Born 1904 in Dothan, Alabama, Johnny Mack Brown was a prominent halfback on his university’s Crimson Tide football team, coached by Wallace Wade. He earned the nickname “The Dothan Antelope” and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Pop Warner called him “one of the fastest football players I’ve ever seen.”
Brown’s good looks and powerful physique saw him portrayed on Wheaties cereal boxes and in 1927, brought an offer for motion picture screen tests that resulted in a long and successful career in Hollywood. That same year, he signed a five-year contract with Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer. He played silent film star Mary Pickford’s love interest in her first talkie, Coquette (1929), for which Pickford won an Oscar.
Brown was cast as the star in a Western entitled Billy the Kid (1930). Also in 1930, he played Joan Crawford’s love interest in Montana Moon. He went on to make several more top-flight movies, including The Secret Six (1931), The Last Flight (1931).
Brown acted and starred mainly in Western films. He retired from the screen in 1952, and returned more than 10 years later to appear in secondary roles in a few Western films. Altogether, Brown appeared in more than 160 movies between 1927 and 1966, as well as a smattering of television shows, in a career spanning almost 40 years.
Brown died in 1966 at the age of 70. For his contributions to the film industry, He was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 with a motion pictures star at 6101 Hollywood Boulevard. He received a posthumous Golden Boot Award in 2004 for his contributions to the Western entertainment genre. In 1969, he was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
Take a look at these vintage photos to see portrait of a young Johnny Mack Brown in the 1920s and 1930s.