The Forgotten Legacy of Garbo’s Favorite Director

Clarence Brown Should Be Remembered for His Works of Subversive Empathy

Clarence Brown was a major figure in Hollywood’s Golden Age, directing Garbo and other glittering stars in films spread over five decades. He boasts the dubious—or is it admirable?—distinction of being nominated the most times for a best director Oscar without ever winning one. So how did he fade from public consciousness?

The explanation may lie, perversely, in the sheer length of Brown’s career, as well as the particular politics of the studio where he made his home for almost 30 years. MGM boasted that it had “more stars than there …