Thursday, March 7, 2013

Stars of Public Domain: Vanessa Brown & THE BASKETBALL FIX (1951)

Playing opposite John Ireland, Marshall Thompson and Johnny Sands in THE BASKETBALL FIX as the pert college girl dating pro basketball player Thompson, Vanessa Brown, nee Smyla Brind, was the Austrian-born daughter of Jewish refugees. Smylla Brind became Tessa Brind as Ann Blyth's understudy on Broadway in Lillian Hellman's WATCH ON THE RHINE and then toured with the play; and she was Tessa Brind again when appearing on the California radio show "Quiz Kid." David O. Selznick noticed her on that and secured her an auspicious screen debut in the juvenile delinquency drama YOUTH RUNS WILD (1944), the forerunner of the many post-war teenage angst films to come. As Vanessa Brown she played first teenagers and then young adults – including "Jane" to Lex Barker's "Tarzan" in TARZAN AN THE SLAVE GIRL (1950) – but with few exceptions you'd be hard pressed to remember what she did or said, and she was always much better used on Broadway, where she originated the Marilyn Monroe role opposite Tom Ewell in "The Seven Year Itch" (1952), and on television, where she replaced Joan Caulfield in the final season of "My Favorite Husband" (1955). She then left it all to dabble in politics (as a Democrat) and to marry producer-director Mark Sandrich, Jr. (Brown had previously been married to a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, divorcing him, or so the story went, when he implored her to get under the knife.) She died at the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital.

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