Barry Brown

Barry Brown

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  • This review, an abbreviated autobiography, is also a tribute to an actor whose talent has not only been underrated, but who might also become forgotten, if not memorialized, as he had done for other performers while alive. I present - Barry Brown.moreless

    Barry Brown was a unique talent - complex, conflicted,

    enigmatic - and Hollywood was the greatest loser the day he died.

    Brown - a sad-eyed, darkly handsome, extremely talented and highly intelligent actor - played in at least 40 different

    TV shows during the late 1960's-early 1970's (some of which

    are yet to be rediscovered), including "The Mod Squad",

    "Marcus Welby, M.D.", "Ironside", "Gunsmoke", and "Barnaby Jones", among others.

    He also appeared in at least a dozen films, including two

    underground classics - "Bad Company" (1971), and "Daisy

    Miller" (1974).

    Despite the title, "Daisy Miller" was, essentially, Barry

    Brown's vehicle; as the languourous young aesthete, Frederick Forsyth Winterbourne, he stole the show with his

    controlled, yet extremely passionate portrayal of a young

    man who does not realize the love a frivolous ingenue holds for him until she whisked away from him, irretrivably, by

    premature death.

    In fact, Barry Brown sent the producer a five-page precis, detailing his analysis of Winterbourne's character, contrasting the role of French vs German formalism in the portrayal, and citing Immanuel Kant's "The Critique of Pure

    Reason" to substantiate his argument. Barry Brown (whose

    I.Q, was a reportedly impressive 170) was not merely an

    actor, but a deeply analytical thinker, as well.

    He also was a playwright, as well as a film historian, wrote numerous articles for cinematographic magazines, and at the time of his death, was working on a book entitled "Unsung Heroes of the Horrors," a tribute to those actors and actresses of the B-movie horror genre who are virtually unknown today. (One of Barry Brown's more unusual pastimes, pursued since childhood, was the meticulous assembling of a huge necrology of performers, some of whom had acted in the earliest silent films.)

    Although blessed so richly with looks, intelligence, and talent, Barry Brown was also beset by curses that ultimately cost him his life.

    His childhood (as well as that of his late sister, Marilyn,

    and his brother and biographer, James) was bizarre and harrowing, owing to the instability of their mother, who brought them from San Jose to Los Angeles. (James Brown's

    books "Final Performance" and "The Los Angeles Diaries" tell

    the frightening story.)

    Even as Barry Brown began to rise in popularity during the

    early 1970's, so did his drinking increase, and his depression deepened. His volatile temperament, coupled with

    his heavy, self-destructive drinking (before he played

    "Daisy Miller", he was reduced to living in his car, on "drinks and dreams", and marvelled that "he was still alive"), and finally, some "differences" on the set of

    "Daisy Miller" unfortunately torpedoed his career; the

    movie that should have catapulted Barry Brown to stardom

    was, chillingly, his swan song.

    From 1975 until his death, the acting jobs became fewer for Barry Brown (although two of his best TV performances - on "Barnaby Jones" and "Police Woman" aired in 1976.)

    Commensurately, Brown's drinking increased, and his behavior

    became even stranger.

    Long known for his odd propensity of assuming the personas of characters which were being casted or played, at the end, Barry Brown now began to wear a sheriff's deputy's uniform (from his last movie role, "Piranha"),and on one occasion, pulled a driver over, flashed a phony badge and "let her off with a warning." (Had he been caught doing this by the police - the consequences could have been very serious, indeed.)

    Just before he died, Barry Brown was down to his last $82,

    and was slated to move into a run-down hotel; instead, he

    bought a box of wadcutters for his gun and a bottle of


    On approximately June 25, 1978, Barry Brown - talented,

    handsome, unstable genius - finished the bottle of liquor,

    raised the gun to his head - and ended his torment, permanently.

    Had the old "star system" been in place, Barry Brown might still be with us, because the studio (mindful of its investment) would have gotten him the help he desperately needed. However, by the 1970's, less emphasis was on quality

    in movies, and more, on their "bottom line" profitability -

    and the calibre of movies today unfortunately reflect that philosophy.

    Although he lived only a scant 27 years, Barry Brown provided us with an impressive legacy of both filmic and written works. His magazine and journal articles, ironically, were written lovingly to preserve the memories

    of actors and actresses who might be otherwise forgotten.

    This young man, who invested his soul in his work, deserves

    the same reciprocity; may my rather short, incomplete article serve to immortalize the memory of Barry Brown -

    author, playwright, film historian, but most importantly -