Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

John L. Jellicorse

Committee Members

G. Allen Yeomans, Robert W. Glenn


This study is a survey of the critical reactions of American film critics and scholars to the cinema career of Clarence Brown. It is an initial step toward the illumination of Brown's contributions to film history.

Film critiques were gathered from sources contemporary to Brown's career as well as from modern-day sources. After a biographical sketch, the general critical reactions to Brown and his career are examined. Reviews of specific films are viewed in terms of the technical dimension of his film art, the dramatic dimension, and rhetorical dimension, and historical dimension. After an appraisal of these critical evaluations, conclusions are drawn as to the accuracy of film criticism itself; Brown's outstanding achievements within the four dimensions of film art are discussed; and suggestions for further research are made.

Due to the limitations of film criticism, the study does not give a definitive evaluation of Clarence Brown's filmmaking. Specific accomplishments do stand out as significant to the development of the art of filmmaking, however. Generally, Brown seems most noted for his films' consistent financial successes and his ability to draw out exceptional performances from actors and actresses. The most significant aspects of his technical art, as reflected in film criticism, are his photography, talent for working with performers, and early use of location shooting. Within the dramatic dimension, Brown's outstanding contributions are his ability to adapt O'Neill's plays to the screen, talent in converting novels into films, skill in picturing sentimentality, ability in re-creating time periods, and sensitivity in capturing the emotions of children. Critical reactions have also revealed that Brown's career was weakened by the poor screenplays that he was often assigned. Critics seldom dealt with the rhetorical and historical dimensions of film. Rhetorically, Brown's career is believed to be most noteworthy for his skill in subtly conveying the message of "Intruder in the Dust" (1949). Artistic license with historical facts and evasions of film censorship were characteristic methods by which Brown's films reflect the historical period in which they were made.

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