Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Born Smylla Brynd in Vienna, Austria to Jewish parents, Brown and her family fled to Paris, France in 1937 to escape persecution with the rise of National Socialism. 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, Brown impressed Hellman with her presence and authentic Teutonic accent, and she was signed as understudy to Ann Blyth. While still at high school she was writing and directing plays for school productions and when she entered a radio quiz titled "Quiz Kid" she attracted the attention of Hollywood film producer David O. Selznick. He brought her family to Los Angeles and Brown made her film debut in Youth Runs Wild (1944). She played a series of ingenue roles over the next few years, in films such as The Late George Apley (1947), The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1947) and The Heiress (1949), and was then given the role of Jane in the Tarzan film, Tarzan and the Slave Girl (1950) opposite Lex Barker.
After appearing in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), Brown's film career began to decline and she moved to New York, where she secured the role of "The Girl" in The Seven Year Itch opposite Tom Ewell. Despite her success in the role, she was not asked to join Ewell for the 1955 film version, and her role was played by Marilyn Monroe. Her career began to slow down after this, and she concentrated on her marriage to television director Mark Sandrich Jr. and raising their children. She appeared on such television series as General Hospital, The Wonder Years and Murder, She Wrote.
Her final years were beset with misfortune. 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 in Woodland Hills, California.
Vanessa Brown has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for her contribution to motion pictures at 1625 Vine Street, and for television at 6528 Hollywood Boulevard.
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