Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Movie Producer David Brown R.I.P.

David Brown, a producer of both movies and stage plays, passed on February 1 at the age of 93. The cause was kidney failure.

David Brown was born on July 28, 1916 in New York City. He started out as a journalist, and contributed articles to The Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, and Harpers. Eventually he became managing editor at Cosmopolitan and he served as an editor on Liberty magazine as well. In 1951 Darryl F. Zanuck hired Brown to head the story department at 20th Century Fox. He rose in the ranks to executive vice president in charge of creative operations. In 1971 David Brown and Darryl F. Zanuck's son, Richard Zanuck, left 20th Century Fox for Warner Brothers. The following year they founded their own production company.

It was in 1973 that David Brown received his first credit on a film, as executive producer on the movie Sssssss. Although not credited as producers on the film, David Brown and Richard Zanuck did produce The Sting, released the same year. In 1974 Brown was credited as producer on four movies alone: Willie Dynamite, The Sugarland Express, The Black Windmill, and The Girl from Petrovka. In 1975 he produced The Eiger Sanction. It was also in 1975 that Brown and Zanuck produced their first smash hit, Jaws. Jaws became the top all time box office champion (before adjusting for inflation) for a short time. Over the next several years, with or without Zanuck, Brown produced several movies. He produced the John Belushi /Dan Akroyd vehicle Neighbours. He also produced the popular Ron Howard fantasy Cocoon and the Oscar winning Driving Miss Daisy.

In 1989 David Brown began his work on Broadway, producing the play A Few Good Men. That same year he produced the play Tru on Broadway. In 1990 he produced the play The Cemetery Club. Brown produced the movie adaptations of his own plays A Few Good Men and The Cemetery Club. He also produced Robert Altman's The Player alongside Richard Zanuck.  Over the next few years Brown produced such films as Canadian Bacon, Kiss the Girls, Deep Impact, Angela's Ashes, Chocolat, and Along Came a Spider. On Broadway he produced the stage adaptations of Sweet Smell of Success and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

If David Brown was a success as a Hollywood producer, it may have been due to the fact that he was an exceedingly rare sort of Hollywood producer. From all reports he was always the perfect gentleman and always behaved politely towards everyone. He was also said to have a special love for writers and, according to long time partner, Richard Zanuck, he had a great sense for stories. Among other things, David Brown produced the first two feature films ever directed by Steven Spielberg (The Sugarland Express and Jaws). It was because David Brown respected writers and directors that he was particularly successful as a producer.

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