Johnny Mack Brown
Johnny Mack Brown was an All-American college football player and film actor.
Born and raised in Dothan, Alabama, Brown was a star of the high school football team, earning a football scholarship to the University of Alabama. Playing the halfback position on his university’s Crimson Tide football team, he earned the nickname “The Dothan Antelope” and helped his team to become the 1926 NCAA Division I-A national football champions. In that year’s Rose Bowl Game, 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. While at The University of Alabama, Brown became an initiated member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity.
His good looks and powerful physique saw him portrayed on Wheaties cereal boxes and in 1927, brought an offer for motion picture screen tests that resulted in a long and successful career in Hollywood. He played silent film star Mary Pickford’s love interest in her first talkie, Coquette, 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, the movie also features Wallace Beery as Pat Garrett. Brown was billed over Beery, who would become the studio’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 with Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, and Clark Gable, as well as the legendary Lost Generation celebration of alcohol, The Last Flight, and was being groomed by MGM as a leading man until being abruptly replaced on a film in 1931, with all his scenes reshot substituting rising star Clark Gable in his place.