hills: The Making of "Stark Love"". Appalachian Journal. 18 (2): 170–220.
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