Brown in 1951.
March 24, 1928
|Died||May 21, 1999
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Robert Alan Franklyn (1950–57; divorced)
Mark Sandrich Jr. (1959–89; divorced; 2 children)
Born in Vienna, Austria, to Jewish parents (Nah Brind, a language teacher, and Anna Brind, a psychologist), Brown and her family fled to Paris, France in 1937 to escape persecution by the Nazi regime.
Within a few years the family had settled in America and Brown auditioned for Lillian Hellman for a role in Watch on the Rhine. Fluent in several languages, the youngster impressed Hellman with her presence and authentic Teutonic accent, and she was signed as understudy to Ann Blyth, eventually doing the role of Babette on Broadway and in the touring production. In high school she wrote and directed school plays. She graduated from UCLA in 1949, having majored in English. While there, she was movie critic and feature writer for the Daily Bruin, the campus newspaper.
Brown's IQ of 165 led to two years of work as one of the young panelists on the radio series Quiz Kids. She specialized in literature and language. In her adult years, she had an interview program on the Voice of America.
Brown was a junior member of the National Board of Review, the critical panel serving the motion picture industry. RKO Radio Pictures brought her family to Los Angeles, and Brown made her film debut (as Tessa Brind) in Youth Runs Wild (1944). RKO changed her screen name to Vanessa Brown and assigned her to a series of ingenue roles over the next few years. In the late 1940s she was featured in The Late George Apley (1947), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), playing Mrs. Muir's grown daughter Anna in a luminous performance that makes this perhaps the film's most moving scene, Big Jack (1949; Wallace Beery's last movie), The Heiress (1949) and other films. She was the eighth actress to play the role of Jane, appearing in Tarzan and the Slave Girl (1950) opposite Lex Barker, followed by a role in Vincente Minnelli's acclaimed The Bad and the Beautiful (1952). Her last film appearance was playing Millie Perkins's sister in the cult horror film The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976).
In the 1950s, Brown was a regular panelist on I'll Buy That on CBS. She also acted in live television dramas of the early 1950s, including Robert Montgomery Presents and The Philco Television Playhouse, and appeared on Pantomime Quiz and Leave It to the Girls. She later appeared on such television series as The Wonder Years and Murder, She Wrote. She also had a guest appearance on Perry Mason as Donna Kress in the 1959 episode, "The Case of Paul Drake's Dilemma."
Back on Broadway, she originated the role of "The Girl" in The Seven Year Itch, the character portrayed by Marilyn Monroe in the 1955 film version. She continued to do much television through the 1950s, and was one of the narrators of the United World Federalists documentary Eight Steps to Peace (1957), along with Vincent Price and Robert Ryan.
Brown was active in the Democratic Party, serving as a delegate to the party's national convention in 1956. In 1962, she was a member of a committee that promoted a write-in campaign for Adlai Stevenson as governor of California.
In 1959, Brown was described in a newspaper article as "a promising artist whose oil paintings hang in the homes of top film colony personalities." She signed her paintings with her birth name, Symila. A gallery in Beverly Hills, California, held a one-woman show of her work in 1958.
Brown was married to Dr. Robert Alan Franklyn, a prominent plastic surgeon, from 1950 to 1957. In 1959, she married television director Mark Sandrich, Jr. – son of director Mark Sandrich – and they had two children, David Michael and Cathy Lisa.
Her marriage to Sandrich ended in divorce, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1988, and she lost her home during an earthquake in 1989. The surgery she received for her cancer appeared to have been successful, and she believed she had been cured, however the disease returned. The last few years of her life were spent in very poor health, before her death at age 71 in the Motion Picture Country Home, Woodland Hills, California. Upon her death, she was cremated and her ashes returned to her son, David.
- The Girl of the Limberlost (1945)
- The Late George Apley (1947)
- The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
- The Heiress (1949)
- The Secret of St. Ives (1949)
- Tarzan and the Slave Girl (1950)
- Three Husbands (1951)
- The Basketball Fix (1951)
- The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
- Rosie! (1967)
- Bless the Beasts and Children (1971)
- The Witch Who Came From the Sea (1976)
- Oliver, Myrna (May 24, 1999). "Vanessa Brown; Actress, Writer and Artist". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
- "They Know the Land Whereof They Act". Illinois, Alton. Alton Evening Telegraph. May 3, 1941. p. 5. Retrieved December 31, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Handsaker, Gene (August 23, 1946). "In Hollywood". Ironwood Daily Globe. p. 12. Retrieved May 27, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- DeLong, Thomas A. (1996). Radio Stars: An Illustrated Biographical Dictionary of 953 Performers, 1920 through 1960. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-2834-2. P. 43.
- "Another character star". The Post-Crescent. August 30, 1970. p. 111. Retrieved May 27, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Wolf, Tom (April 3, 1941). "Youth Reviews Movies". Wisconsin, Rhinelander. The Rhinelander Daily News. p. 4. Retrieved December 31, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "The Young Reviewers". National Board of Review Magazine. 19 (8): 14. December 1944. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
- Chapman, Philip (November 1953). "an exciting girl named Brown". Radio and Television Mirror. 40 (6): 57, 87–89. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
- "Gorgeous (And Brainy) Vanessa Brown Is Making A Splash In Literary World". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. September 6, 1953. p. 57. Retrieved May 27, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Kilgallen, Dorothy (July 3, 1956). "Voice of Broadway". Shamokin News-Dispatch. p. 4. Retrieved May 27, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Contest". Independent. September 29, 1962. p. 2. Retrieved May 27, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Actress Becomes Promising Artist". Independent. October 5, 1959. p. 17. Retrieved May 27, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Hollywood Walk of Fame - Vanessa Brown". walkoffame.com. Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved February 14, 2017.
- "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 41 (2): 32–41. Spring 2015.