Johnny Mack Brown was born in Dothan, Alabama, on September 1, 1904, to parents who owned a local clothing store. His early aspirations were more athletic than theatrical, as Brown was an All-American halfback for the University of Alabama in the 1920s. But rather than pursuing professional football as a career, he signed a five-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in late 1926.

Johnny Mack BrownJohnny Mack BrownJohnny Mack Brown and Charles Farrell

LEFT: Mid 1920s photo of Brown during his football days. CENTER: Late 1920s arcade card. RIGHT: Late 1920s photo with silent star Charles Farrell

After just a few small roles at MGM, Brown became a star during the waning days of silent films. Teamed with MGM's biggest female stars, such as Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, and Norma Shearer, Brown emerged as a leading man, usually billed as John Mack Brown. Brown was also loaned out to other studios such as Fox and RKO during this period. Although he is today best known for his westerns, most of Johnny Mack Brown's silent films were dramas and comedies. With the advent and studio acceptance of synch-sound pictures, Brown's star began to fade at MGM, as studio executives thought his strong southern accent was not becoming of a leading man. However, his accent proved to be an asset in westerns with the October 1930 release of Billy the Kid, in which Brown has the title role; in this film, he is billed as Johnny Mack Brown and would usually be billed as such for the remainder of his career. While Brown had become a big star at MGM in the late 1920s, MGM let him go the end of his contract in 1932. Nevertheless, he rolled with the punches and acted in films at Paramount, Warner Brothers, and Universal between 1932 and 1935; however, Brown was usually served as a supporting actor in these films. Longing for starring roles in films, in 1935 he signed with the poverty-row studio Supreme Pictures to do a string of low-budget westerns. Supreme's shaky fortunes were enhanced by a distribution deal with Republic Studios, which was newly formed by Herbert Yates after he foreclosed on Monogram and Mascot studios, both heavily in debt to Yates' Consolidated Film Laboratories film processing company. Although a poverty-row independent, Republic was in better financial shape than most small studios in the mid 1930s, and Brown's career began to flourish again. However, he became so identified with westerns that, beyond the mid 1930s, Brown rarely appeared in a non-western film.

Johnny Mack BrownJohnny Mack BrownJohnny Mack BrownJohnny Mack Brown

LEFT: A rare 1940s shot of Johnny Mack Brown. CENTER: Promotional photos from Monogram. RIGHT: Johnny Mack Brown was featured in a Dell Comic Book series in the 1950s

Brown left Supreme/Republic in 1937 for the greener pastures of Universal, where he made about 30 films during his five-year contract. But Universal tired of the western format and its low-budget stigma, so in 1943 Brown signed with Monogram Pictures, which had been re-formed in 1937 by Ray Johnson and Trem Carr. Brown stayed with Monogram through 1952, when the studio pulled the plug on low-budget westerns since competition from television made the old B western format unprofitable. Also, by this time Monogram's president Steve Broidy wished to leave the poverty-row reputation of Monogram behind, and Monogram's westerns suffered the consequences. In 1946, Broidy started releasing Monogram's better-funded B films under the Allied Artists name. This venture proved successful, and by 1953 use of the Monogram name was discontinued as the studio tried to move out of poverty row.

the films of johnny mack brown

The Fair Co-Ed (1927)

Johnny Mack Brown

A very young Johnny Mack Brown is at the center rear of this still from the MGM Marion Davies comedy The Fair Co-Ed

Our Dancing Daughters (1928)

Johnny Mack Brown and Joan Crawford

With Joan Crawford in Our Dancing Daughters, the film that made Crawford a star

The Single Standard (1929)

Johnny Mack Brown and Greta GarboJohnny Mack Brown and Greta Garbo

Brown with Greta Garbo in The Single Standard

Everyman's Law (1936)

Johnny Mack Brown

As the Dog Town Kid in the poverty-row western Everyman's Law

Wild West Days (1937)

Robert McClung, George Shelley and Johnny Mack Brown

With Robert McClung and George Shelley in the Universal thirteen-chapter western serial Wild West Days

Boss of Bullion City (1940)

Fuzzy Knight, Johnny Mack Brown, and Maria Montez

With sidekick Fuzzy Knight and Maria Montez in the Universal western Boss of Bullion City

The Lost Trail (1945)

Johnny Mack Brown and Raymond Hatton

With Raymond Hatton in Monogram's The Lost Trail

Texas City (1952)

Lois Hall, Lorna Thayer, and Johnny Mack Brown

With Lois Hall and Lorna Thayer in the Monogram western Texas City

later years

The era of the B western ended in the early 1950s, as competition from television brought the curtain down on the genre. Brown had proved very popular as a western hero through the early 1950s, but with the death of B movie oaters, he retired from the screen. Brown remained popular when many of his old films were sold into TV syndication packages in the 1950s, and Dell was inspired to produce a comic book series. Dell published more than 20 in this series through 1959. He came out of retirement in the mid 1960s for supporting roles in the films Requiem for a Gunfighter (1965), The Bounty Killer (1965), and Apache Uprising (1966), which was his final film. After a long career during which he acted in more than 150 films, Brown passed away from kidney failure on November 14, 1974, at the age of 70. He was survived by his wife and four children.

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Apache Uprising (1966) with Rory Calhoun, Lon Chaney Jr., Corinne Calvet, John Russell, and Richard Arlen
The Bounty Killer (1965) with Dan Duryea, Buster Crabbe, and Richard Arlen
Requiem for a Gunfighter (1965) with Rod Cameron and Raymond Hatton
The Man From Black Hills (1952) with Denver Pyle
Canyon Ambush (1952) with Phyllis Coates
Dead Man's Trail (1952)
Texas City (1952) with Lyle Talbot
Texas Lawmen (1951) with Lyle Talbot
Whistling Hills (1951) with Noel Neill
Oklahoma Justice (1951) with Phyllis Coates
Montana Desperado (1951) with Myron Healey
Blazing Bullets (1951)
Man From Sonora (1951) with Phyllis Coates and Lyle Talbot
Colorado Ambush (1951) with Myron Healey, Lois Hall, Tommy Farrell, and Lyle Talbot
Six Gun Mesa (1950) with Gail Davis and Bud Osborne
Short Grass (1950) with Rod Cameron, Cathy Downs, Alan Hale Jr., Morris Ankrum, and Myron Healey
Outlaw Gold (1950) with Myron Healey and Bud Osborne
Law of the Panhandle (1950) with Myron Healey and Kermit Maynard
Over the Border (1950) with Myron Healey and Bud Osborne
West of Wyoming (1950) with Gail Davis, Myron Healey, and Bud Osborne
Range Justice (1949) with Max Terhune, Tristram Coffin, Kenne Duncan, and Myron Healey
Trail's End (1949) with Max Terhune and Myron Healey
West of El Dorado (1949) with Max Terhune, Kenne Duncan, and Bud Osborne
Western Renegades (1949) with Max Terhune and Myron Healey
Stampede (1949) with Rod Cameron and Gale Storm
Law of the West (1949) with Max Terhune, Kenne Duncan, and Bud Osborne
Hidden Danger (1948) with Raymond Hatton, Max Terhune, Myron Healey, and Kenne Duncan
Gunning for Justice (1948) with Raymond Hatton, Max Terhune, and Bud Osborne
Sheriff of Medicine Bow (1948) with Raymond Hatton and Max Terhune
The Fighting Ranger (1948) with Raymond Hatton
Back Trail (1948) with Raymond Hatton and 'Snub' Pollard
Triggerman (1948) with Raymond Hatton and Virginia Carroll
Frontier Agent (1948) with Raymond Hatton and Virginia Carroll
Crossed Trails (1948) with Raymond Hatton
Overland Trails (1948) with Raymond Hatton and Virginia Carroll
Trailing Danger (1947) with Raymond Hatton and Bud Osborne
Gun Talk (1947) with Raymond Hatton
Prairie Express (1947) with Raymond Hatton
Flashing Guns (1947) with Raymond Hatton
Code of the Saddle (1947) with Raymond Hatton and Bud Osborne
The Law Comes to Gunsight (1947) with Raymond Hatton and Kermit Maynard
Land of the Lawless (1947) with Raymond Hatton
Raiders of the South (1946) with Evelyn Brent and Raymond Hatton
Shadows on the Range (1946) with Raymond Hatton
Trigger Fingers (1946) with Raymond Hatton
Under Arizona Skies (1946) with Raymond Hatton
Silver Range (1946) with Raymond Hatton
Gentleman from Texas (1946) with Raymond Hatton
The Haunted Mine (1946) with Raymond Hatton
Drifting Along (1946) with Raymond Hatton
Border Bandits (1946) with Raymond Hatton and Bud Osborne
Stranger from Santa Fe (1945)
Frontier Feud (1945)
The Lost Trail (1945)
Flame of the West (1945)
Gun Smoke (1945)
Forever Yours (1945) with Gale Storm, C. Aubrey Smith, Conrad Nagel, Mary Boland, and Johnny Downs
The Navajo Trail (1945)
Raiders of the Border (1944) with Raymond Hatton
Range Law (1944)
West of the Rio Grande (1944)
Ghost Guns (1944)
Law of the Valley (1944)
Land of the Outlaws (1944)
Law Men (1944)
Partners of the Trail (1944)
Lone Star Trail (1943)
Six-Gun Gospel (1943)
The Stranger From Pecos (1943)
The Texas Kid (1943)
Outlaws of Stampede Pass (1943)
Raiders of San Joaquin (1943)
Cheyenne Roundup (1943)
The Ghost Rider (1943)
Tenting Tonight on the Old Camp Ground (1943)
The Old Chisholm Trail (1943)
Boss of Hangtown Mesa (1942)
Deep in the Heart of Texas (1942)
Little Joe, the Wrangler (1942) with Glenn Strange
Ride 'Em Cowboy (1942) with Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Dick Foran, Anne Gwynne, and Ella Fitzgerald
The Silver Bullet (1942) with Fuzzy Knight
Stagecoach Buckaroo (1942) with Fuzzy Knight, Anne Nagel, Herbert Rawlinson, and Glenn Strange
Law of the Range (1941) with Fuzzy Knight and Pat O'Malley
The Masked Rider (1941)
Fighting Bill Fargo (1941)
Arizona Cyclone (1941)
Man From Montana (1941)
Rawhide Rangers (1941)
Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie (1941)
Law and Order (1940)
Son of Roaring Dan (1940)
West of Carson City (1940)
Pony Post (1940)
Ragtime Cowboy Joe (1940)
Bad Man from Red Butte (1940)
Riders of Pasco Basin (1940)
Boss of Bullion City (1940)
Chip of the Flying U (1940)
The Oregon Trail (1939)
Oklahoma Frontier (1939)
Desperate Trails (1939)
Flaming Frontiers (1938)
Wild West Days (1937)
Wells Fargo (1937) with Robert Cummings
Born to the West (1937) with John Wayne
Boothill Brigade (1937)
A Lawman Is Born (1937)
Guns in the Dark (1937)
Bar-Z Bad Men (1937)
Lawless Land (1937)
Trail of Vengeance (1937)
The Gambling Terror (1937) with Iris Meredith
Undercover Man (1936)
The Crooked Trail (1936)
Everyman's Law (1936)
Rogue of the Range (1936)
Desert Phantom (1936)
Valley of the Lawless (1936)
Rustlers of Red Dog (1935)
Courageous Avenger (1935)
Between Men (1935)
Branded a Coward (1935)
Against the Law (1934) with Sally Blane
Cross Streets (1934)
Belle of the Nineties (1934) with Mae West and Katherine DeMille
Marrying Widows (1934) with Minna Gombell
Three on a Honeymoon (1934) with Sally Eilers, Zasu Pitts, Charles Starrett, and Irene Hervey
Missouri Nightingale (1934)
Female (1933) with Ruth Chatterton and George Brent
Fighting with Kit Carson (1933)
Son of a Sailor (1933) with Joe E. Brown, Jean Muir, Frank McHugh, and Thelma Todd
Saturday's Millions (1933) with Robert Young and Andy Devine
70,000 Witnesses (1932)
Malay Nights (1932) with Raymond Hatton
Vanishing Frontier (1932) with Zasu Pitts and Raymond Hatton
Fire Alarm (1932)
Lasca of the Rio Grande (1931) with Leo Carrillo
The Last Flight (1931) with Richard Barthelmess, David Manners, and Helen Chandler
The Secret Six (1931) with Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, and Clark Gable
The Great Meadow (1931) with Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams
Undertow (1930)
Billy the Kid (1930) wth Wallace Beery
Hurricane (1930)
Montana Moon (1930) with Joan Crawford and Ricardo Cortez
Jazz Heaven (1929)
The Single Standard (1929) with Greta Garbo
The Valiant (1929) with Paul Muni
Coquette (1929) with Mary Pickford
A Woman of Affairs (1928) with Greta Garbo
A Lady of Chance (1928) with Norma Shearer
Annapolis (1928)
Our Dancing Daughters (1928) with Joan Crawford
The Play Girl (1928) with Madge Bellamy
Square Crooks (1928) with Robert Armstrong
Soft Living (1928) with Madge Bellamy and Joyce Compton
The Divine Woman (1928) with Greta Garbo
The Fair Co-Ed (1927) with Marion Davies
Mockery (1927) with Lon Chaney
Slide, Kelly, Slide (1927) with Billy Haines


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Watch Johnny Mack Brown's 1934 drama Cross Streets

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